March 1, 2013
Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Executive
Dr. Gregory Branch, Director, Health and Human Services, Health Officer
Yolanda Winkler, Director of Government Affairs
Baltimore County Council
Baltimore County Members of the Maryland General Assembly
Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee
Michael E. Busch, Speaker of the House of Delegates
House Bill 1478 would force Baltimore County Animal Control to create a volunteer program, and make the adoption of animals into suitable homes a priority.
Why is this needed?
1. Fiscal Responsibility: Volunteers would save taxpayer’s money by performing unpaid work, and allowing employees to focus on other tasks.
2. Less Animals Killed: The increased placement of animals into suitable adoptive homes would reduce the euthanasia rate. Volunteers would help with this by providing training for animals, providing foster homes for animals, socializing animals at the shelter to make them more adoptable, and fundraising.
3. Relieve Stress on Employees: Animal shelter employees have very stressful and difficult jobs at times. By allowing volunteers to share in basic tasks, and saving more animals, the shelter environment would be much more positive for both humans and animals.
For many years, concerned citizens and animal advocates in Baltimore County have worked hard to change the policies, procedures and leadership at the Baltimore County Animal Control (BCAC) shelter, located at 3800 Manor Road, Baldwin, Maryland. We now have an opportunity to enact change. House Bill 1478, if passed, would mandate that the Baltimore County Department of Health, Division of Animal Control, make the placement of dogs and cats in suitable homes a priority, and establish a program of volunteers to assist it in meeting this goal. Although these may seem like basic functions of an animal shelter, the BCAC shelter falls short in both of these areas. This legislation is desperately needed to modernize this shelter and bring its policies and procedures in line with the other shelters in our community.
The BCAC shelter is the only “open admission” animal shelter in Baltimore County, and takes in stray, abandoned, abused, neglected and lost companion animals. The BCAC shelter took in approximately 5,700 animals in 2012. Unfortunately, the BCAC shelter also euthanized more than 60% of the dogs and cats that came into its care in 2012. Animals who are surrendered to the shelter by their owners are routinely euthanized instead of being made available for adoption. This practice is heartbreaking for the Baltimore County residents who surrender their animals, and tragic for the animals themselves. Strangely, the shelter also adopts out companion animals that have not yet been spayed or neutered, relying instead on adopters to have these procedures done. As a result, these animals may leave the shelter and contribute to the massive companion animal overpopulation problem.
Unlike the vast majority of local animal shelters, the BCAC shelter has no real foster care program by which animals can be cared for in volunteers’ homes while they await adoption. Foster care programs remove animals from the stressful shelter environment and allow them to learn housetraining and basic obedience skills while living in home environments. Foster care programs help prepare animals for their permanent homes, and often lead to fewer return adoptions.
Unlike other shelters, the BCAC shelter does not adequately utilize the numerous non-profit animal rescue organizations that are willing to accept ownership of shelter animals, provide necessary veterinary care, and place them in loving, permanent homes. It has refused to release animals to willing rescue organizations in the past, despite the fact that this would free up space for other animals in its care and reduce the euthanasia rate.
The BCAC shelter has a minimal volunteer program. Potential volunteers with experience in animal care, animal training and fundraising, report that their requests to volunteer have gone unanswered. Animals frequently go without comfortable bedding, kennel or cage enrichment, exercise, and toys. These are all things that could be provided through a vibrant volunteer program. Volunteers are also instrumental in planning adoption events and educational outreach events, publicizing animals that are available for adoption, locating rescue organizations that are willing to take animals into their care, and finding the best possible match between an adoptable animal and a prospective adoptive home. The benefits that volunteers would provide to the BCAC shelter are immeasurable, and there is simply no reason to allow further delay in the implementation of a program.
Baltimore County citizens are tired of this misuse of their tax dollars and are tired of watching the animals suffer as a result. We ask that you do everything in your power to pass House Bill 1478. Neither the residents of Baltimore County nor the animals that end up in its shelter can afford to wait any longer.