Thursday, March 12, 2015


          There's a lot of animal news to report! Before I dive in, I want to thank my latest Save 90 advertisers:
Great Finds and Designs
Stone Mill Bakery and
The Manor Shopping Center Merchants Association

     In addition, I've had several people ask if they can contribute as individuals to Save 90. I've begun accepting these contributions and will use them as I've been using my advertising revenue, donating all of it to reputable animal rescue groups and animal organizations. 
     I'm excited that Save 90's very first personal donation came from Baltimore Orioles announcer Jim Hunter and his wife, Bonnie. Here's a special message from the two of them.

Thank you so much to the Hunters! 
And to Animal Behavior Counselor and Trainer Marty Sitnick who has also donated personally to Save 90. 

A couple of quick items...
Baltimore County Shelter Oversight Commission
     I'm proud to say that Baltimore County Councilwoman 
Vicki Almond has chosen me to represent District 2 on the new Animal Shelter Oversight Commission. 
     I want to thank Councilwoman Almond for drafting the legislation to create the Commission, for her work in getting all six other Council members to co-sponsor the legislation, and for her faith in me. 
     I believe the Commission has important work to do, and I'm excited to be a part of it.
     We should know the full list of Commission members and the official Commission start-up date soon. Stay tuned.

An honor for Save 90 
    Save 90 is a finalist for one of the 2015 BlogPaws Nose to Nose Awards. My video on the volunteer program at the MD SPCA is one of four finalists in the Best Pet Blog Video category. 
     If you want to watch the video, here's the link:
And here's the link to the post the video appeared on, called "Volunteers Work":
     Award winners will be chosen May 30th. 

Now the news. Let's start with an update from 
Baltimore County.
     In my last post, I wrote about some wonderful changes slated  for Baltimore County's Animal Services. Among them are plans to 
  • Implement a pilot Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program ( (If you want to learn more about TNR, I wrote extensively about it two posts prior to this one. Just scroll down to a post called, "TNR-Why It's Time Baltimore County Adopted It".)
  • 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 for the shelter's animals
  • Expand the county's low-cost spay and neuter program through satellite locations on the east and west sides of Baltimore County 
  • Add a Facebook page to enhance the county's ability to network animals needing adoption.
     You can find the Facebook page under the name, "Baltimore County Animal Services." Kevin  Kamenetz's Chief of Staff Don Mohler says the page needs some tweaking. I would like to see more information about each pet and perhaps even videos of them.   But embracing social media is a great step by the county to increase visibility for the animals that need homes.
     To learn more about the county's other plans, I recently interviewed County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Click on the video below (the video is less than 5 minutes long) so you can hear what he had to say. 

    This blog will continue to follow changes as they are implemented at the shelter and will keep you informed. 
     Another interesting development concerning Baltimore County Animal Control is a plan to work with Rescue Well which, among other things, operates a 24-hour hotline for callers to report neglected or abused animals, and to seek assistance with pet supplies, veterinary care, training, and re-homing. 
     This cooperation is simply awesome.

There's lots of news on the statewide level too as the 
General Assembly session continues in Annapolis

Some Bumps in the Road for the Animal Shelter Standards Act, HB 876
     HB 876 had its hearing in Annapolis on March 4th before the Environment and Transportation Committee and took some real hits in that hearing. 
     The bill is aimed at improving all shelters in Maryland by creating uniform standards and protocols for veterinary care, intake, euthanasia, etc.    
     Unfortunately, those against the bill have focused negatively on one particular part of its language. The wording involves cats that have been part of a Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) program and have had a tip of their ear removed to indicate they've been neutered or spayed.  
     The bill says, "If an ear-tipped cat...comes into an animal shelter's custody, the...shelter shall:
I) Immediately notify all registered animal rescue organizations specializing in ear-tipped cats
II) Return the cat to the field; or
III) Allow the cat to be adopted.
     Because of this wording, some are referring to HB 876 as a TNR bill. This is not accurate. There is nothing in the legislation that calls for communities to conduct TNR programs. 
     The language is merely an effort to address an issue that comes up at animal shelters when Animal Control brings in a stray that is ear tipped. The question is: what do you do with that animal if it has been TNR'd and previously returned to its colony, but now is at a shelter? The language is aimed at saving the lives of these cats.
     Representatives of the MD Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene were among those testifying at the bill's hearing and expressing opposition to the bill. This is because of concern that ear tipped cats might not be up to date on rabies vaccinations and therefore could carry rabies and should not be returned to the wild.
     Members of the American Bird Conservancy also testified against the bill, complaining that free-roaming cats kill many birds.
     Of course, the irony is that if there is no TNR, there will remain very large numbers of free-roaming cats that have not been "fixed" nor vaccinated for rabies at all. 
     Trap and Kill programs do virtually nothing to decrease their number. So, there will be no fewer cats killing birds, nor will any of the cats have been vaccinated for rabies even once. Opposition to the bill's language makes no sense at all.
     A more valid problem for HB 876 is its projected expense. The Dept. of Legislative Services estimates it will cost $142,900 to implement and enforce the bill. Needless to say, in this time of tight budgets, lawmakers are likely to balk at the cost. 
     As a result of these two issues (the ear-tipped cat language and the expense) one of the bill's drafters, Del. Christian Miele of MD's 8th Legislative District, predicts amendments will be needed to keep the bill alive as it heads to the Agriculture Subcommittee and then back to the full committee for a vote. 
        I call on MD legislators to understand that 1)this is not a TNR bill, and 2) many U.S. cities as well as Disney Land and 
Disney World conduct TNR and return ear tipped cats to the wild with no ill effects. 
     But I also call on those who worked so diligently to create this bill to be flexible and go along with some amendments. The bill may ultimately not be everything they want, but it would be a first step to build on. If supporters refuse any amendments and the bill dies as a result, they'll get nothing. This is politics. It's all about compromise.

