Here's a summary of our most recent meeting of the Animal Services Advisory Commission, held on May 21, 2019.
MAY 21, 2019 AGENDA
Baltimore County Animal Services
1) Call to order
2) Roll call-determination of a quorum
3) Approval of minutes-Well, this is embarrassing. I forgot to review last month's minutes to make necessary corrections. So, we are going to have to approve both the April and May minutes at the June meeting.
4) New Business
a) Search for Chief of Animal Services-The Health Dept. has conducted interviews with candidates for the Chief of Animal Services position.
b) Letter sent-I emailed Health Dept. Communications Director Stacie Burgess to let her know that the Commission would like to offer any assistance and advice that would be helpful as the Dept. chooses its next Animal Services Chief. She responded that she would like our input but it would need to come right away. So I sent her these recommendations for the kind of person we would hope would be hired to fill this position:
• Someone with extensive background in the sheltering and animal control fields. There is a range of salaries listed on the website. We hope you will find someone whose experience warrants the highest salary you are willing to pay.
• Someone who believes that every animal counts, is excited to save lives and can inspire their employees to feel the same way.. This means someone who will expand rescue partnerships, create programs that make animals as adoptable as possible (through enrichment and training), implement programs to work with adopters so they choose the right pet, and also implement programs to help adopters be successful by providing information and training.
• Someone who questions old ways of doing things. This means
being willing to try new things and not accept that “we do things this way because that’s the way it’s always been done”.
• Someone who values every staff member and every volunteer and who believes staff and voiunteers are part of a team.
• Someone with extensive understanding of TNR who believes in following best practices.
• Someone who will maintain good relationships with other Animal Shelters in the area.
• Someone who believes in the importance of a fully trained Animal Control staff who will enforce all animal control laws currently on the books and will work closely with the Animal Abuse Team.
• Someone who believes in educating the public.
• Someone who believes in open communication with staff, volunteers, and the public.
c) 1st quarter statistics-Here is a summary of the first quarter 2019 stats from BCAS:
and also a comparison with numbers from the first quarter of 2018.
1ST QTR 2019 STAT SUMMARY
PULLED BY RESCUE
EUTHANASIA (OWNER REQUESTED)
EUTHANASIA (OTHER THAN OWNER REQUESTED)
OVER 93% 88.9%
STATS COMPARISON 1ST QTR 2019 VS 2018
1ST QTR. 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Dogs 439 420
Cats 568 529
1st QTR 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Dogs 144 149
Cats 20 19
PULLED BY RESCUE
1st QTR. 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Dogs 118 128
Cats 152 196
1st QTR. 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Cats 144 127
EUTHANASIA AT OWNER REQUEST
1st QTR. 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Dogs 55 59
Cats 66 36
EUTHANASIA OTHER THAN OWNER REQUESTED
1ST QTR. 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Dogs 19 28
Cats 49 80
LIVE RELEASE RATE
1st QTR. 2018 1ST QTR. 2019
Dogs 95.7% 93.4%
Cats 91.4% 88.9%
d) Changes at BCAS-There have been several very positive changes at BCAS.
• There is no longer a guard at the entrance to the shelter.
• Volunteers no longer have to sign out for a key to use the restroom.
• The public will now be allowed to go into the stray hold room to see if their pet is there.
• A new greeter volunteer position has been added on the weekends allowing volunteers to welcome visitors to the shelter, provide info, and I think take people back to see the animals.
In addition, this is a correction to a previous post: BCAS DOES still lend out traps for TNR.
5) Lawsuit-Here is a May 7th article from the Baltimore Sun regarding a ruling in a lawsuit that was filed several years ago against the county concerning BCAS:
Baltimore Sun May 7, 2019
Court ruling in Baltimore County case could empower taxpayers to sue governments for wasteful spending By Libby Solomon
A lawsuit against Baltimore County can move forward
after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that taxpayers have the right to sue jurisdictions to prevent waste or mismanagement of their tax dollars in a sweeping decision experts say could open the door to similar lawsuits.
The opinion, written by Judge Sally Adkins and filed last month, rules on a lawsuit filed by lead plaintiff Anne George of Timonium and two other Baltimore County residents. Those residents sued Baltimore County in 2014 alleging mismanagement of the county’s animal shelter.
Leslie Knapp Jr., legal and policy counsel for the Maryland Association of Counties, said the ruling could “potentially open the doors to more lawsuits through the ‘taxpayer standing’ standard alleging waste or abuse without any direct harm or nexus.”
Under this precedent, taxpayers do not have to show they are harmed in any special way other than being taxpayers to sue their governments for waste.
Michael Kennedy, an attorney for the plaintiffs, also said the ruling could make it easier for taxpayers to sue jurisdictions when they believe authorities are violating the law.
