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:


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

Understanding No Kill in Allegany County and beyond

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Allegany County Animal Control Changes

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Changes for Animal Control of Allegany County are underway after the death of 9 dogs on McGill Dr. in BelAair. Becky McClarran, President of the Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation, informed yesterday (8/21/14) the County Commissioners and the public about the immediate changes that already have taken place and changes that are still pending and being worked on to guarantee a better follow up on calls and reports from the public:

  •  dedicated phone line with separate phone number for Animal Control
  • administrative assistant for Animal Control to answer phone calls and dispatch Animal Control
  • daily management review of Animal Control phone log to make sure all issues have been addressed the same day.
  • Introduction of a new mapping system as it is used by Emergency Services to keep better track of complaints.

This are the immediate steps that have been taken by the Allegany County Animal Shelter to serve the public better and faster. Further changes are pending due to on-going review of Animal Control operations.

Also see previous Blog

Advocacy in Baltimore County, MD

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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:



Picture courtesy of Meredith Brown showing Sarah Nickol with dog Sarah who is available for adoption.


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:

Reform Baltimore County Animal Services also has a website which can be found here

The No Kill Community and Animal Control

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BusbyandHeywardThe number one cause of death for companion animals in the United States is the animal shelter. In the average, 6000 companion animals are being killed in US animal shelters every single day  either by blowing carbon monoxide in a gas chamber or by injection with sodium pentobarbital.
Fortunately for the animals, things are changing. More and more communities are now saving the lives of companion animal that before would have been killed. In a No Kill shelter, adoptable and treatable companion animals are no longer being killed which results in a 90% or higher live release rate.
With the change of philosophy in animal care and sheltering, Animal Control also needs to change philosophy, away from catch and kill to education and assistance, in order to work hand in hand with the animal shelter and create a successful bond.
Mitch Schneider, who was a long time Manager of Washoe County, NV Animal Services gives us some insights:
WCRAS (Washoe County Regional Animal Services) policy directs Animal Control Officers to make every reasonable effort to return animals to their owner instead of impounding the animal.  In addition to checking the pet for identification (tags or microchips), officers will check lost reports and/or with area residents in an attempt to determine if anyone knows were the animal lives. In addition to reducing sheltering costs, this policy also reduces animal abandonment and enhances public support.  A dog license is promoted as “Your Dog’s Ticket Home”; providing a true benefit for licensing increases voluntary compliance, further reducing shelter needs and the inherent potential for abandonment.  Note: upon returning the animal to the owner all laws are enforced and warnings or citations issued as deemed appropriate.
Another traditional practice in animal services that increases abandonment is the policy of not allowing an owner to redeem their pet if they can’t pay all of the fees at the time of redemption.  Continuing to hold the animal until all of the fees are collected simply increases the redemption fees for the pet owner, increases the need for shelter space; it may also reduce public support and increase abandonment and euthanasia rates.  To address this issue Washoe County has established a billing system; this is only done with supervisor permission to ensure that it is only offered as a last resort and kept to a minimum.
Operational Principals
  • Collaboration with community animal rescue groups can reduce program costs
  • Establishing niche volunteer opportunities can reduce costs and improve customer service
  • Impounding pets, unless absolutely necessary, is not in anyone’s best interest as it:
    • Increases the need for a larger facility to house more pets
    • Increases stress for the owner and animal alike
    • Increases staff needed for care of the animals
    • Increases abandonment and the associated euthanasia costs
    • Reduces public support
  • Returning animals to owners in the field and issuing the appropriate warning or citation is a more cost effective approach and increases public support
  • Increasing pet registration is necessary to reduce the need for impounding of pets
  • Pet identification through licensing and microchipping initiatives can have a very positive affect on a program’s costs and is an important part of an animal services’ business plan; the City of Calgary funds their entire program through licensing fees for dogs and cats
  • Promoting Trap-Neuter-Return for feral cats reduces costs and increase public support.
  • Encouraging spaying and neutering through differential licensing fees helps to address the pet over-population problem
  • Providing problem pet behavior assistance through a help line and other educational materials is helpful in reducing the abandonment of pets
    • Pet behavior problems cause people to “fall out of love” with their pet and is a major reason for abandonment at shelters
      • Common reasons for abandonment are barking, house-training, chewing, digging and repeatedly running away
With a willingness to move away from traditional practices when necessary, by utilizing current technology to its fullest and collaborating extensively with local animal rescue groups an animal services’ program can reduce costs, increase public support and create a pet friendly, Win-Win program for their community.
An animal control department that passively accepts all animals brought to its doors while actively sweeping harmless loose and stray animals off the streets is a department that assures itself of plenty of work for the future, for its activities do not confront the causes of animal overpopulation and abandonment. Rather, they treat symptoms and in doing so enable the “disease” to continue. A “no questions asked, open-door policy” for animal relinquishers communicates an attitude that animals really are disposable commodities and that it is a proper city government function to provide easy means for disposition.
The Allegany County Animal Shelter changed philosophy by end of 2010 and became a No Kill community with a 96% live release rate in 2013. Of course, things are not perfect and it always will be work in progress. The ACAS Team is working hard to implement new and better solutions as well as new technologies every day to serve the community and the animals.
Ryan Clinton from Austin Pets Alive said:
 “No Kill is not a destination, it is a journey. You aren’t done when you achieve it. We will continue to face obstacles and challenges that we must over come.”