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Please reform the Baltimore County Animal Services shelter, which had a 63% kill rate at last count!

This petition had 4,919 supporters

 April 26, 2014


Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore County Executive

Dr. Gregory Branch, Director, Health and Human Services, Health Officer

Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk

Baltimore County Councilwoman Vicki Almond

Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff

Baltimore County Councilman Kenneth Oliver

Baltimore County Councilman David Marks

Batlimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins

Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski, Sr. 


Dear Baltimore County Official:

For many years, concerned community members and animal advocates in Baltimore County have worked to change the policies and procedures at the Baltimore County Animal Services (BCAS) shelter, located at 3800 Manor Road, Baldwin, Maryland.

Recent media attention has shed light on cases of neglect, denial of veterinary care, high disease transmission and animal suffering that have occurred at the BCAS shelter.

Volunteers report being admonished for taking photographs of lost companion animals and publicizing them, and for providing suggestions for proper animal care. 

The high euthanasia rate at the BCAS shelter is also disturbing:  the shelter took in approximately 5,700 animals in 2012. Unfortunately, the BCAS shelter also euthanized more than 60% of the dogs and cats that came into its care in 2012.  It was not necessary for 3,420 animals to lose their lives at the BCAS shelter in 2012.  The administration has failed to implement life-saving programs that are common at other local shelters.  Many of these programs and policies are free, or low cost, and could be implemented today to save lives tomorrow.

Please make the following changes to BCAS immediately: 

1) Immediately implement proper cleaning and vaccination procedures to control the spread of disease. 
• The shelter should follow proven Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as to cleaning and animal intake. 
• Disinfectants and hot water should be used for cleaning. 
• Cages, kennels, laundry and food and water dishes should be disinfected between each animal. 
• Feces should be picked up multiple times per day. 
• Cats should be tested for FIV and FELV upon intake. 

2) Provide necessary veterinary care to animals as soon as they arrive at the shelter. Follow American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines regarding euthanasia. 
• Animals should be examined by a veterinarian within twenty-four hours of their arrival, or earlier if their condition warrants it. 
• A scan for microchips should be performed on all animals upon intake, regardless of whether the animal is marked as a “stray” or an “owner surrender”.
• Unless the animal is suffering and cannot be helped, an animal should not be euthanized when there is available space at the shelter or a reputable rescue group or adopter available to take that animal, regardless of whether that animal was found as a “stray” or surrendered by an owner. The shelter reported a 63% euthanasia rate in 2012, but volunteers suspect that the number is actually higher. 
• American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines should be followed during euthanasia. Euthanasia should be done in the most humane way possible, and euthanasia procedures should be designed to eliminate stress on the animal. 

3) Stop the neglect of impounded animals and animals held on “administrative hold”. 
• These animals may spend months in confinement and have suffered from stress, skin conditions, and weight loss, which often go untreated by Baltimore County Animal Services.
• If administrative processes truly force these animals’ confinement, they should have their emotional, physical and veterinary needs met, or be transferred to a reputable kennel or rescue organization that can meet their needs. 

4) Accept Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) as a humane option for feral and community cats, and support the efforts of their caretakers.
• End the practice of lending traps to the public to trap outdoor cats unless those cats are severely ill or injured and in need of medical treatment, or for the purposes of Trap-Neuter-Return. 
• End the practice of impounding feral cats. Instead, advise citizens about Trap-Neuter-Return and resources available. 
• Release eartipped strays who are in good condition back to the exact location they came from. This exact location must be obtained from the person surrendering the cat. 
• Stop fining well-meaning feral cat caretakers. Acknowledge them as caretakers of a feral colony. Hold them only to standards of altering, vaccinating and adequately feeding and providing shelter for their colonies in a way which offers them support rather than penalizes them for their good deeds. 

5) Work to develop positive, working relationships with the community, volunteers, and rescue organizations. 
• The shelter must increase its community presence. 
• The shelter should work with the Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance. 

• Within twenty-four hours of their arrival at the shelter, all animals should be photographed and shared with the community via the shelter’s website and social media.
• Shelter staff should ask for verification from anyone reclaiming a lost animal. 
• The Baltimore County Code should be amended to allow the finders of stray/abandoned animals to report them to the shelter as found instead of requiring them to be turned in to the shelter. Found and missing animals should be kept in a detailed shelter database with photographs and public search capabilities (personal information, and some identifying details of the animal, can be withheld for safety reasons). 
• A Rescue Coordinator should be appointed to communicate with rescues and facilitate the rescue process. 
• The shelter should maintain, in good faith, both Volunteer and Foster programs. 

6) Make the shelter more accessible to Baltimore County residents by considering a change in location. Consult with experts in shelter design before breaking ground on the proposed $6 million facility. 
• The new shelter should be modern, welcoming to adopters and comfortable for animals. 
• The public should have input in the planning process. 
• The new building should contain air handling systems designed to prevent the spread of disease, which is killing animals at the current shelter.

• A reverse osmosis water filtration system should be installed to correct the acidity of the shelter’s water.

7) Increase transparency and accountability. 
• A Citizen’s Advisory Committee should be formed to update the Baltimore County Government on the shelter’s performance and address grievances. 
• Intake, adoption, rescue transfer, death and euthanasia statistics should be made public yearly. 

8) Screen potential adopters to ensure that animals are going to loving, responsible homes. 
• Staff members should assist potential adopters in the adoption process with the goal of finding the best possible match between an adopter and an adopted animal. 
• Animal care and training hand-outs should be provided to each adopter.

• Veterinary and personal reference checks should be performed, as is the practice with other local shelters. 

• The shelter should consult a Do Not Adopt registry and check for a history of animal abuse or neglect to avoid placing animals in the wrong hands. 

9) The shelter should always hire qualified and compassionate personnel. 

10) The shelter should be put under the control of a non-profit organization with animal welfare as its main goal. In the meantime, animal care should be the priority.   
• If a non-profit organization cannot be found that will take over shelter operations, Baltimore County should form a non-profit organization for this purpose.

Please do everything in your power to make these changes immediately.  The community, and our animals, deserve better.  

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