Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Another Questionable Episode

My certificate of recognition for being one of four finalists for 
Best Blog Video in the Blog Paws 2015 awards competition. Awards for the winners will be given in May. 

     We have some important issues to address in this post, but first  I want to thank my latest Save 90 advertisers: 
Silberstein Insurance Group: Employee Benefits Consultants 
Suburban House Restaurant 
Zibazz Day Spa and Makeup Art

     These ads will appear below the text of this post along with complete lists of advertisers, individual donors, and organizations that have each received a $750 check from Save 90, as well as a tally of money raised so far.

Let's get started...
Another sign of positive change at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS) : 
     I requested and have been cleared to shoot and edit videos of animals at BCAS for the shelter's new Facebook page. This is a great opportunity to give a fuller view of the animals' personalities which will hopefully increase their adoptability. Thank you, Baltimore County for allowing me to do this. I'll be shooting the first videos in the next few days.
     In addition, check out this post which appeared on Facebook on Friday, March 27:
"Just got back from the shelter checking for a friend's lost cat. Everyone was so cheerful, the construction looks good, the work release ladies in the cat room were very helpful and nice (still confused as to why we can't go into the trailer looking for lost cats...), and a wonderful woman up front even looked on the database for a cat matching his description. The computers up front for people to search and place lost/found animals were a really nice touch.
Everything was clean, there's treats mounted on the kennels and a gorgeous brown pittie was microchipped and being adopted while I was there. 
Best experience I have ever had there by far!!!"
     Clearly, the staff and leadership at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter are working very hard and doing so many great things. 
Legislative news in a moment but first the main story of this post:
Another Questionable Episode
      In spite of all the positive work happening at the 
Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS), there are some ongoing issues that must be addressed. A recent incident there has echoes of the story of Briar Rose, about which I wrote on Jan. 20 of this year. 
     This latest issue involves a dog named Buddy Boy. He was surrendered to the Baltimore County Animal Shelter on 
Feb. 9th after his owner died.

Buddy Boy
     On intake, he was listed as a Siberian Husky. But shelter veterinarians raised concerns that Buddy Boy might be a wolf dog (the offspring of a wolf and a domestic dog.) It's illegal to own a wolf dog in MD. 
     BCAS sent a DNA sample from the dog to UC Davis in California for testing. 
     In the meantime, on Feb. 14th, Rob Ross, who works in conjunction with several wolf sanctuaries, went to BCAS and evaluated Buddy Boy. 
     According to Ross, the dog exhibited no physical wolf dog traits. In addition, he was "not skittish, did not have wolf vocalizations, and was obedient."
     Ross says he intentionally took a dominant stance to test the dog's response, but again, there were no indications of wolf dog behavior, namely Buddy Boy's ears "weren't pinned back, his hackles weren't raised, and his tail remained neutral, not curled or tucked, or wagging aggressively." 
     Ross shared this information with BCAS, and, in addition, found a rescue facility in New Jersey that was willing to take Buddy Boy while the shelter awaited DNA test results. 
     The rescue called Howling Woods Farm specializes in wolf dogs which are legal in New Jersey.
     Howling Woods President Mike Hodanish says he would have put Buddy Boy in a large outdoor pen about 100'X40' equipped with an enclosure. In addition, Buddy Boy would have been joined by a companion dog if he got along with one of the other dogs there. Surely this would have been better than remaining by himself in a much smaller shelter cage at BCAS.  
     In addition, getting Buddy Boy out to a rescue would have freed up a cage at BCAS. That's important because the shelter is often full, and when all cages are full, animals must be euthanized to make room for new ones brought in by Animal Control. 
     So, you say, surely the vets at BCAS allowed Buddy Boy to go to Howling Woods, right? No. They did not. Instead, he remained at the shelter until March 19th, a total of 38 days. At that point, the UC Davis DNA wolf test results came back negative and BuddyBoy was adopted. 
     I spoke with Acting Chief of Animal Services Laura Culbertson who told me, "We all spent a lot of time conferencing about 
Buddy Boy. Two vets determined he exhibited some wolf characteristics and weren’t comfortable letting him leave the shelter. We didn’t feel comfortable overruling a veterinarian. I kept going back and saying why can't we, shouldn’t we, but I was shut down every time."
     Here's the strange part. Culbertson told me, "We had an agreement with Howling Woods Farm just in case the test came back positive."
     So, BCAS veterinarians were willing to let Buddy Boy go to 
Howling Woods Farm if he turned out, in fact, to be a wolf dog, but they were not willing to let him go there while they waited to learn the test results. This makes no sense at all.
     As I mentioned, this story has a similar quality to the case of 
Briar Rose, a puppy that BCAS veterinarians feared may have been exposed to rabies. In that incident, BCAS ignored offers from a rescue group to provide a required quarantine for Briar Rose. The shelter made no effort to confirm reports that the puppy had been vaccinated for rabies. And after just two days, they euthanized her, despite the shelter's four day hold policy. A rabies test after her death was negative.  
     Fortunately Buddy Boy's story has a happy ending. But his whole ordeal appears to have been unnecessary. 
     BCAS veterinarians not only saw wolf-like qualities where none existed. They also refused to send Buddy Boy to rescue where he would have been far more comfortable during the long wait for DNA results.
     Culbertson says Buddy Boy didn't show signs of kennel stress during his weeks at BCAS. Animal advocates who saw the dog disagree with that assessment. 
     I don't personally know whether he suffered from kennel stress or not. But at the very least, I'm sure that 38 days of shelter confinement were unpleasant for him. 
     There appears to be a pattern of poor choices that seem to be made out of fear rather than logic and best practices. As Baltimore County moves forward with so many great planned shelter program improvements, this must be addressed. 
     Baltimore County citizens deserve to have the utmost confidence in the judgement of BCAS veterinarians. Stories like Briar Rose and Buddy Boy are making that increasingly difficult.

