Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Jan. 15, 2019 meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission

     Well, this was quite an interesting meeting. I didn't count, but it appeared there were about 40 members of the public who attended. We have never had such a large crowd. Our meetings are always open to the public and we welcome all who have an interest in Animal Services!
     Not only was there a large crowd, but we covered a tremendous amount of information. Here's a summary of the meeting.


1) Call to Order

2) Roll Call-Determination of a Quorum-In attendance were Deborah Stone Hess, Larry Townsend, Ann Gearhart, Gerald Brooks, Roy Plummer, Julianne Zimmer, Janice Vincent, and Joy Freedman.

3) Approval of December Minutes-Minutes from our December meeting were approved. Here are those minutes:

December 04, 2018

The thirty-fourth regular meeting of the Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was held on Thursday, December 04, 2018 in the Board Room of the Drumcastle Government Center. This meeting was called to order at 6:40 p.m. by the Chair Deborah Stone-Hess. Members in attendance were: Deborah Stone-Hess, Jon Christiana, Joy Freedman, Ann Gearhart, Roy Plummer, Larry Townsend, Julianne Zimmer, and Janice Vincent (phone)


Minutes from the October 16, 2018 meeting were motioned and approved with corrections.

Motion – 

Motioned by: Julianne Zimmer
Second by:  Joy Freedman
Decision:  Approved

Change in County Government
Plans for the future are to keep asking for remedy, change and transparency.

Guinea Pigs
         61 guinea pigs were surrendered to BCAS in mid October. Within short order, someone at the shelter, either the shelter manager or behavior coordinator, suggested taking them to a snake farm to be used for snake food. Dr. Jones supposedly approved this. While in transit, there was an uproar among shelter staff, so they returned the guinea pigs to the shelter. 26 were euthanized, including all pregnant females, 2 were adopted, and the rest were given to Carroll County Animal Services. 
         Julianne asked a friend, Chloe Waterman, a former lobbyist for the ASPCA, about this and asked whether there are ample rescue options for guinea pigs. She answered yes there are. Joy said that years ago, a large number of small animals were received from a hoarding situation, and an email blast was sent out to BCPS PTA representatives looking for possible adopters with great success. Joy thinks that going forward, BCAS should reach out to schools when small animals come into BCAS in large numbers. Not sure if all rodents are given intake numbers. Larry suggested asking BCAS what happened. Ann said that if BCAS vehicles transport animals across a county or state line, it must be documented. So there may be a paper trail. 

There was an incident where a large number of pigs showed up at a wooded lot in Dundalk. People in Dundalk called BCAS. They were told to call the Dept. of Agriculture. DNR ultimately responded and took them to the Ag Ctr. and a farm. Ann said Animal Control should be able to respond in cases like this. 

The bathrooms in the common area was out again. Again, visitors and volunteers were instructed to go off premises to utilize a bathroom. It is not understood why the volunteers could not use the bathroom on the administrative side of the building.  Ultimately they were allowed to access the management bathroom by going outside and walking around the building to enter thru the classroom. . There is no trust to use the restrooms, but volunteers are trusted to take care of animals. It makes no sense. 
Even when the public toilet is working, volunteers must sign a sheet with the guard to use the bathroom. 
Deb is most concerned about attitude issues toward volunteers by BCAS staff. Ann suggested that if the public restroom isn’t working, then the shelter should be closed to the public until the problem is repaired. Several months ago, when the plumbing problem also affected the management bathroom, a port-a-potty was ordered immediately. 

BCAS is manipulating its make it appear that live release numbers are better than they really are. Deb has spoken with additional staff members who have come forward and learned that employees are being told to pressure owners surrendering their animals to sign a form requesting euthanasia. When that is unsuccessful, staff is instructed to call a supervisor who will exert more pressure. Owner requested euthanasia does not count against the live release rate. 
In addition, cats in the TNR program are given an impound number. This makes it appear that intake is higher and that more animals are having a live outcome. 
Julianne said she believes numbers were fudged to get statistics quickly, rather than being patient and obtaining good live release numbers with good practices. 
Deb has written an addendum to the Commission’s annual report detailing the manipulation of numbers as well as other problems. Deb sent the addendum to the employees that have recently come forward to make sure they were comfortable with it. 
The Commission members in attendance voted unanimously to submit the addendum to the County Executive and Count Council.   