“My clients are very happy with the ruling and we look forward to continuing with the lawsuit,” Kennedy said.
County Attorney Michael Field did not respond to a request for comment, and county spokesman T.J. Smith declined to comment.
At issue was the doctrine of “taxpayer standing” — the right of taxpayers to sue. The ruling, Kennedy said, clarifies that taxpayers do not have to prove the county has raised taxes or that they are harmed more than other taxpayers to prove they are harmed by government mismanagement.
The Court of Appeals opinion reverses decisions by the Baltimore County Circuit Court and the Court of Special Appeals, the state’s second-highest court.
George, the lead plaintiff and a dog behavior therapist, said she is glad the case can proceed. She said the plaintiffs are seeking change, not money.
“Many of us who feel like we’ve been sort of the watchdog for years would like to have a seat at the table in some way,” George said.
Alan Sternstein, a Maryland appellate attorney who is not involved in the case, said the ruling could clear the path for taxpayers who see clear government waste to sue.
“It’s really courts setting precedents and principles for allowing clear wrongs to be challenged in some way,” Sternstein said.
The Circuit Court, where the case was filed, ruled against George in a summary judgment in 2016 because the county showed it had not raised taxes because of the shelter. That, according to the lower court, proved that the county’s management of the shelter was not injuring the taxpayers because their property, or tax burden, was not affected. The Court of Special Appeals upheld the ruling.
But the Court of Appeals found that whether or not a jurisdiction raises taxes, taxpayers as stakeholders are “reasonably entitled to a sound and careful use of funds.”
Since the Circuit Court’s ruling, County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. has proposed a tax increase, citing an $81 million deficit.
The opinion noted 18 affidavits submitted by the plaintiffs during the lawsuit. The affidavits alleged staff were improperly trained, and some people alleged that after adopting animals from Baltimore County Animal Services they discovered they had been “severely underfed.” Others alleged the department failed to provide veterinary care, quarantine sick animals, scan for microchips and sterilize animals before offering them for adoption.
“These allegations of waste amount to substantial inefficiency and unlawful misuse of public property and treasure, regardless of whether they are likely to cause an increase in taxes,” the Court of Appeals wrote.
The plaintiffs sought a writ of mandamus, a court order for the county to fulfill an action already required by law.
The county also argued that the plaintiffs had not established that they had a “special interest” in the wasted funds “distinct from the general public” — a key component of standing. But the Court of Appeals opinion said they had; as taxpayers, they had more of an interest than the general public that is not obligated to pay taxes to the county.
Under this ruling, Sternstein said, “it is enough that taxpayer allegations show economic waste.”
Kennedy said the ruling takes away “one of the arguments that a government would use to knock these suits out.”
With the question of standing settled, Kennedy said the case will get remanded to the lower courts, where his clients intend to continue pursuing it.
Baltimore County Animal Services already has seen massive upheaval since the case was originally filed in 2014. The shelter moved into a new facility in 2015 and revamped many of its procedures. Then in March, the county announced that four top officials at Animal Services, including director Dr. Melissa Jones, would no longer be working at the department. A job listing for the position of Chief of Animal Services was live online as of May 3.
Kennedy said those changes will prompt the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.
But George said there are still issues she would like addressed at the shelter, including intake for dogs with an illness or behavior issue and empowering the shelter volunteer corps.
Though she said conditions at the shelter have “gotten better,” unless change is implemented she plans to continue with the lawsuit.
“We’ve been hanging in here for almost five years,” George said. “We want to see that it stays on the right track.”
6) BCAS Response to Phone Requests-We have heard of some recent instances where people who have tried to reach out to BCAS for help have been unable to get someone to address their problems.
7) Hot Car protocol-One of the members of the Animal Services Advisory Commission saw the following on the Next Door app:
“Just returned from a movie at Hunt Valley. On the way in, there was a dog barking and barking in a nearby car, right up in front of the theater. Doors locked, windows cracked, sun blanket dutifully spread across front window. (What a good pet owner.) But the dog was clearly freaked. Lots of folks stopped by, equally disturbed. One person went it to complain to theater mgrs, and I called police. Both parties shrugged. Police (Cockeysville) told me "can't respond" unless it's "over 85 degrees". 1 - On that news, another bystander still in her car said "my car says 86 right now!" 2 - I was too shocked to ask police what the temp # is for Kids locked in a car. I asked police if there are any animal rescue partners they - or I - could refer such calls to. "Nope." I felt like going from theater to theater and making an announcement. I DID slip an appropriate-sentiment note into the front car window, but it'll no doubt fall on deaf ears... Anyone know of any regs in the works to make this behavior illegal??? It's basically the "soft" version of animal abuse.”
I’m extremely concerned if our police don’t have a protocol to protect animals found locked in cars. If what the person above says is true, there is no protocol unless it’s 85 degrees or above outside. Animals can be at risk of death in vehicles even when outside temperatures are much lower than 85.