Buddy Boy and his happy adopter

Buddy Boy in his new home

Disappointing news from the Maryland General Assembly...
Two important animal bills are dead
  • First the Shelter Standards Act, HB 876
     HB 876 would have set standards for MD animal shelters but the bill never made it out of committee. The legislation has been assigned to summer study. 
     One of the bill's primary sponsors, Del. Christian Miele of MD's 8th Legislative District, had this to say about why this happened and about the way forward:
   "Despite the drafting of several sets of amendments after the bill hearing -- one of which stripped the bill entirely of references to eartipped and feral cats -- many of the members of the House Environment and Transportation Committee still did not feel comfortable moving forward with HB 876. 
     A handful of delegates on that committee frankly did not understand what the bill did, which is not altogether surprising given its scope and the use of unfamiliar terms. Fortunately, 
Del. Kumar Barve, chairman of the committee, saw value in our efforts and suggested we commit the bill to a work group for summer study. 
     This work group will consist of legislators, stakeholders in the animal shelter and rescue community, and representatives from the Maryland Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 
     The hope is that the members of this task force will work toward crafting a bill that will (1) establish a minimum set of standards for animal shelters across the state, and (2) address and work through the concerns raised this year by the Environment and Transportation Committee. The bill has been officially withdrawn."
     This is a disappointing outcome, but there is always next year to try again.
  • The Extreme Weather Protection Bill, HB 153 
     House Bill 153 is also dead for this session. 
     Current MD law prohibits leaving a dog tethered outside in unsafe conditions. HB 153 would have made the law more specific. It would have prohibited someone from leaving a dog chained or tethered outdoors for longer than 15 minutes when the National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather warning, or for longer than an hour when the temperature dipped to 32 degrees or below, or when it rose to100 degrees or above. 
     HB 153 died after receiving an unfavorable report from the House Judiciary Committee.
     I spoke with Margie Brassil, Legislative Director for 
Del. Dana Stein, the bill's primary sponsor. She told me the Judiciary Committee's chair, (Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. of Prince Georges County), believed "current law was sufficient, even though we had strong testimony from animal control representatives" to the contrary.
     One of those representatives was Patty Quimby, 
Executive Director of Talbot Humane. Says Quimby, "...we do not have a chaining ordinance at the county level in Talbot County. When dogs are on tethers, as long as they are not “suffering” from hypo or hyperthermia, the owner fulfills the minimum standards of care, we cannot force these animals to be taken indoors to a safer area when temperatures are extreme. Yes, we know the suffering of these animals is often inevitable, and it is unbelievably frustrating. Sadly, the law doesn’t permit us to prevent it, only intervene once it has occurred. The inclusion of extreme weather events in the current chaining bill would allow our officers to do exactly what our community wants from us, prevent suffering and protect the animals of our state."
     MD Votes for Animals Executive Director Lisa Radov says specific temperatures are needed in the law, and when the bill failed, she was "shocked because it seemed so obvious."
     Expect to see this bill in some form again next session.
Now the latest Save 90 ads from Baltimore County businesses:
The Silberstein Insurance Group: Employee Benefits Consultants 
The Suburban House Restaurant
Zibazz Day Spa

Here's the growing list of Baltimore County businesses that have advertised on Save 90...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
The Silberstein Insurance Group: Employee Benefits Consultants 
The Suburban House Restaurant
Zibazz Day Spa and Makeup Art

Individual contributors
Jim and Bonnie Hunter
Marty Sitnick
Elmo Barranco
Eric Brennan

Funds raised so far: $7186.00

Recipients of Save 90 donations (Each has received a check for $750):
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 debstone01@comcast.net
Thank you!


  1. I have to say it seems strange that the same laws that are used to justify seizing community cats that are mobile and healthy in their outdoor home, "can't" allow for a dog tethered out in frigid temps or excessive heat to be similarly seized. I can see Chairman Vallario's point.

  2. The inclusion of severe weather activities in the cutting-edge chaining invoice might allow our officials to do precisely what our network wishes from us, save you suffering and protect the animals of our nation. I'm working at Out of Home Advertising in Thiruvananthapuram whilst puppies are on tethers, as long as they're now not “struggling” from hypo or hypothermia, the proprietor fulfills the minimal requirements of care


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