Shelter Visit
Deb and Julianne described an incident over the summer where they went to BCAS after providing the required 4 hour notice to BCAS managers. BCAS Management Analyst Gary Klunk told Deborah he didn’t like her and if he saw her on the street he would walk the other way. He and Dr. Jones indicated they never liked meeting with the liaison committee of the Commission. 
Ann Gearhart told of a meeting she once had with Gary Klunk in which he was very rude to her.

Announcement of Next Meeting Date and Location
         The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, January 15, 2018 at Drumcastle Government Center, 6401 York Road, 3rdfloor, Main Conference Room at 6:30 p.m.


Motion to adjourn
Motion by: Marianne Bailey
Second by: Larry Townsend
Motion approved.

Adjourned at 8:21 p.m.

4) Who We Are-We had heard many members of the public would attend our meeting. Knowing that some of those in attendance might not know the background of the Commission, how it was created, and what obligations it has, Deborah gave a brief summary of those points.
The Baltimore County Animal Services Advisory Commission was formed by a bill passed unanimously in the County Council in 2015. Each of the 7 County Council members appoints one member to the Commission. The Administration has 4 appointments. We are tasked with acting in an advisory capacity to the County Council and County Executive. We meet monthly, almost always on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 PM on the 3rd floor of the Drumcastle Building. We provide reports annually. This year we also submitted an addendum to our annual report.

5) Old Business
a) Owner Requested Euthanasia-At our last meeting, we discussed the large increase in owner requested euthanasia that is reported on BCAS quarterly statistics.
Here is a chart showing that increase by quarter since 2015.

                           QUARTER AND YEAR













     At our last meeting, Commission members discussed information we received from staffers at BCAS about why that increase has occurred.
     They explained to us that employees at the shelter are instructed to exert pressure on those surrendering pets to sign a form requesting euthanasia. (When an owner requests euthanasia, these animals do not count against the shelter's live release rate.) We also learned that when staffers are unsuccessful in convincing those surrendering pets to sign the form, they are instructed to call a supervisor who can then exert more pressure.
     Deborah had sent a request for documents related to owner requested euthanasia for the third quarters of 2017 and 2018. BCAS provided that information on a disk.
     There were almost 850 files on the disk, including forms fulled out by surrendering owners, physical exam forms, and other documents related to pets surrendered by owners requesting euthanasia.
     Because there were so many files on the disk, Deborah was unable to examine all of them, but as she looked through them, many involved animals that were very old or very sick. These, of course, are the kinds of animals one would expect would be surrendered with a request for euthanasia.
But there were also some that appeared to raise red flags.
     For example, one involved a 2-year-old unaltered English Mastiff. His owner describes him as playful and energetic, and said he can be loving. When asked, "Has your pet ever bitten or injured a person or another animal?", his owner mentions that over a year ago, he "playfully" bit a family member and left a bruise. (That would have happened while the dog was still under a year old.) But someone at the shelter wrote that he was "unadoptable" due to "2 bites."
     On a form asking whether the owner was requesting euthanasia, the no box is checked then scratched out, and the yes box is checked. On another form, someone at BCAS wrote that the owner requested euthanasia for aggression.

     Then there is another case involving an adult cat named Big Guy and 3 10-week-old kittens labeled Big Guy 1, 2 and 3 that came into the shelter in Sept. 2017.
     Big Guy was 6-years-old. BCAS writes on a form that he has a chronic severe upper respiratory infection and is underweight and hairless.
     The kittens are described as having upper respiratory infections, being severely dehydrated and emaciated with muscle wasting.
     It would appear that this owner may have severely neglected these cats. Yet BCAS did not forward this case to the State's Attorney Animal Abuse Unit.

b) Oscar Case Outcome-Almost a year after Oscar died, the Oscar case has been resolved. Oscar’s owner pled guilty on Dec. 17 to one count of failure to provide shelter for which he received Probation Before Judgement , 6 months probation, a $500 fine, he had to pay the fee for the forensic veterinarian which was $2300, and he cannot possess animals for three years.

c) Guinea Pig Tallies-At the Commission's last meeting, we discussed a case involving about 60 guinea pigs that were pets surrendered to BCAS after the death of their owner. We learned that BCAS employees were on their way to a snake farm with some of the guinea pigs that they intended to leave there to be used as snake food. This is a shocking idea and there was such an outcry among BCAS staffers that those driving the guinea pigs returned with them to the shelter.
BCAS has provided the following information on the outcome of all the guinea pigs:
There were a total of 60 guinea pigs surrendered to BCAS on 10/17/2018.
Rescued: 34
Euthanized: 26
We have been previously told by sources that many of those euthanized were pregnant females.

