Opposing Force

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IMG_0955The Maryland Animal Shelter Standards Act, filed as HB 494, is the most comprehensive animal shelter reform bill in the
history of Maryland. It is a truly bipartisan effort that will save countless animal lives, bring about greater transparency and accountability in taxpayer-funded shelters throughout the state. HB494 will end convenience killing, including making it illegal for shelters to kill animals when rescue groups are willing to save them. Similar laws in other states save nearly 50,000 animals a year, have reduced killing statewide by 78%, have led to save rates of 94% and higher, and have cut millions of dollars in wasteful spending.

The Maryland Animal Shelter Standards Act will help lost and homeless pets to find homes, require commitment to a sound care protocol to guarantee compassionate care for the animals, mandate thorough intake procedure, create Transparency and Accountability.

The question is, why would a national animal welfare organizations like the ASPCA, a state wide organization like PAWS (Professional Animal Shelter Workers of Maryland), Harford County Humane Society, BARCS in Baltimore, Talbot County Humane Society and some other organizations oppose life saving measures? Simply said, this organizations are against ending convenience killing, against compassionate care for animals, against transparency, against accountability. Just recently the above mentioned groups made the following suggestion to be added to HB494:

I would recommend adding a requirement within this bill where shelters must tell the owner that the animal will be euthanized at the time of intake.

This is a very disturbing statement coming from a organization claiming to have the best interest of the animals in mind. How is it in the best interest of a animal to be killed?

The main problem with animal shelters in Maryland is that there is absolutely no oversight and there are no state regulations. Basically animal shelters in Maryland can operate any way they want. Last year, the Maryland Dog Federation has sent PIA (Maryland Public Information Act) requests to all animal shelters in the State of Maryland, requesting shelter intake and outcome data. Several animal shelters did not answer at all to the PIA requests. One of them was the Talbot County Humane Society, one of the main opponents to HB494.

It also should be noted that a member of the PAWS organization made 2 intimidating phone calls to the place of employment of one of the co-authors of HB494. This sure gives the term “Professional” a whole new meaning.

Is it really that difficult and complicated to implement HB494 in a animal shelter? No, not at all. As example, the Allegany County Animal Shelter exceeds the requirements of HB494 for about 5 years now. The Allegany County Animal Shelter, located in the poorest County of the State, is the first and only open admission No Kill shelter in the State of Maryland. The story of the Allegany County Animal Shelter has been captured in a Documentary in 2013 and maybe some of the answers can be found there:

Life Is Hope

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The number one cause of death for companion animals in the US is the animal shelter. Every single day more than 6000 companion animals are being needlessly killed by people that are suppose to protect them and care for them.

Tragically, in the U.S. today, we have a system of facilities where animals are routinely neglected and abused, places where the normal rules of compassion and decency toward animals to which the vast majority of people subscribe simply do not apply. And most ironic of all, given that we are told that these facilities protect animals from our own neglect and abuse, is that this system of death camps is defended and celebrated by the nation’s largest animal “protection” organizations: HSUS, the ASPCA, and PETA. These organizations tell us that the killing is not the fault of the people in shelters who are actually doing the killing. But it is their fault. They are the ones who do it. It is right in their job description. They signed up for it. And that is not what kind hearted animal lovers do. And because kind hearted animal lovers won’t do it, they don’t work in these agencies. Or if they do, they don’t last.


To man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man. For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime.”

Romain Rolland, Nobel Prize 1915


While this quote was written in 1915, in many communities across the country it still holds true almost 100 years later. Luckily, the landscape of animal welfare has dramatically changed in the last 15 years and hundreds of communities across the country have implemented life saving measures for companion animals in animal shelters. Communities raised up to protect and care for companion animals in “their” community, creating a safe heaven for lost or unwanted pets.

Community members introduce Legislation, like CAPA (Companion Animal Protection Act), to make sure that companion animals are protected and cared for instead of being taken to the kill room and needlessly killed.

