Citizens Bark but Cecil County Commish Still Don’t Heel on Proposed Animal Law

June 13, 2012

Cesar Milan, the “dog whisperer,” where are you when the Cecil County Commissioners need you?

After a nearly two hour public hearing last week and hundreds of emails and phone calls from pet parents voicing concerns about a proposed new animal ordinance, the Commissioners clashed Tuesday as they attempted to re-write the proposal, yet again, after a three-year review of the county’s animal laws.

[SEE previous Cecil Times report and analysis here: ]

The commissioners appeared to reach agreement on one of the more contentious provisions cited by citizens at the public hearing: a requirement that all dogs crossing the state line into Cecil County must have a “health certificate” signed by a veterinarian. Owners of weekend homes in the county and organizers of dog shows and a “dry land” dog sled competition held at Fair Hill have protested that the provision was unfair and would drive tourism dollars out of the county.

The proposed ordinance also would require a veterinarian-signed “health certificate” for any animal “being given away” and states that “any animal found without the required certificate of health shall be impounded and quarantined” and the owner fined $500.

Commissioners Board President James Mullin (R-1) said the county law should “just refer to the state code there” instead of creating a higher standard under county law.

The state code on health certificates “refers to livestock,” noted Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2) “It’s not someone coming down from Pennsylvania for the weekend.” The state law also does not impose a health certificate mandate on private, “free to good home” pets that are given away.

Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5) said that, as written, the county proposal “says all, there are no exemptions” and he warned that inclusion of a separate health certificate mandate in the county code was “a deal breaker for me… end of story” and must be removed.

Commissioner Diana Broomell (R-4) initially seemed to agree that the county provisions should be removed and instead just a reference to the state law mentioned. But at another point she opined, “I think it’s important enough to keep it in our code” with exceptions for special events.

Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) was absent. The remaining commissioners said they would check the state law further, although the lineup of Hodge, Moore and Mullin in favor of deleting the section and just referencing the state law indicated a decision against a county health certificates mandate.

Meanwhile, Hodge insisted that references to dangerous and nuisance dogs throughout the ordinance should be changed to “animals,” so as to include cats. “This is another deal killer for me,” he said. “Cats should not get a free ride in this ordinance,” he said, citing the recent incident of a cat that turned out to be rabid attacking people in Port Deposit and citizen complaints of neighbors’ roaming cats that destroy property.

Glaring, Broomell asserted that including cats was a “way to gut this whole ordinance.”

Moore responded that “even without cats,” the enforcement provisions were “not affordable” for county taxpayers.

Then Broomell flexed her political muscles on a provision aimed at the current animal control contractor, the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc., (CCSPCA) which provides services under a fixed-price contract that has been frozen in funding for five years.

The ordinance proposes to penalize the animal control contractor’s monthly payments from the county by 5 percent for each day a proposed oversight panel thinks the contractor’s reports of animal control activities and expenditures are insufficient. Since the oversight panel is proposed to meet only quarterly, the contractor could be penalized for much of the year.

(For years, the CCSPCA has given monthly reports on complaints, calls for service, and disposition of animals to the county government and detailed quarterly financial reports. But they have usually not been looked at by county officials.)

Hodge, county attorney Norman Wilson and County Treasurer Bill Feehley said such provisions should be in a contract with the animal control services provider, not in an ordinance. They pointed out that any negotiated contract provisions that differed would then require a costly time consuming process to hold hearings and revise the whole ordinance.

Hodge said the unilateral penalty provision “doesn’t have anything to do with” an animal law and was “unfair and illegal.” Moore said the provisions “could be very arbitrary.”

But Broomell dug in her heels, claiming, “I have heard from the public” that the provision was needed in the ordinance. In fact, there were no comments at the public hearing on the penalty provision. Furthermore, Broomell said, if the animal control contractor doesn’t like it, then “they don’t have to sign a contract.”

Mullin piped up, “I don’t think it does any harm to leave it in there” in the ordinance.

Then Broomell tried to muscle through the penalty provisions, saying that the absent Commissioner Michael Dunn (R-3) “gave me his proxy.” But she was advised that such a so-called proxy was not a legally acceptable step in consideration of the ordinance.