6) New Business
a) Failure to quickly post photos of animals on stray hold (Donna Metlin letter)
     Baltimore County Animal Services is required to hold stray animals for three days to give their owners an opportunity to find their lost pets. Donna Metlin, who administers several lost and found  websites sent a letter to us outlining numerous concerns she has. One is that some animals are being posted late into the stray hold period, giving owners less time to find their pets. Sometimes these animals' photos aren't posted until there is only one day left in the stray hold period.
     Donna also raises concerns that the public is not allowed to go into the stray hold area to find their lost pets. Other municipal shelters, including Howard County and Anne Arundel County allow owners access to animals on stray hold in hopes that lost pets and owners can be reunited ASAP.
     Baltimore County has a rule that says the public cannot enter the stray hold room.
     The problem with this became very evident in a recent case involving a Rottweiler that was missing. Accidentally the shelter posted the wrong photo of this dog when it arrived at the shelter. Its owner called BCAS numerous times. BCAS told her she needed to look at the website photos, and she was not allowed to see two Rottweilers that were currently on stray hold to determine whether one of them was hers.
     Her dog ultimately completed its stray hold, and went on the adoptable floor. Luckily an animal advocate reached out to volunteers to check the adoptable floor and send a photo of the Rottie. Indeed  the woman's dog was at BCAS, and she was reunited with her pet. If it had not been for this intervention, her dog could easily have been adopted by someone and she would have never seen her dog again.
     This raises very serious questions as to why BCAS would have a policy forbidding the public from seeing animals on stray hold.

b) Releasing info to prior pet owners-A dog at BCAS was adopted, and subsequently its previous owner filed a Public Information Act request for the personal information of the person who had adopted his dog. Gary Klunk called the adopter and told her that her personal information was going to be released to the previous owner. Members of the Commission learned of this and Deborah reached out to the County to find out why this information would be released. The County agreed not to release the information. But there are serious questions going forward as to whether adopters can be assured that their personal information will remain private.

c) Spay/neuter on second impound-There was recently a Yorkie at BCAS that had been impounded as a stray for the second time.
     It is a county rule that all animals that end up at BCAS as strays twice must be spayed or neutered before they can leave the shelter. A dog owner who was trying to redeem a dog after its second impound didn’t want the animal altered. We have been told that Dr. Branch interceded and allowed the dog to leave BCAS without being altered.
     This again is of real concern. The whole point of this rule to spay/neuter on second impound is aimed at preventing unaltered animals from contributing to the pet overpopulation problem.

d) Dog adopted to 70-year-old man-There was a dog at BCAS that volunteers described as so active and hyper that it took two volunteers to walk him. BCAS adopted this dog to a 70-year-old man. The man ultimately (and as one would expect) couldn't handle the dog. He returned it to BCAS after receiving numerous bites. Commission members talked at length about the need for adoption counseling so that animals are adopted to owners that are appropriate for their level of activity, etc.

e) Numerous returns by adoptees-need to provide resources to adopters-We have learned that 15 dogs have been returned to BCAS by their adopters in the last 45 days. This raises the importance of providing services to adopters that help them manage their new pets and be good pet owners.  BARCS, for example, offers obedience training classes for every adopter. BCAS needs to examine the possibility of providing services to help keep adopted pets in their homes.

f) Quarterly Stats-Here are the 4th quarter 2018 stats for BCAS as well as a comparison with 4th quarter stats from 2017.

