Friday, February 27, 2015

Baltimore County Takes a Giant Step Forward-Thank You to our County Executive!

     Well, what can I say? After months of calling for change at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter, the beginnings of change are now at our doorstep. Baltimore County has announced plans to alter its animal services in several very important ways. The county will

  • Implement a pilot TNR program (see my previous post to learn all about TNR)
  • Create two new full-time positions at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter: 1) a volunteer coordinator and 2) a foster care coordinator, both of which will facilitate greater adoption opportunities
  • Expand low-cost spay and neuter programs through satellite locations on the east and west sides of the county this spring and summer
     It turns out that over the past months, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has had an ongoing dialogue with Jen Brause, the Executive Director of the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS).  
     I've long seen Jen as a dedicated, pragmatic and knowledgeable shelter administrator who has created remarkable life-saving progress at BARCS. Clearly, Kamenetz recognized those qualities as well. I cannot commend him enough for reaching out to her. And I thank Jen for offering her time and expertise to the county.
     All of the new shelter plans have been announced as the county moves toward the opening of its new shelter facility, which is under construction and is scheduled to open this fall. 

     On another front, the County Council recently approved a bill that will create a Commission to look into shelter issues and make recommendations. The members of that Commission should be announced soon.
     So, the months ahead will be very busy and there's a lot of work to be done. There are many (including me) who would like to see Baltimore County replicate the actions of Baltimore City which created a public/private partnership with BARCS, allowing it to become a non-profit organization. The same kind of partnership would allow the Baltimore County Animal Shelter greater autonomy to implement change. Perhaps that may come down the road. 
     For now, let's give credit where credit is due. It's not easy to take a first step in a new direction. I hope all who've been clamoring for change will recognize the courage and vision this has taken and will send words of support to County Executive Kamenetz.

     And don't forget the dedicated county employees who work at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter. They've had to listen as criticism about the shelter swirled around them over the past months. They must be feeling a little anxious as the ground shifts beneath their feet. They work with the shelter's animals every day, and no doubt want what is best for them, as we all do. Let's give them encouragement. 
     I expect to interview County Executive Kamenetz soon and will include that taped interview on this blog. I hope all my readers will applaud him and give him support as he works for better outcomes for all of our county's animals.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

TNR-It's Time That Baltimore County Adopted It

For starters, I want to thank my latest advertisers on Save 90:
The Len Stoler Auto Group
Eddie's of Roland Park on North Charles Street
Studio 111.
You'll find their ads below the text of this post as well as a tally of funds raised so far and a thank you from the latest group to receive a $750 check from Save 90.

A big thank you as well to Mark Brodinsky who profiled me and Save 90 in his blog called The Sunday Series. Here's the link if you want to check it out.

Before we talk TNR, here's the news...two items on the statewide level. 

Shelter Standards Bill
     13 members of the Md House of Delegates have signed on to The Animal Shelter Standards Act of 2015 (HB 876) which has been introduced in Annapolis in an effort to create some standardization for the way shelters are run in Maryland.
Here's a summary: 
"Requiring an animal shelter to develop and adhere to a specified written veterinary care protocol; stating specified requirements for the written veterinary protocol; requiring an animal shelter to meet specified veterinary care requirements; requiring an animal shelter to maintain specified holding periods; stating specified criteria for an animal shelter to seize, impound, or otherwise take custody of a specified cat; requiring an animal shelter to take specified steps to determine the identity of an animal in its custody; etc."
     There's great excitement over the bill and the concept of getting some uniformity in the way shelters operate. But not everyone feels the bill's wording is perfect. 
     Jen Brause, the Executive Director of BARCS in Baltimore was part of a meeting held to work on the language of the bill. She says, "I think the intent of the bill is very good and animal shelters should be operating under best practices in order to save as many lives as possible. The most recent version of the bill is an improvement over the original version but there are still minor amendments that need to be made in order for me to support the bill."
     We'll be following the progress of HB 876. Its hearing date is Wednesday March 4th at 1PM in Annapolis. 

Statewide Rabies Regulations
     Here's an item of great concern relating to the subject of today's post, Trap Neuter Return (TNR). The Maryland Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene has proposed new statewide regulations concerning rabies that, among other things, will require feral cat caretakers to vaccinate cats and provide repeat vaccinations. 
     Many, including the ASPCA are very concerned about these proposed rules and the burden they will place on caretakers. Some say this will strengthen local laws against TNR. 
     There will surely be efforts to encourage revisions during a comment period for the proposed regulations. I'll have more on this in the coming weeks.

And now the subject of today's post: 
Trap Neuter Return (TNR)-It's Time That Baltimore County Adopted It
     What do you do with tens of millions of cats? That's how many cats the ASPCA estimates are free-roaming in the United States. It's a daunting number. These cats are a mixture of truly feral or wild cats, abandoned or lost animals, and their offspring.
     For decades, the answer to the problem in many communities (including Baltimore County) has been to trap unwanted cats and kill them. Yet the number of these cats continues to grow. 

