How a Delegate from Allegany County got framed (UPDATE)

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In my previous post I wrote about Delegate Kevin Kelly and posted a e-mail he send to several people including the County Commissioners of Allegany County.

Here is a letter written by Michelle Ingrodi of Baltimore, MD in response to Delegate Kevin Kelly. I would like to thank Michelle Ingrodi for giving me the permission to publish the letter.



Hello Mr. Kelly,

My name is Michelle Ingrodi, and I am a volunteer at the Allegany County Animal Shelter, despite living in Baltimore, MD where I run one of the largest rescues. I also work for Boston Street Animal Hospital as an office manager and surgery assistant. If it were not for me making the conditions at the shelter public two years ago, they would still be euthanizing everything that came in the door via a method called heart sticking. I found out about what the director was doing, I made it public, and she resigned. Afterwards, volunteers have flooded the place, but being a small town, there are many who were friendly with the old director and still cause trouble. It’s safe to assume the rumors Mrs. Harvey is hearing is part of that.
I am quite appalled at the letter written by Mrs. Harvey, copied here, to the newspaper. While it is no secret that the shelter needs more volunteers, I can’t help but wonder why someone would walk away and complain rather than help make change happen. I guess it’s easier to point fingers than get dirty.
I would like to bring up a few points so that you can understand some things about the shelter and know that these claims of inhumane treatment are far fetched.
1. ALL shelters have animals living in cages. To allow them to run free is not only stupid, it’s dangerous. The shelter takes in animals that may possibly have diseases like rabies, leukemia, distemper, parvo, and FIV (feline aids). Some of these can be spread through water dishes, some through bites, some through sharing litterboxes. Strays also usually have worms or parasites like coccidia, which can be spread by feces, of which animals can have on their feet or leaking out of them if they have it severely. Free roaming shelter animals is a horrible idea, unless you have a room to take them in for exercise, and you disinfect it after each animal. There is not enough volunteers to take out every cat, but other items are provided to stimulate them, such as scratchers, catnip, balls, etc. Seeing the animals in cages is tough, but it’s not like any staff or volunteers want them to be kept there. The blame should not be on the shelter, which is busting it’s behind to care for them, but rather on those people who cause the animals to end up there. Mrs. Harvey sounds like she’d be an excellent advocate for spaying and neutering to reduce the county population.
2. There is no such thing as the “parvo room” at the shelter. The dogs have two rooms, neither is different from another. If someone at the shelter called a room such a thing, then this person is grossly misinformed, and her friend should have consulted with someone in charge. If a dog comes in that is suspected of having parvo, then a staff member takes it into their office while awaiting vet transport, so as not to infect other animals.
3. I have also donated an air conditioner to the shelter. It was last year when there was no air conditioning in the entire building, let alone one room. What Mrs. Harvey is failing to realize is that you should NOT have AC in this room because you’ll drop the body temperatures of the animals in there who are fighting off respiratory infections. Think of how cold you get when you have a fever, would you like it for someone who feels fine to make the room you’re in even colder? When you drop a cats body temperature, it gives them diarrhea which dehydrates them, and from there it’s a very quick spiral of decline. While it might make the person working in that room cranky for being warm, it’s the best for the cats. Also, given that respiratory infections are airborne illnesses, the door should NEVER be open to avoid spreading it throughout the shelter. If she can provide heating pads for each cage in the sick room, I’m sure that the use of AC in there would not be a problem.
4. The cats are fed once a day, but they have plenty large enough bowls for both water and food. Sometimes kittens spill their water, it’s what kittens do, and the entire cage gets wet. Nobody denies that, but the shelter does not have the funding to purchase the type of bowls that hook onto the cage doors. I believe their yearly budget is $85,000, of which they have to care for 2000 animals. Compare that to the budget of Harford County’s shelter ($6Million for 2012) and they take in around 4000 animals. They have to rely on the public for everything, because $85K doesn’t go far.  If Mrs. Harvey would like to purchase bowls to hook on the doors to prevent cages from getting wet, I’m sure the volunteers there would appreciate it. A team of evening volunteers has just been set up last week to provide evening feedings, cleanings for those animals who need it, and adoption hours. I just wish Mrs. Harvey would have spoken to the director about her concerns so he could tell her about the changes, before spreading her thoughts via public forums. It makes her look foolish, and the shelter has yet another misinformed mess to clean.
5. While there are many animals there, she is not taking into consideration that this is an open admission shelter that does not have the luxury of turning someone away who wants to surrender an animal. They HAVE to take them per county policies. Last year, I took 194 cats and kittens out of Allegany County and found them homes here in Baltimore. I have seen conditions there, before Karl arrived, that made me cringe. Instead of complaining via public forums for “someone to do something”, I found ways to help. I got fencing donated, I got crates, carriers, bedding, food, and cages donated. I helped raise money and had a man in Arizona donate $25,000 to them, the largest donation they have ever received. I helped create adoption events, fliers, fundraisers, and volunteer events. When I can afford to leave my own organization, I pay $300 to board my dogs and take a train to Cumberland so that I can volunteer there. When I can’t get to town, I spend my time (especially on Facebook) marketing for volunteers and donations. I send emails to rescues up and down the east coast to find open spaces for Allegany dogs, to coordinate transports, to find places that will take their animals on a regular basis. There’s a woman in NY who does the same thing for them, and we’ve been doing it since Nov. 29, 2010. I do not like honking my own horn, but my point is that I have never once said “this place is inhumane, someone should do something”, because I have enough sense to realize that I am that someone. The conditions at this shelter are miles and miles from what they were when we got to the place, so if she feels that people were rude to her in our facebook group, it’s because we know how very far the shelter has come. They still have some growing room, but neither Dick or Karl would allow an animal to suffer, nor would the volunteers, one whom received a National award for his efforts there.
6. Thank you for adopting kittens from a shelter.
I hope that this provides some insight into things. I’ve seen the blueprints for the new shelter, which is modeled after the Washington Animal Rescue League in DC, and it’s quite a sight. Tina Rafferty of the Shelter Management Foundation has begun the capital campaign drive for construction, although there are folks who have offered to sponsor certain rooms or parts of the building already. I also just had a friend volunteer last night to become the shelter’s Rescue Coordinator, as she’s a photographer and creative writer, and I’m teaching her how to market animals to rescues. I can assure you that conditions in this shelter are not inhumane whatsoever. If you’d like to visit a shelter that has inhumane practices, since you are a State Official, check out Cecil county, where the animal control officers still shoot dogs instead of humanely end their suffering, or PG county where they euthanize every pitbull that comes in the door, even puppies, via a needle to the heart.
Thank you for your time,
Michelle Ingrodi
Charm City Animal Rescue
Baltimore, MD