Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How Other Shelters Do It

     Before we get into this post, I want to extend a big thank you to the latest Save 90 advertisers:
About Faces
Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital
Cavalier Realty Company
     You'll find their ads below the text of this post, along with a complete list of Save 90 advertisers, a list of personal donors, and a thank you message from Rescue Well (the latest group to receive a check from Save 90).

Let's get started with a few quick items
Reduced Rates at BCAS for the Memorial Day Holiday
     The Baltimore County Animal Shelter has two great offers in honor of the 2015 Memorial Day holiday (May 17-May25):
1) Adoption and spay/neuter fees will be waived for U.S. veterans who are Baltimore County residents. (This offer will also be available during the Veterans Day holiday).
2) Adoption and spay/neuter fees will be cut in half for all others who come to the shelter. Adoption fees will be just $25 for cats and $32.50 for dogs. Adopted animals will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated against rabies and other diseases, licensed and micro-chipped at no additional cost. 
     The same low fees ($25 for cats and $32.50 for dogs) will be offered to anyone who makes an appointment during this time period to have an existing pet spayed or neutered at the shelter. And the shelter will provide a license, rabies shot, and a microchip at no additional cost.
     Sounds like a perfect time to adopt a pet or spay/neuter the pets you already have! 

Good vibes
     As you may know from the last Save 90 post, the county has not provided much information about its new shelter director,
Chief of Animal Services, Dr. Melissa Jones. This has been frustrating and discouraging. 
     Still, Save 90 has heard a number of positive things about 
Dr. Jones. Many believe she will be a force for change and will move the shelter forward. 
     Save 90 looks forward to working with her and seeing what unfolds over the coming months.

Two Council members still have not made their appointments to the Animal Services Advisory Commission
     This is really disappointing. First District County Councilman Tom Quirk and Fourth District Councilman Julian Jones have still not made their appointments, and the Commission cannot begin its work until they do.
     All five other Council members have announced their appointments to the Commission. and County Executive 
Kevin Kamenetz says he has chosen his four appointments and will make them public as soon as all Council members have announced theirs.
     Clearly Council members have to deal with many issues. The animal shelter is just one of them. But it's been over three months since the Council approved the bill creating the Commission. 
     It's time for this to happen.

Shelters that Have "All That" Going On
     Save 90 recently toured two nearby shelters that are accomplishing great things: the Washington Humane Society in our nation's capital and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter in Virginia. 
     Included on this tour were two area animal advocates and 
Third District Baltimore County Councilman Wade Kach, who is passionate about animal welfare issues. 
     To say we were all blown away by what we saw would be an understatement.
     Just take a look at this short video to see what we found. 

     The  Fairfax County Animal Shelter (FCAS) is run by the Fairfax County Police Dept. but also benefits from a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial support. 
     The shelter takes in approximately 5 thousand animals a year. Interestingly, it acts as both a shelter as well as a rescue to other shelters. Shelters that it designates as Strategic Transfer Partners are able to send some of their animals to FCAS. This is especially helpful for shelters like those in Prince Georges County where pit bull adoption is prohibited. FCAS took in over 500 animals from its Strategic Transfer Partners last year.
     FCAS is dedicated to working with animals as individuals. It does not list dog breeds on the cards outside its kennels. This makes sense when you think about it, because genetic testing is the only sure way to know what an animal is. And with such a stigma attached to certain breeds like pit bulls, adopters can form their own opinions based on the dog itself...not its suspected breed. 
     FCAS is also committed to Trap Neuter Return (TNR). TNR is an alternative to Trap and Kill, and is increasingly used in many communities around the U.S. to control the number of free-roaming cats. The cats are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and returned to the communities where they were found. 
     Since 2008, Fairfax County has TNR'd about 7 thousand cats. According to Auerbach, this has made a huge difference. She says, "We have a downward trajectory on cat intake, an upward trajectory on cat adoptions, and a downward trajectory on cat euthanasia, which are all trends we want to keep seeing."
     (If you want to learn more about TNR, check out my Save 90 post at this link:   http://save90.blogspot.com/2015/02/tnr-its-time-that-baltimore-county.html)
     With a 96% live release rate, an average length of stay of only two weeks, a staff of just 25 augmented by 300 highly skilled volunteers, and an elaborate foster program that includes weekend fostering and even one hour fostering, Fairfax County's shelter is a gem. 