A Different Solution-Trap Neuter Return 
     Trap Neuter Return or TNR is a relatively new way of managing the free-roaming cat population that is gaining in use and popularity. It involves trapping cats, spaying or neutering them, vaccinating them and then returning them to the place where they were found. 
     When 90-100% of cats in a given colony are spayed or neutered, that effectively stops reproduction and stabilizes the colony's numbers.
     According to Wikipedia, TNR came into use in the U.S. in the late 60's. 
     Today it's embraced as an effective solution in many countries and in cities all over the United States, including Baltimore City, Washington D.C., N.Y., Boston, Oklahoma City, Houston, San Antonio, Beverly Hills, San’s even done at Disney Land and Disney World!
One place that refuses to do TNR is Baltimore County. 
    Despite the growing number of cities turning to 
Trap Neuter Return, our Baltimore County government remains opposed to TNR and refuses to allow it. Baltimore County continues to rely on Trap and Kill. And the number of cats killed at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS) reflects that philosophy.
     In 2013, 2800 cats were impounded at BCAS. Of that number, 1947 or 69.6% (almost 70%!) were euthanized. Are there fewer cats roaming our community? No. 
     Why? There's a very good reason. Cats congregate in colonies, usually around shelter and a food source. When Animal Control agents trap and remove some members of a cat colony, this creates what's known as the "Vacuum Effect". That means other cats will move in to fill the vacuum in the colony and take advantage of the food source that's there. Then reproduction starts all over again. 
     So, a growing number of communities are turning to TNR. It's not only humane; many (including the ASPCA and many other animal organizations) believe it's the only method of controlling cat populations that works.
        I'll talk more about Baltimore County's position on TNR in just a few moments. But first let's talk about a TNR program in use in Baltimore City. 
The Community Cat Project 
    There are many groups performing TNR in Baltimore City. One of them is the Community Cat Project, based out of the 
Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS). 
     BARCS received a one million dollar grant for the program from Best Friends Animal Society and PetSmart Charities. Watching the Community Cat Project in action is pretty amazing. Take a look.

     In case you didn't watch the video, one point bears repeating. The Community Cat Project has had a real impact on the number of stray cats coming into the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) with an accompanying 34% decrease in cat euthanasia. 
     BARCS's Executive Director Jen Brause says, "We know that program [has] prevented thousands and thousands of litters." 
     In addition to the Community Cat Project at BARCS, 
Best Friends Animal Society and PetSmart Charities are running similar programs in 5 other cities as well. Says Barbara Williamson of Best Friends Animal Society, "By sterilizing and vaccinating thousands of cats annually in communities across the country, we are reducing shelter intake and shelter killing of cats."
     According to Ashley Sheridan, the SPCA's Spay/Neuter Program Manager, "TNR is the most effective and humane way to reduce our community cat population." 
     In addition, she points out, the health of the overall cat colony is improved because the cats are examined by a vet and vaccinated.
     And here's one more important point. The Community Cat Project and other TNR programs recognize the valid concern of homeowners who want to keep cats off their property, so they provide solutions. There are all kinds of products that work including motion activated sprinklers, and an ultrasonic, battery-operated cat repellent with a motion detector. 

 So why is Baltimore County so opposed to TNR?
     I'd like to answer that question, but I can't. That's because County officials say they've been instructed by lawyers to say nothing about the county's animal shelter while a lawsuit filed against the shelter is pending. I don't understand why they're prohibited from explaining a county policy.
Not only is Baltimore County against TNR, but officials regularly spread false information about it. 
     It's difficult to know whether county officials are uneducated or misinformed, or whether they simply want to turn county residents against TNR by spreading false information. They regularly say untrue things about it and describe it as a terrible idea proposed by a small (read:wacky) group of animal advocates. 
     Here's just one example. When the Baltimore County Council recently introduced a bill to create a Commission to look into the shelter, Ellen Kobler, a spokeswoman for 
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was quoted in the Capitol Gazette as saying the bill appeared to be "an overreaction to a small group of advocates who are part of a national movement demanding that the county and all public shelters release wild, feral cats into our neighborhoods."
     This makes it sound as though TNR supporters are in favor of finding feral cats and dumping them around the county. The cats, of course, are already there.
     At the very least, it completely misses the long view. By placing a neutered cat back in the colony where it was found, you prevent a cat capable of reproducing from taking its place and creating more cats. The county's present policy is never going to get us anywhere.
     On the C4 show on WBAL, County Executive Kamenetz recently said, "There's a very small group of advocates...and they believe...cats should be trapped, neutered, and released back into the wild and our health officer says those stray cats...carry diseases." This ignores the fact that the cats go back into the colony vetted and vaccinated.
     So here are the facts: 
Trap and Kill does not reduce the number of free-roaming cats so the county's program is ineffective.  
TNR is not only humane but is the only method of population control shown to stabilize the number of cats in a colony. 
If it's disease that concerns you, TNR'd cats are vetted and vaccinated, and therefore, healthier.
     It would appear that all of the County's arguments fall flat.
Instead of railing against Trap Neuter Return as some extreme idea, endorsed by only "a small group of advocates", our county officials should acknowledge what is actually true: that TNR is endorsed by municipalities all over the country (not to mention the Disney properties.) 
     Baltimore County should admit that Trap and Kill doesn't work and that killing close to 70% of cats in our Baltimore County Animal Shelter is a disgrace. 
     Our government should stop spreading fear through misinformation, and embrace TNR as an effective and humane alternative.
"Ideas...are the natural born enemy of the way things are."
     I heard that expression on a GE commercial recently. It certainly resonates here. It's disappointing because I want my 
Baltimore County government to welcome ideas. Ideas move us forward. 
      By staying stuck in outdated Trap and Kill efforts, 
Baltimore County is not only killing countless cats needlessly, it's endorsing an effort that doesn't even work.