Proposed Rabies Regulations-Yes, this involves TNR too  
     In my last post, I wrote about proposed amendments to MD's rabies regulations. To learn more, I recently interviewed 
Dr. Katherine Feldman, Maryland's Public Health Veterinarian at the MD Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH). 
      Dr. Feldman says an average of 19 cats were diagnosed with rabies in Maryland each year from 2000-2014. She explained DHMH proposed the changes to bring its regulations into alignment with a document published by the 
National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians.
    One of the proposed changes would modify the definition of an animal's custodian. A custodian would now include "any person harboring or providing care or sustenance for" an animal. 
     This sounds innocuous but it actually has far-reaching implications for those caring for colonies of free-roaming cats. These caretakers would be required to keep rabies vaccinations up to date for all of the colony's cats. Keep in mind that an average cat colony has between 5 and 20 cats, and some can include as many as two to three dozen (according to Rebecca Sass-Crews of the Community Cat Project). Those numbers give you a pretty clear idea of what a daunting task it would be to keep all rabies vaccinations up to date. 
    Many are concerned this vaccination requirement will have a negative impact on Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) programs in the MD. (Again, with TNR, free-roaming cats are trapped, neutered or spayed, vaccinated for rabies, and then returned to the same communities where they were found.)
    As many as a thousand comments came pouring in after DHMH proposed these new regulations. Among those expressing concern were representatives of the ASPCA. Here's an excerpt from that organization's letter to DHMH:
     "...The proposed regulations would subject free-roaming cat caretakers to the same vaccination requirements as pet owners. While we agree that revaccinating free-roaming cats is ideal, there are practical challenges associated with re-trapping these cats that would make this requirement an undue burden on colony caretakers and ultimately, would discourage TNR, and thus initial rabies vaccination."
     I agree with the ASPCA. If Maryland imposes these new requirements, as well as penalties for those who don't comply, there's a good chance caretakers will be reluctant to care for community cats or participate in TNR programs. 
     Without TNR, the cats won't be vaccinated for rabies even once. And communities will be forced to rely on Trap and Kill programs, which are inhumane and are shown not to reduce the number of community cats. 
     So, while DHMH has a goal of decreasing incidents of rabies, these regulations may, in fact, have the opposite effect. 
     I asked Dr. Feldman if other states have regulations like this. She said she did not know. But the ASPCA's letter says, "...we are not aware of any state that requires colony caretakers to revaccinate free-roaming cats."
     It will take time for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to go through all the comments it received and determine whether to implement the proposed changes. I'll keep you posted. 

Now the latest Save 90 ads from Great Finds and Designs, Stone Mill Bakery and The Manor Merchants Association 

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
Great Finds and Designs
Stone Mill Bakery
The Manor Shopping Center Merchants Association

Individual contributors
Jim and Bonnie Hunter
Marty Sitnick

Funds raised so far: $6526.00

Here's a message from BARCS, the latest recipient of a Save 90 donation.

Recipients of Save 90 donations (Each has received a check for $750)
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

If you would like to donate to Save 90 or know of a business that would like to advertise on this blog, please contact me at
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  1. Thanks for clarifying what is happening with HB 876. As one of the co-authors of this bill, I can say that there has been an attempt to shift focus from what the bill actually is and does to TNR, which, as you correctly noted, is not in anyway mandated, required or demanded. As for the fiscal note. We have addressed this and feel confident that it will be far more favorable moving forward. The only true cost increase, which will be minimal, regards the vetting of animals, particularly on intake and again, it is a minimal increase easily offset by the decrease in euthanasia costs.
    There are amendments and will likely be a few more by the time we are done. These are amendments to which all parties have agreed. We feel it is important to support those shelters working hard to decrease euthanasia and do not want to put further obstacles in their way. The goal of HB 876 is to make euthanasia truly the last option as opposed to the easy out it is too often used as in some Maryland shelters. High performing shelters tend not to have a problem with the bill and even have helped to draft some of the amended material, as again, we want to support the shelters that are getting it right. It is the poorly performing shelters that tend to take issue with the bill, but these are the shelters that need the transparency and oversight the most. Of course they don't want to be regulated in any way, but as they are using tax payer money, they are answerable to the public, like it or not. Thanks again for your fantastic blog, for serving on the Baltimore County Commission and for helping to clarify HB 876.

  2. Thanks for an excellent rundown on what's going on for animals in this Legislative session and beyond!

    I work with cat organizations mostly in Prince George's County, Maryland, where there is an Eartip Law that went into effect a couple of years ago. It has the same provisions as you say HB 876 does. I can attest to the fact that the County animal control has NOT launched a TNR program because of the provisions of the new law. I'm certain that, if the law required the County to do so, Prince George's County would comply. Since this County has not, I don't see how the State law containing the same language, could force any other Maryland shelter to.

    As for the rabies regulation changes proposed by DHMH, I agree with you and with the ASPCA. Maryland needs its community TNR programs. Those programs ARE reducing feral cat populations. Behind closed doors, shelters have told me that their attempts have not been successful. One wonders whether, given Feldman's testimony, this is a case of the Emperor having no clothes, and whether shelter leaders are fearful to tell DHMH that NOT encouraging TNR has failed as a policy.


Please send me your comments and suggestions. Thanks!