The Washington Humane Society
     The Washington Humane Society is also a great operation.  Unlike Fairfax County's shelter, it's not a government-run agency, but a private 501 c 3 organization which gets some of its funding from the D.C. government. This arrangement is known as a public/private partnership (BARCS in Baltimore City is run the same way).
      The Humane Society not only runs the shelter, it's also in charge of Animal Control, and employs 8 Animal Control Officers as well as 4 Humane Law Enforcement Officers. The latter deal with cases of animal fighting and abuse. 
     Says Chief Operating Officer, Stephanie Shain, "These officers protect animals from people. The Animal Control Officers protect people from animals."
      The Humane Society's main facility is on 
New York Ave. but it also has an additional small adoption center and a spay/neuter facility. Its intake is large...about 10 thousand animals a year. (That's just over twice as many animals as those that come in to Baltimore County's shelter, but not quite as many as the 12 thousand BARCS takes in annually in Baltimore City.) 
      The Humane Society is in an aging facility and its administrators have been working on plans to build a new shelter for the last 7 years. They recently bought property in SE D.C., are interviewing architects and expect to raise (Are you ready for this?) 40-45 million dollars for the project.
     To give you an idea of just how incredible that number is, the new animal shelter being built by Baltimore County will cost 6 million dollars.
    Like Fairfax County, Shain says the Humane Society has about 300 very active volunteers (although there are 1400 volunteers in all). 
     Here are some of the unusual and forward-thinking programs at the Humane Society:
     About a year ago, staff began requesting appointments for those who want to surrender a pet. Many shelters are beginning to do this. The reason? It can lead to some owners deciding to keep their pets. Sometimes shelter staff is able to inform pet owners about assistance they didn't know was available, or even convince a pet owner to keep the animal for just a few more days if the shelter is particularly full.

  •      When pet owners arrive, a staff members meets with them in private and talks with them in-depth about the pet. Even if an owner must surrender an animal, Shain says, "The more we know, the better position we are in to understand what the animal truly needs to thrive.  It just makes for a better process all around, so people aren’t having the conversation over a counter in front of other people."
  •      All dogs at the shelter are now going to be fed out of food puzzles...no more bowls. This is an enrichment technique that prolongs meals and makes them challenging and fun.
  •      The shelter sees its mission as being a community service organization and is looking for ways to provide more services to pet owners in poor areas where there are few or no pet stores or veterinarians. For example, the Humane Society recently sponsored a free vaccination day in one community and signed up citizens for spay and neuter services. 

   The Humane Society was not always so forward-thinking or successful. About 8 years ago, when a new CEO, Lisa LaFontaine, took over, the shelter had an 85% euthanasia rate. 
     Under LaFontaine's leadership, within three years, that number was down to 50%. Today it is approximately 15%.
     Shain attributes this drop largely to three things:

  • An expansion of TNR
  • Not making decisions about dogs based on their breed 
  • Expanded cooperation with rescues
     Perhaps the most amazing thing about the 
Washington Humane Society is the open-minded mentality that permeates it. It's a place where reinvention is an ongoing process.
     Says Shain, "The mindset that's been helpful here is to constantly try things and assess how they work."  
     This way of thinking isn't rocket science. It's what businesses do every day. But often shelters get entrenched in doing things the same way, just because that's the way they've always been done. An openness to change can lead to a more effective and successful (i.e. lifesaving) operation. 
     Just visit the Washington Humane Society and you'll see...this flexibility works.

Now on to Save 90's latest ads from 
About Faces
Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital
Cavalier Realty Company.

Here's a message from Rescue Well,  the latest group to receive a $750 check from Save 90.

The complete list of Save 90 advertisers:
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
Steven Caplan, Esq.
Anne George (Bark Busters)
Greetings and Readings
Mary Jane Buettner, Author
About Faces
Stevenson Village Veterinary Hospital
Cavalier Realty

Individual Contributors to Save 90:
Jim and Bonnie Hunter
Marty Sitnick
Elmo Barranco
Eric Brennan

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

If you know of a business that would like to buy an ad or an individual who would like to donate to Save 90, please ask them to email me at debstone01@comcast.net

Thank you!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Administrative Shakeup at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter

This was an unexpected post because of the sudden changes at the shelter. So, no ads on this post. Ads will resume with the next Save 90 post.