Now the newest Save 90 ads from the 
Len Stoler Auto Group
Eddie's of Roland Park on N. Charles St.
Studio 111 

The latest rescue group to receive a $750 check from Save 90 is Recycled Love. Here's a message from that group.

And now a tally of the funds raised so far by Save 90.
Thank you to all Save 90 advertisers!

Here's the growing list of Save 90 advertisers. I hope you'll support them.
Chesapeake Contracting
Needles and Threads of Ruxton
Bare Necessities
Edie Brown Associates
The Mark Building Company
Studio of Makeup
BJS Insurance
Parsonizing Dry Cleaners
Graul's Market
Zibazz Hair Studio
Linens and Lingerie
Betsy Robinson's Bridal Collection
Nationwide Nissan
The Jewelry Lady
The Big Screen Store and The Sofa Store
Barre at the Quarry
The Lichter Group
The Little Shoebox
Window Consultants, Inc.

Matava Shoes
Gourmet Again
Four Corners Travel
Charles Levine Caterers
Len Stoler Auto Group
Eddie's of Roland Park on North Charles Street
Studio 111

Recipients of Save 90:
Animal Allies Rescue Foundation
Adopt a Homeless Animal
Feine Rescue Association
Tara's House
Bella's Bully Buddies
Homeward Trails
Recycled Love



Saturday, February 14, 2015


Consider this a Save 90 mini post. Click on the video below to see how many people celebrated Valentines Day at the Baltimore Humane Society...taking vows of forever friendship with their pets.

Wishing you lots of love on Valentines Day from the pets in your life!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


New Save 90 Ads:
     Before we dive in to this post, I want to thank Save 90's latest Baltimore County advertisers:
Gourmet Again,
Four Corners Travel and
Charles Levine Caterers
Their ads will appear below the text of this post along with the latest tally of money raised through ads so far. 
If you know a Baltimore County business owner who would like to buy an "ad" on Save 90, please have them email me at

Big News. Success!
     We've finally taken the first step toward change at the  
Baltimore County Animal Shelter.
     The Baltimore County Council last night 
(Monday, Feb. 2, 2014) passed Bill 2-15.
Councilwoman Vicki Almond drafted the legislation and all 6 of her fellow Council members signed on as co-sponsors. The bill will create an Animal Services Advisory Commission to look into the 
Baltimore County Animal Shelter and make recommendations.
     Each Council member will appoint one member to the Commission. Four more will be appointed by 
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. 
     There was some concern expressed by animal advocates over an amendment to the bill. It will require Commission members to give a 4- hour notice in order to visit non-public areas of the shelter. 
     According to Steve Heinl, Councilwoman Vicki Almond's legislative aide, this was done as a compromise after the County Administration requested a 48-hour notice.
     Heinl says the 4 hour compromise seemed reasonable..."that Council members agreed that it is the duty of the Commission to observe and make recommendations, not be inspectors who implement penalties or fines on the shelter." 
     While I believe there should be complete transparency, and I don't understand why there isn't, I'm not overly worried about the four hour notice requirement. I feel that the issues the Commission should be most concerned with deal with the big picture of shelter philosophy and practices. I don't believe the four hour advance notice requirement will diminish what the Commission can accomplish.
    I spoke at the Council meeting to thank the Council for taking this action. And afterward I interviewed 4 County Council members about why they wanted to create the Commission and what they hope it will accomplish. Here's what they had to say.