Mullin quickly made an excuse for Dunn, saying that he “went home sick, he got an air conditioning cold on the weekend.” Dunn appeared healthy a few hours earlier at the commissioners’ morning general worksession and did not exhibit symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, or use of tissues.

The Commissioners still left a lot of issues unresolved and Mullin said they would meet again to “mark this up again.”

Left unresolved was the major controversy of “hobby kennels” that would force families with ten dogs to obtain special annual licenses ($50), submit to application fees ($50), annual inspections of their homes and inspections of mother dogs and their puppies. Speakers at the public hearing questioned the legality of the provisions and noted that owners of just two dogs who had a litter of eight puppies would suddenly be subject to the hobby kennel rules, even if they had no plan to sell the pets but wanted to give them away.

Broomell and Mullin indicated they wanted to keep those contentious provisions while Moore and Hodge did not.

[Disclosure: The editor of Cecil Times has adopted pets from the Cecil County SPCA and in the past was an unpaid volunteer board member.]

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5 Responses to Citizens Bark but Cecil County Commish Still Don’t Heel on Proposed Animal Law

  1. Broomless on June 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Delegate Smigiel, the Broomella whisperer. Don’t forget their scheme to delay the Artesian deal. Don’t forget his SPCA vendetta. Don’t forget the Three Amigos anti-SPCA moves. Broomella played her worn “I have heard from the public card” but we heard no testimony or saw letters from “them.” More voices in her head.

    Dunn gave her his “proxy”? I would like her to cite the rule on that move. In the morning work session she was the one who wanted vote tallies instead of “consensus” recorded in the minutes. When Dunn reurns Broomella will get her third vote. So predictable. Mullin and Dunn need spine surgery.

  2. concernedcitizen on June 20, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    The health certificate is absolutely ludicrous. It would mean that DE or PA pet owners with veterinarians in Cecil county would have to first obtain a health certificate from a different vet, or Cecil county pet owners with vets in PA or DE must also pay for health certificates just to drive back home!

    But that is only one of the highly questionable issues with Chapter 209. It will only be a question of time before the county will find itself involved in lawsuits and I can only hope Commissioner Broomell will be personally named as one of the defendants.

    I am not surprised cats are not mentioned since the driving forces behind this travesty are cat ‘people’ and sure wouldn’t want their own little darlings impounded or put on a leash. How can an entire county be held hostage by one bully commissioner???

    • george jones on June 24, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      As I understood it in the beginning, it was all about the “DANGEROUS AND VISCIOUS DOGS”.

      Well, I ask you, who usually owns those dangerous and viscious dogs? Drug dealers and dog fighting groups! How come NONE of them came to the meetings to defend their right to own pit bulls who guard their dope cache?

      The property owner with their pet or the casual Hunter is whom Mindy has decided to crucify!!
      We understand that a few of the people from the hunt club came to a few 209 meetings and she. Mindy, treated them like the MLK days! You cannot sit at the table, you must sit back against the wall and are not allowed to speak! Secretary Edie and others said nothing against this radical type of behavior from their wild leader!

      There is a #166 code of Cecil County Ethics and as we read it I think there is definitley some conflict of interest here. She has over and over inserted, by a vet, by a vet– lining her pockets and the pockets of her colleagues.

      Google and read the rabies statistics of cats verses dogs. You will see what ones really need the vaccination and the confinement to the owners property! There are numerous cases of hoarding 50 plus cats in filthy conditions, not only for the cats but the homeowner as well. This is CRUELTY!

  3. Lyn Kargaard on June 26, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    As I understand canine health certificates, they are only good for a short period of time (usually 30 days) and could expire while someone was traveling. The cost to get a health certificate every time you travel through Cecil County would be prohibitive as would the time to make an appointment with your vet and the vet costs. All in all, if you travel with your dog often from Baltimore to Fair Hill, it would be prohibitive.

    What is the reason? The outcome would be detrimental on all sides!

  4. susan on December 14, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Could dogs passing through in cars on Route 95 or40 be impounded for not having health certificates? Cute law.

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