Here's what the American Veterinary Medical Assn. says on its website about this issue:
"Every year, hundreds of pets die from heat exhaustion because they are left in parked vehicles.
The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20º F in just 10 minutes. In 20 minutes, it can rise almost 30º F.and the longer you wait, the higher it goes. At 60 minutes, the temperature in your vehicle can be more than 40 degrees higher than the outside temperature. Even on a 70-degree day, that's 110 degrees inside your vehicle!
Your vehicle can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet at risk of serious illness and even death, even on a day that doesn't seem hot to you. And cracking the windows makes no difference.”
I have sent emails regarding this issue to reps in the county and am waiting for a response as to what protocols exist for animals locked in cars.
Here is what is on the web concerning Maryland law:
Transportation. Title 21. Vehicle Laws--Rules of the Road. Subtitle 10. Stopping, Standing, and Parking
§ 21-1004.1. Domestic animals left in vehicles
(a) A person may not leave a cat or dog unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the health or safety of the cat or dog.
Use of reasonable force to remove animal from vehicle
(b) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person may use reasonable force to remove from a motor vehicle a cat or dog left in the vehicle in violation of the provisions of subsection (a) of this section if the person is:
(1) A law enforcement officer;
(2) A public safety employee of the State or of a local governing body;
(3) An animal control officer under the jurisdiction of the State or a local governing body;
(4) An officer of a society or association, incorporated under the laws of this State for the prevention of cruelty to animals, authorized to make arrests under the provisions of § 10-609 of the Criminal Law Article; or
(5) A volunteer or professional of a fire and rescue service.
Force in removing dog or cat from custody of officer prohibited
(c) A person may not use force of any kind to remove from a motor vehicle:
(1) A dog used by the State or a local governing body for police work while the dog is on duty; or
(2) A cat or dog in the custody of an animal control officer.
Liability for damages
(d) A person described in subsection (b) of this section may not be held liable for any damages directly resulting from actions taken under the provisions of subsection (b) of this section.
8) Commission Annual Report-Committee Needed-Our next annual Commission report will be due in September. Deborah asked for members to consider being part of the report drafting process.
9) Meeting Participation-Those in attendance at Commission meetings will now be allowed to sign up to speak at the end of the meeting. If there are many people signed up, we will have to limit the time for each speaker.
10) Any other business? Julianne Zimmer has decided to resign from the Commission. She has played an important part in our efforts. She worked tirelessly for the passage of Oscars Law and was a very important part of the process of writing our last annual report. We are sad to see her go.
Here is the speech Julianne gave at our meeting to announce her resignation:
Dear Commission Members-
It is with great regret; I am informing you that I will be resigning from the commission effective immediately upon my replacement. It has been an honor to serve my county, alongside of many amazing advocates, and for that I will forever be grateful. I will be happy to see all of the amazing wins that the commission will achieve to make the future brighter for Baltimore County’s animals.
I want to say to each of you putting forth your efforts for the animals, thank you! I want to tell you to make sure you are taking time for yourself. I also want to say to never, ever give up on a battle, but KNOW when you have fought enough battles, its ok to step back and take care of YOU and let others strive to win that war. Stress creeps in to every crack of our life. Make sure your body, mind and spirit are always cared for and balanced. You can not serve from an empty vessel. Please remember this, as it will give you the strength and fortitude you need to conquer any challenge. But you MUST take time for you.
Last year was particularly tough for a few of us, that took the Oscar situation head on. I can say that Joy, Darla, Deb and I charged in to that arena and battled valiantly, until justice was won. It was all consuming, and took more from our lives than we should have allowed it to. I know we I spent many months with our nose to the grindstone and in all honesty, we were also watching each other get to a point of exhaustion and burnout. While our efforts in the end were fruitful, it took almost all we had to get there. Leaving us exhausted and with health and other issues to deal with.
I am positive that the shelter is headed in a good direction, and I am excited to see a few new faces get on board to help with the next phase. Never forget your power. Ignore the critics, because they will take your strength… this quote by Theodore Roosevelt changed my world ..and I wish I would read it sooner.
The Man in the Arena
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end.. the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Berne Brown said it best when she said “If you are not in that arena, getting your ass kicked on occasion because you are being brave, I am not interested in, or open to your feedback about my work”.
These 2 inspirational quotes are your armor. Put that armor on and charge into that arena and kick as much ass as you can…and then step back.
Thank you all for what you do- you are enough, you are doing enough and you are unstoppable!
With Much Gratitude-
Julianne S. Zimmer
ReLove Animals, Inc.
11) Announcement of next meeting date and time-Our next meeting will take place on June 18, 2019 at 6:30 PM on the third floor of the Drumcastle Building.