Cecil County Animal Control: Call 911, Hope for the Best
Cecil County faced a midnight deadline for the expiration of its animal control contract with the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA), with animal services response turned over to the county’s 911 call center as of early Friday morning. County officials hustled to assemble an interim program in the final hours before the turnover, including a plan to require law enforcement officers to take time out from their regular duties to evaluate “emergency” animal problems.
The county had hired an unlicensed commercial kennel, Canine Care, in North East to house stray animals but after inquiries by Cecil Times on Tuesday, county officials sprung into action and summoned the owner, William Simmons, to Elkton on Wednesday afternoon to obtain the necessary license. After Cecil Times inquiries showed no one from the county’s interim animal control committee had bothered to inspect the facility or verify its available kennels, Richard Brooks, the county’s Emergency Services director, was dispatched to view the facility on Shady Beach Rd.
County Administrator Al Wein said on Thursday that Canine Care was now licensed and Brooks’ visit determined there were a total of 30 kennel spaces available on the site. It was unclear if the facility would no longer accept private kennel clients as of Friday or if all 30 units would be available for county animal control usage.
Indeed, as of 10/1/12, when a new controversial animal control ordinance takes effect, by law a commercial kennel would be banned from co-housing any animal control or stray animals at the same location as private customer, boarded animals, except in cases of disaster or natural emergencies, under section 703-K of the new ordinance.
Wein said on Thursday that no other contractor, either within the county or from outside the county, had applied to provide kennel services under the county’s request for interim housing for animals. And, contrary to assertions by some commenters on this website, Wein said there had been no formal proposals responding to a county notice seeking veterinarian services on a 24/7 basis.
Meanwhile, sources said an emergency meeting of county and town law enforcement officials was convened Thursday by Brooks, at which it was determined that cops would be dispatched by the 911 call center if dispatchers thought an animal problem was sufficiently serious to warrant police investigation. Then if the officer decides it is necessary, he or she would report back to 911 staff and they would summon a private Delaware-based wildlife trapper/pest control contractor to pick up the offending animal and transport it to the Canine Care kennel.
Law enforcement sources expressed dismay over the issue, noting they were already understaffed to respond to emergency and serious crime problems without having to play animal cops.
“We’ve got drug crime raging in this county,” said one law enforcement officer who spoke on condition of anonymity. “So now Brooks wants us to cover his *** and take 911 calls for dogs?”
The county Sheriff’s Department– which requested, but was denied by the County Commissioners, funds in the current budget for two specially trained new deputies to handle drug crime investigations—would no doubt get the bulk of the calls for animal services since most of the county is patrolled by the sheriff’s agency.
Cecil Times has called Sheriff Barry Janney for comment and will update this report upon his response. However, in the past Janney has reminded county commissioners that he is elected independently by voters and his duties are set by state law, and commissioners cannot mandate how to deploy his staff or set his law enforcement priorities.
The Cecil County government has posted a statement of its interim animal control policies on its website. [SEE posting here:
In its policy statement, the county states that ‘EMERGENCY’ only matters will be handled, which was defined as “calls for animal control services where there is a concern for the safety of a person, or a situation where a person is in danger” and such cases “will be handled by dialing 9-1-1. The appropriate Law Enforcement agency will be dispatched to investigate the situation. The investigating officer will determine the need for animal control. If service is needed, the officer will contact the dispatch center and they will contact the on-call animal control technician to respond as needed.”
In addition, the county website states that it will not deal with “complaints for stray animals” and urges citizens to contact various non-profit animal shelters or rescue groups in the region to seek help on non-life-threatening animal problems.
The CCSPCA notified the county last month that it would no longer handle animal control services under contract with the county as of 8/30/12, due to the adoption of a new animal control ordinance that would impose costly new duties with no corresponding boost in compensation. The non-profit group’s attorney also advised the county that the new law posed legal and constitutional questions.
However, the SPCA has said it will continue to operate an animal shelter and would be willing to accept strays at no cost to the county after the county’s holding period at the Canine Care operation.
[SEE Cecil Times Special Report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/08/wholl-let-the-dogs-out-days-from-deadline-cecil-county-scrambles-to-handle-animal-control/
Meanwhile, County Commissioners, responding at a Tuesday worksession to a dozen or so equine-advocate speakers at last week’s “citizens’ corner” comment period before their regular bi-weekly business meeting, directed Wein to draft language to the new Sec. 209 animal control ordinance to re-define the word “animals” to make it clear the ordinance would not apply to horses.
The horse people voiced concerns that trail riders at Fair Hill might have to “diaper” their horses or dismount and scoop up horse droppings under the broad language of the new ordinance. Several commissioners assured them that there was no intent to apply such rules to horses, although the wording of the new ordinance implied it.
However, if the ordinance is revised to exclude horses and all farm animals from the new law, it would remove certain abuse and cruelty protections provided under current law. The CCSPA currently conducts cruelty and abuse investigations involving horses and farm animals, although the standards of enforcement under state law are stringent and require certification from a veterinarian of physical signs of abuse or neglect.