To learn more about how to get involved in changing YOUR community to a true animal welfare community that values life, visit the following websites:




The 800lb Gorilla in Maryland

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Yesterday, the Maryland Department of Agriculture announced the recipients of the spay& neuter grant:

The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) – through its new statewide Spay and Neuter Grant Program – is awarding nearly $475,000 in grants to 14 nonprofit and governmental organizations across the state to provide low-cost spay and neuter services targeted to low income pet owners. A total of 51 applications, requesting more than $1.8 million were received.

From the Maryland Department of Agriculture:

This exciting program is designed to reduce the number of unwanted cats and dogs euthanized in shelters across the state.

How was the money distributed? 14 organisations in Maryland received grant money for spay & neuter efforts. From this 14 organisations:

5 Organisations are in the Baltimore area, receiving a total of $158,615

4 Organisations are in Prince Georges County, receiving a total of $163,062

Leaving just $153,323 for the rest of Maryland.

It needs to be noted that Prince Georges County has a Breed Specific Legislation in place that will kill any Pit Bull type dog by default.

The organisation Maryland Votes for Animals as well as the HSUS are the main parties behind the law that made the spay & neuter grant possible. Both organisations are hailing the grant program as a way to reduce shelter intake and shelter killing in the State of Maryland.

Studies have shown that spay & neuter alone does not reduce shelter intake or shelter euthanasia. As example, Dr. Ellen Jefferson from Austin, TX pointed out in her study “Using data to make Austin a No Kill City” that altering 60,000 animals in Austin between 1999 and 2008 did not lower shelter intake or shelter euthanasia in Austin, TX.

The real issue with the spay & neuter grant in Maryland, and the 800lb Gorilla, is the fact that it does not address or help the animals that are mostly being killed in Maryland’s so called animal shelters: stray and feral cats. It is specifically mentioned in the grant that the money can not be used for TNR efforts which of course leaves the doors wide open to continue the mass killing of stray and feral cats.

Way to go, MVFA and HSUS. The stray and feral cats thank you for your efforts.

Shelter Stories: Mikey

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Here at the Allegany County Animal Shelter in Cumberland, MD we are proud of what we are doing. We believe that every animal entering the shelter deserves a chance of a new life. Most animals we take in are being adopted out in to loving homes rather quickly. Every now and then however, for reasons we don’t really understand, animals are staying at our shelter a little bit longer. So did, as example, Mikey who was with us for 2.5 years. For some reason he always was overlooked by potential adopters, was too big, too strong, one of “those dogs”, too dangerous and many other things. Dogs like Mikey, who are with us for a longer period of time, receive special attention through individualized kennel enrichment and socialization tailored to the individual dog. On October 18th, we had our largest Adoption event of the year, “Barktoberfest” Downtown Cumberland, MD. About 2 month prior to the event, I started preparing Mikey for that special event. My goal was to make it special for him and my idea was to use him as a camera dog, wearing a GoPro Camera on his back:

Mikey6In the morning of October 18th, Mikey and I went in to the Truck and we drove Downtown. We both were nervous but after about 30 minutes we became comfortable with the unusual situation and the fun started:

Mikey9    Mikey8

Mikey met a lot of people and a lot of other dogs, just being himself like he had always done that. Then, Mikey caught the attention of two young Ladies who really seem to love him. Some pictures were taken, phone calls were made and then……Mikey was adopted. A last hug and good bye to Mikey: Mikey4 Mikey went home with a wonderful family and now is living a wonderful and well deserved life: Mikey10 There is so much to learn from Mikey’s story which is why I wanted to share his story. Mikey’s story also is my story and our story. It is who and what we are: The Shelter of Hope

In Memoriam: Dr. Sophia Yin

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Widely popular California veterinarian and behaviorist Sophia Yin tragically committed suicide on Sunday.  From her obituary in the Sac Bee:

Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and internationally recognized pioneer in the field of animal behavior as it relates to training pets, died Sept. 28 of suicide at her Davis home, according to the Yolo County coroner’s office. She was 48.
Dr. Yin taught animal owners and trainers to reward animals for positive behaviors as they occur and to remove rewards for bad behavior. In addition, she developed and promoted “low-stress handling” techniques for treating and working with animals in veterinary clinics, zoos, shelters, groomers and other care settings.