MARYLAND ANIMAL CONTROL SHELTER SURVEY / 1(Boxes will expand as you enter text)
Name of Shelter/Facility: Baltimore County Animal Services Address: 13800 Manor Road Baldwin, MD. 21013
Name of Shelter Manager: Lauren Pavlik

Name of Person completing this survey: Gary Klunk
Phone: 410-887-7297
Activity for Reporting Quarter: October-December 2018
A. Live Animal Count at Beginning of Qtr
B. Stray/At Large
C. Relinquished by Owner
D. Owner Requested Euthanasia
E. Transferred in from another Agency
F. Other Live Intakes (impounds, births, animals placed in foster care, brought in for TNR, etc)
H. Adoption
I. Returned to Owner
J. Transferred to another Agency
K. Other Live Outcome (includes TNRs released)
L. Died/Lost in Care
M. Euthanasia- at Owner’s Request
N. Euthanasia-All other than owner request
P. Live Animal Count at End of QTR (includes Fosters). (A+G - O)
In order to better understand to what degree unowned cats are a source of intake and euthanasia, we need your help. To the best of your abilities, please indicate what percent and/or how much of CAT intake would you consider unowned (i.e. feral, or community cats) animals:
How many of the euthanized cats would you guess are unowned:
1/Pursuant to section 2-1602(H) of the Agriculture Article which states: “Beginning January 14,2014, each county and municipal animal control shelter and each organization that contracts with a county or municipality for animal control shall report quarterly to the Department on a form prescribed by the Department describing for the previous 3 months: (1) The number of cats and dogs taken in; (2) The number of cats and dogs disposed of, broken down by method of disposal, including euthanasia; and (3) Any other relevant data the Department requires.”Please return completed survey by email attachment or by mail to Maryland Department of Agriculture, Marketing Department (Spay and Neuter Program), 50 Harry S Truman Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21401. Questions call Jane Mallory 410-481-5766 email: .

                       STATS ANALYSIS-4TH QTR. 2018 VS 4THQTR 2017 STATS


         OVER 94%
      ALMOST 85%

                                                         4THQTR. 2017




        OVER 94%
         OVER 95%

     Again we raise the concern that the live release rates presented here are not accurate, due to the influence exerted on those surrendering animals to sign a form requesting euthanasia. As mentioned earlier, if an owner requests euthanasia, that does not count against the live release rate. If these owners did not sign this form, and these animals were euthanized, these euthanasias would go into the category of "Euthanasia Other Than Owner Request"  and would count against the live release rate. This would lower the Live Release Rate for BCAS. 

g) Meeting with Administration/One Page Summary-Deborah Stone Hess, Julianne Zimmer, Joy Freedman, and Darla Feeheley met recently with Samantha O'Neill who is in the Johnny O Administration. We discussed many of the concerns about BCAS that were brought to light in the Commission's most recent annual report and addendum.
Here is a one sheet summary we provided to Samantha O'Neill.

                                              SERIOUS PROBLEMS AT BCAS

This is about the welfare of animals and the wasting of taxpayer dollars.

·     BCAS is in crisis. 
o  The work environment is described by staff as toxic. They tell us morale is virtually non-existent. 
o  Dr. Jones and Gary Klunk rule by intimidation. 
o  Volunteers feel unappreciated and unimportant.
o  The animals are at risk. 

·     Statistics that BCAS submits in its quarterly reports are manipulated and inaccurate.

·     In July of 2018,BCAS, in effect, dismantled its Animal Control Division, pushing almost all of its duties onto Baltimore County Police.

·     BCAS is not following best practices in its TNR program often abandoning TNR’d cats and kittens.

·     BCAS fails to promptly post photos of impounded animals on 3-day stray hold.

o  Sometimes photos are on the site for only one day before animals are placed on the adoptable floor.
o  Management doesn’t allow the public into the stray hold room to see if their pets are there. (This is not the rule at other shelters.

·     BCAS provides little enrichment (walks, play, socialization, etc.) for animals designated as “rescue only” or those held pending legal proceedings (which can take weeks or months.) 

·     Despite all BCAS failures, taxpayer-funded salaries for BCAS management are much higher than in other jurisdictions. This is a waste of taxpayer money.

The Commission requests:
1)           Complete Management Change at BCAS-We have recommendations
2)           New management must have autonomy to make appropriate changes. Without Fred in charge, now BCAS managers must go to supervisors at the Health Dept. for approval of new plans and protocols. People at the Health Dept. have no understanding about Animal Sheltering.
3)           Transparency-There is currently no transparency at BCAS.
4)           A concrete plan going forward

     We want to be part of the solution. What can we do to help you?

     Our meeting with Sam O'Neill lasted an hour and a half and was very pleasant and open. The Administration has important work to do to examine all of the issues and interview all involved as it determines how to move forward at BCAS. We look forward to working with the new Administration.

7) Any Other Business?
8) Date and Time of Next Meeting Our next meeting will be held on February 19 at 6:30 PM.
9) Adjournment

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