Baltimore County is a county located in the northern part of the U.S. state of Maryland. As of the 2010 census, the population was 805,029. Baltimore County has a county run animal shelter, Baltimore County Animal Services, which is overseen by the Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and the Director of Health and Human Services, Dr. Gregory Wm. Branch.
In the last 12 month complains from animal advocates in Baltimore County became louder about insufficient animal care in the shelter and the high kill rate of healthy pets. Baltimore County Animal Services did not seem to take the complaints serious and decided to shut out volunteers and announced that more volunteers are not needed.
In response of this, animal advocates from Baltimore County formed a group, Reforming Baltimore County Animal Services.
We talked with the President of the group, Sarah Nickol:
No Kill Allegany County: How did you become involved in animal welfare and advocacy?
Sarah Nickol: I think it is safe to say, I have been involved with animal welfare since the moment I could remember. It started with sneaking the dog food under the table, or insisting the family dog sleeps with me. As for advocacy, well that is my full-time job. I am social worker during the day. It just so happens that these two things finally collided for me.
NKAC: What can you tell us about the animal shelter in Baltimore County?
SN: What can I tell you about the shelter in Baltimore County? Well, first you have to find it. Then once you find it, you need to find a DeLorean and set it to 1930. When I say 1930, I am not referencing the structure, but every aspect of the county shelter: management, policies, operations, and the care provided at the shelter.
NKAC: You have become one of the leaders of the group Reform Baltimore County Animal Services. How did you get involved?
SN: I didn’t get my feet wet till our dog, Ginger passed in May/2013. Our dog that passed was my husband’s prior to our relationship, so this was truly going to be my first dog that I would be looking for as an independent adult with our own home. My only stipulation was the dog had to be a rescue dog. I told my husband he had to do all of the searching, because I had no ability to say “yes” to one and “no” to the rest. Time passed and my husband said, “Sarah you need to help me look.” He might regret that statement now. Needless to say, I discovered the animal rescue world on facebook. Of course we took in two puppers, a “re-home” and a rescue from BCAS. That is when I was introduced to Ms. Kathy Quinn. I am not sure who I fell in love with more, Jazzy (Rescue from BCAS) or Kathy. Jazzy was not easy for his past was not easy. At one point I called Kathy crying, and thinking the world was ending. Kathy showed up at my home so fast, and was there for our family. That will never leave me. As I began to follow Kathy I learned about BCAS. I truly didn’t think places like this existed anymore. I was like every other resident in Baltimore County. I was dumbfounded. My full-time job is advocating, so I did what I knew how to do, advocate.
NKAC: What are the goals of RBCAS and how do you hope to accomplish them?
SN: The animals that end up at our shelter don’t arrive because something amazing happen to them, they arrive because a human relationship failed. Yet, the shelter only exacerbates this. I want just the opposite. You don’t have to be an “animal lover,” but we all want a healthy functioning county, right? Providing a basic level of respect and care to some of the most vulnerable members of our society is having a healthy functioning county. Yes, animals are members of our society, whether you have a pet or not. I am sure you have a neighbor that believes their pet is a family member. Don’t we want a county that helps promote responsible, safe, care of pets? Ultimately I want BCAS to adapt the skills, policies and leaders that will implement all things needed to provide a SAFE, CLEAN, HEALTHY, & COMMUNITY FRIENDLY SHELTER.
NKAC: How do you see the future of Baltimore County Animal Services?
SN: There are many, wonderful, amazing people that came before me, that are still around, and those silently helping; I see a future they have all worked for, have fought for, cried for, and pleaded for. Those days are coming to an end. There is no turning back. This dirty secret is no longer a secret and we will make change. I am so excited for the future.
NKAC: Anything you would like to add?
SN: I can’t stress enough that we all have a role in this, every single role is of value. No contribution is too little. We must spread the word and demand better.
Thank you, Sarah Nickol, for the Interview. Sarah Nickol can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reform Baltimore County Animal Services also has a website which can be found here