It’s not uncommon for caretakers to put the emotional well being of others, including animals, first. But you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s not bad to put your needs first

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Understanding No Kill in Allegany County and beyond

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The Truthiness of Animal Welfare in Allegany County

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10628013_681724345226238_1519685440934874543_nI walked for the first time in to the Allegany County Animal Shelter by the end of 2010. There were about 15 dogs sitting in kennels in the first kennel room and in another room a handful of cats. The majority of the dog kennels was empty and so was the second kennel room located in the back. I already knew, before I even entered the shelter, that many animals were killed on a daily basis. However, hearing this and then actually seeing the results of the daily mass killing was a haunting experience. As I walked through the shelter I also entered a small room in the back of the shelter. The room contained nothing but a large silver metal table in the middle and a collection of ropes and muzzles. It was the kill room. A second door was leading me outside, where a large walk-in Freezer was located. I opened the door. The freezer was filled with large black garbage bags, containing the dead bodies of dogs and cats that had been surrendered to the shelter or picked up by animal control as a stray animal.

Until then, the shelter killed more than 85% of all the animals they took in. Often owner surrendered animals were directly dragged from the front lobby to the kill room, injected with sodium pentobarbital and then discarded like garbage in the walk-in freezer.

The practice of the mass killing in the Allegany County Animal Shelter was largely supported by the local animal welfare and rescue community which also was heavily involved in the Animal Shelter Control Board to oversee shelter operations. Of course, this very same people were and still are very vocal against our No Kill efforts in Allegany County. In the almost 4 years of being the only Open Admission No Kill Shelter in the State of Maryland, the Allegany County Animal Shelter saved roughly 6000 animals resulting in a constant live release rate of 94% and higher.

The Allegany County Animal Shelter is not perfect, mistakes are being made and the failure of Animal Control to respond in a timely manner was partially the reason for the death of 9 dogs. I talked about our failure on Animal Wise Radio, a nation wide broadcasted radio show and also in a open letter to the Allegany County community.

In yesterdays Animal Shelter Control Board meeting, the animal welfare voices from the past of course came forward again trying to derail our No Kill efforts and to re-establish the killing of healthy and treatable companion animals.



Killing is the ultimate form of violence. While cruelty and suffering are abhorrent, while cruelty and suffering are painful, while cruelty and suffering should be condemned and rooted out, there is nothing worse than death, because death is final. An animal subjected to pain and suffering can be rescued. An animal subjected to savage cruelty can even become a therapy dog, bringing comfort to cancer patients, as the dog fighting case against football player Michael Vick shows. There is still hope, but death is hope’s total antithesis. It is the eclipse of hope because the animals never wake up, ever. It is the worst of the worst—a fact each and every one of us would recognize if we were the ones being threatened with death.

During the meeting, even references to PETA were made. It is hard to believe that anybody wants the advice or even support from a group like PETA. PETA believes animals should be killed, even if they are not suffering. In the last 11 years, PETA has killed 29,426 animals, including those they themselves have called “healthy,” “adoptable,” “adorable,” and “perfect” and even after promising that they would find the animals a home. They do not have adoption hours, they do not have an adoption floor, they do not market their animals, and most are killed within 24 hours. They have called for the automatic killing of all dogs who look like “pit bulls” in shelters. They have called for the round up and killing of even healthy feral cats. They have defended poorly performing and even violently abusive shelters. And they fight shelter reform legislation to mandate the common sense programs of the No Kill Equation, such as TNR and rescue rights. Whatever methods PETA uses to justify shelter killing should be approached with the understanding that PETA is motivated by a very different set of priorities than the vast majority of people, and a set of priorities that are in fact the opposite of that which is generally ascribed to them given their name and reputation. Although they try to obscure their true agenda by working to convince their supporters and animal lovers that they believe killing is a regrettable necessity, in truth, their more candid statements and most significantly, their actions, reveal that those who work at PETA believe that life is suffering, the living want to die and killing them is, as Ingrid Newkirk herself stated, a “gift.”  

Is that really what the majority of people in Allegany County would like to see happen? I don’t think so. I believe in people and I believe people love animals.  

The Allegany County Animal Shelter is work in progress and always will be. Improvements are being made to ensure care and safety for the animals and the public.

Nobody is satisfied with failure. I’m not.