More news-Ravens player Terrence Cody indicted
     Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Terrence Cody has been indicted for animal abuse of his dog and an alligator. Cody, who was released by the Ravens just before the indictment was announced, turned himself in and posted $10,000 bail. 
     An investigation started after Cody took his dog (a bull mastiff) to a veterinarian for treatment and the dog later died.
     According to the Baltimore Sun, Cody is facing a total of 15 criminal charges including two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. 
Now, let's talk about enrichment.
    When you hear the word, "enrich," you think of making something better. That's exactly what it means for shelter animals. 
     Enrichment in a shelter setting is about supplying dogs and cats with mental stimulation, social interaction and exercise to help alleviate some of the stress of the shelter environment.  
     Enrichment improves animals' mental health and keeps them calmer and happier. This naturally makes them more adoptable. 

     Anyone who's ever been in a shelter can imagine how stressful it is for animals. Shelter pets find themselves in a place where nothing and no one is familiar. They're confined, behind bars, with lots of loud barking and other unfamiliar noises. 
     Without enrichment, animals that stay for any length of time face a real danger of deterioration in physical and mental health. They may exhibit all kinds of negative behaviors. 
     According to the SPCA of Texas, dogs might "spin in circles, jump, bark frequently and hysterically, chew on kennel bars or on their own bodies. Cats may over-groom, over- or under-eat, sleep around the clock, sleep in their litter boxes, hide under bedding or resist leaving their cubby hole. In serious cases, both cats and dogs may become aggressive, making them unsuitable for adoption. In addition, stressed animals are more likely to get sick."
     Thats why enrichment is so important. 
     Here's a look at some of the enrichment activities happening at the Baltimore Humane Society, the MD SPCA, and BARCS in Baltimore City. 

     There was a time, not too long ago, when enrichment was completely off the radar for the Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS). There have been improvements. 
     For one thing, when I visited recently I saw containers of treats outside some of the dogs' cages, so that people walking by could give treats to the dogs.
     Acting Chief of Animal Services Laura Culbertson says all dogs are walked each day by staff members and all dogs get a toy each night.
     Cats also get some enrichment. One of the volunteers brought in scratch posts to attach to the cat cages.
     As for the dogs, this past summer, Culbertson arranged for the county to renovate a small cottage on the shelter property so it could be used for socialization time. There's a small outdoor fenced area there and a couple of rooms inside.
     Culbertson says some dogs are deemed eligible for socialization and approximately 10 volunteers at the shelter are allowed to walk them and take them to the cottage. 
     Here's a look at one of the volunteers, Paul Johnson, and the time he recently spent at BCAS with a dog named Levi. 

    I applaud Laura Culbertson for making efforts to create enrichment opportunities at BCAS. Things at the shelter have improved under her leadership.
     Unfortunately it appears changes at the shelter are implemented in a piecemeal fashion when what is needed is a large-scale change in philosophy and practice. 
     The shelter needs a bigger volunteer force with broad responsibilities like BARCS (400 volunteers) and the MD SPCA (800 volunteers). BCAS has only about 20 volunteers with volunteer hours limited to 3-5 P.M. weekdays (not convenient for those who work 9-5) and 11 A.M.-1 P.M. on weekends. 
     With such small windows of time available, one has to wonder how many of the dogs get quality socialization time.
     In addition, one volunteer recently went to BCAS and found only 3 dogs with the required slip for socialization. 
     Culbertson says things will be better when the new 6 million dollar shelter building is completed later this year. A new building will bring great improvements to the facility. But without broad changes (a bigger volunteer force, more coordination with rescues and a strong foster program), it will simply become a much nicer place for 2500 animals a year to die.
Now let's talk ads.
Here are the latest Save 90 ads from Andy Hoffman at 
Gourmet Again, Barbara Rock at Four Corners Travel, and 
Charles Levine of Charles Levine Caterers. 

Here's the growing list of Save 90 advertisers. I hope you'll support them.
Chesapeake Contracting
Needles and Threads of Ruxton
Bare Necessities
Edie Brown Associates
The Mark Building Company
Studio of Makeup
BJS Insurance
Parsonizing Dry Cleaners
Graul's Market
Zibazz Hair Studio
Linens and Lingerie
Betsy Robinson's Bridal Collection
Nationwide Nissan
The Jewelry Lady
The Big Screen Store and The Sofa Store
Barre at the Quarry
The Lichter Group
The Little Shoebox
Window Consultants, Inc.

Matava Shoes
Gourmet Again
Four Corners Travel
Charles Levine Caterers

     As you know, all money raised from Save 90 ads goes to area animal rescue groups. Here's a message from the latest rescue group to receive a $750 check from Save 90, Homeward Trails.

So far Save 90 has raised $4860! 

The following rescues have each received a $750 check from Save 90:
Animal Allies Rescue Foundation
Adopt A Homeless Animal
Feline Rescue Association 
Tara's House
Bella's Bully Buddies
Homeward Trails 

Save 90 will be ready to write its next check very soon!