     Major administrative changes are underway at the Baltimore County Animal Shelter (BCAS) but Save 90 can't tell you much about them. Questions sent to the county two days ago (May 4) remain unanswered.
     Here's what we know.
     On Friday, May 1, 2015, the county removed 
Acting Chief of Animal Services Laura Culbertson and replaced her with Dr. Melissa Jones, one of the shelter's veterinarians.
     Baltimore County Health Dept. spokeswoman, Monique Lyle, has confirmed that 
Dr. Jones' title is Chief of Animal Services, so clearly she is Laura Culbertson's permanent replacement. 
     Save 90 was not able to officially learn where Culbertson has been reassigned but one person who says she spoke with Culbertson says she has been named Public Health Administrator. 
     In addition, the county has also reassigned Katarina (Kat) Stice. Many say Stice is particularly wonderful in working with the shelter's animals. Why she would be removed is unknown.
     Here are questions Save 90 has asked the Health Dept. without response so far:

1) Why were these changes made?
2) Where have Laura and Kat Stice been placed?
3) Many felt Kat Stice was a particularly great advocate for the animals…why was she replaced?
4) How long has Dr. Jones been at BCAS?
5)  What is Dr. Jones’ background?
6)  Is Dr. Jones my new contact at the shelter? How do I reach her? Calling the shelter is impossible. No one answers.

   Several months ago, Baltimore County posted a job opening for the position of 
Chief of Animal Services. Before any interviews took place, all candidates were informed their interviews were cancelled. County officials said they had decided to leave things as they were for the time being with Laura Culbertson as Acting Chief.
     Now the county has appointed a new Chief without any press release or effort to notify outsiders what is happening in the shelter.
      Clearly, personnel issues are sensitive. But there's a real need for transparency here as well. The shelter is a hot button issue and many concerned animal advocates want to know what's happening there. 
     Not only have animal advocates been left out of the loop, but apparently so have members of the Baltimore County Council. Save 90 has spoken with 
Councilman Wade Kach and people in Councilwoman Vicki Almond's office. They are attempting to find out what's going on.
     There's a pretty obvious question here: Why the secrecy?
     On Friday, May 8th, (several days after this post), I emailed Don Mohler, the County Executive's Chief of Staff regarding Dr. Jones' appointment. He replied, "We are very excited about her assuming the duties as the Chief of Animal Services. As you know, we have been very deliberate in our efforts to find just the right person for the shelter, and we think Dr. Jones’ expertise as a veterinarian and her people skills make her a perfect fit for this position...
Really good things are happening at the shelter, and these changes are just one more example of those changes."
     Save 90 believes good things are happening at the shelter.It would be helpful if it weren't so difficult to learn about changes as they take place. Openness benefits everyone and helps create a perception that we're all working together for a common goal. 
A few other items
Plans for one of the spay/neuter satellites:
    District 7 Baltimore County Councilman Todd Crandell has announced the location of one of the two planned spay/neuter/microchipping satellites in Baltimore County. It will be located at the health center property at Merritt Point Park in Dundalk.
     The location of the second spay/neuter satellite has not yet been announced.

Reduced Shelter Fees:
     Baltimore County is reducing adoption and spay/neuter costs. Effective June 15, the price for adopting dogs will fall from $65 to $50, and cats from $50 to $40. The adoption fee covers spaying or neutering the pet, a microchip, deworming, a license and initial shots.     
     County residents who bring in pets for spaying or neutering (animals not adopted from BCAS) will pay $20 for cats and dogs and $10 for microchipping. 
     The county will continue to offer periodic adoption fee discounts, as well as free pet adoptions for veterans during the week of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
     Save 90 applauds the changes. Anything that encourages more people to spay and neuter their pets helps bring down the number of unwanted animals.

The Last Two Animal Commission Appointments Expected:
    District 4 Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones says he plans to announce his appointment to the Animal Services Oversight Commission by the end of this week (today is Wednesday). A spokesman for First District Councilman Tom Quirk said she also expected an announcement this week. 
     County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has said he will announce his appointments as soon as all Council members have announced theirs. That would complete all 11 appointments, and the Commission could finally begin its work.

     Save 90 will be posting other items soon including information on a visit to two other shelters in our area, the Washington Humane Society and the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. What they are accomplishing is amazing.