Who’ll Let the Dogs Out? Days from Deadline, Cecil County Scrambles to Handle Animal Control

August 28, 2012

A Cecil Times Special Report

Just days before a Friday deadline for Cecil County to assume responsibility for animal control, the county government is scrambling to cobble together a plan using wildlife trappers/pest removal contractors and a commercial boarding kennel, which is currently unlicensed, to handle emergency-only calls for help.

What emerged from a discussion at a County Commissioners’ worksession Tuesday, and follow up interviews by Cecil Times, is that the county is contemplating a bare bones, dire emergency only level of services and even those services are in a state of uncertainty and confusion.

An impromptu committee– consisting of County Administrator Al Wein, Emergency Services Director Richard Brooks, Budget Director Craig Whiteford, Treasurer William Feehley, County Health Officer Stephanie Garrity and other health department staff—has been working on a plan to handle animal control for several weeks.

But with just days to go, county officials were still unclear Tuesday on who citizens should call with animal complaints and how injured animals would be cared for in emergency situations. And a wildlife trapper hired by the county expressed concerns that the number of calls for animal services he would have to respond to may have been understated by county officials.

In addition, after inquiries by The Cecil Times, county officials admitted late Tuesday that their chosen boarding kennel operator, Canine Care in North East, was in fact unlicensed and that the facility had not been visited or the number of its available kennels verified by committee members before its selection to house animals under the new county government interim plan.

The Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA), which has handled animal control services for the county for decades under a fee-for-services contract, notified the county 7/17/12 that it would terminate the contract at the end of August, due to the County Commissioners 3-2 vote adoption of a new animal control ordinance that imposed multiple new duties and responsibilities without any willingness on the part of the county to provide additional funds.

Among the provisions of the ordinance, which takes effect 10/1/12, is an increase in the county-supported mandatory holding period for strays from five days to eight days, regulation and inspections of a new classification of home “hobby kennels” for families and inclusion of cats for the first time in county regulations. The county has frozen its funding to the CCSPCA for animal control for the past five fiscal years.

The CCSPCA’s pro-bono attorney, Michael Halter, also voiced legal concerns that the new ordinance contained provisions that were “in part unenforceable, unconstitutional, and onerous.”

[SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2012/07/spca-dumps-contract-after-cecil-county-commish-pass-costly-animal-law-overhaul-on-3-2-vote/ ]

Wein reported at a commissioners’ worksession Tuesday that the committee had selected an animal transport contractor and a boarding kennel, on a temporary basis, to handle animal control duties through December, but did not identify the entities or the costs in the public session.

However, he said that no veterinarians had responded to requests to provide 24/7 on call services to treat injured animals or perform euthanasia if needed on an emergency basis to end a hopelessly injured animal’s suffering. He said the county would have to arrange to transport animals to a 24 hour veterinary hospital out of the county but no agreements had been reached. (After the meeting, he said that the county would not be using the widely-acclaimed 24-hour veterinary hospital in Newark, DE.)

There are no 24 hour service veterinary hospitals in Cecil County, although the CCSPCA has a licensed full-time veterinarian on staff who has frequently been summoned to provide emergency surgery and care to injured stray animals at no additional cost to the county under its animal control contract, according to CCSPCA officials.

Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5), who voted against the new animal control ordinance, said that it could be “very costly” for the county to assume the costs of taking injured animals to out of area emergency veterinary hospitals.

Wein also said that the committee would continue to meet weekly to oversee the interim program and would try to work with “rescue” groups to take in animals at the end of the current 5-day county-supported holding period. “Euthanasia would be the option of last resort,” Wein told the commissioners.

He did not identify the “rescues” with whom the committee would be working, but did say later that the trapper/transport company contracted by the county would handle a second transport of animals from the boarding facility to the rescues, or veterinarians, at the end of the county-supported holding period.

Brooks identified the animal trapper and transporter contractor as Mid-Atlantic Pest Services, which provides rodent, bat, squirrel, and insect removal services in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Brooks said the firm had agreed to provide services to the county at a cost of $2,500 through December. Brooks told reporters that he had reviewed 911 emergency call center requests for services for emergency animal problems and claimed they amounted to “about a dozen a month.”

However, Brooks’ calculations apparently did not include calls for services placed directly by citizens, or by law enforcement officers’ cell phone contacts, to the CCSPCA, which provides detailed monthly reports of calls for services to the county administrator. Those calls included multiple calls well beyond Brooks’ estimates of emergency services, as well as broader animal neglect and cruelty cases that the new, interim services plan would not respond to.

According to a Cecil Times review of the June, 2012 report to the county, the CCSPCA handled 247 complaints. Included in the tally were many more serious and emergency cases than Brooks estimated, such as 4 cases of animal bites; 10 law enforcement agency assistance calls; 11 cases of vicious and aggressive dogs threatening the public; 29 cases of dogs seized in urgent cases of animal abuse or neglect, including overheated cars; injured and sick animals, 9. In addition there were cases of dogs running at large, stray and abandoned, 47; farm animals running at large, 3; farm animal neglect and cruelty, 6.

In an interview with Cecil Times, Mark Boggs, president of Mid-Atlantic Pest Services, expressed concern that he might have been given lowball numbers on how many complaints per month to which he might have to respond. “I was told maybe a dozen or less call a month,” he said. And there apparently was no discussion of secondary transport of animals, from the commercial kennel to “rescue groups” or to veterinarians.

Boggs said he would review the reports to the county administrator and evaluate just how many calls he might realistically expect to receive.

Meanwhile, county Treasurer Feehley, whose office is currently responsible for issuing annual dog and kennel licenses, said in response to a Cecil Times inquiry that Canine Care was currently unlicensed to house dogs and animals at its commercial boarding kennel, located on Shady Beach Road in North East. He said he did not know how many cages or kennels the facility was authorized to have since “I have no paperwork.”

After Cecil Times inquired about the license with multiple county officials, Feehley responded that “ someone from the county” on Tuesday afternoon had contacted the kennel’s owner William Simmons, who said he would show up at the Treasurer’s office on Wednesday to “fill out the paperwork” to get a license. Feehley said he had not visited the facility but thought that Brooks was “going to go out there today.” (About an hour before this conversation, Brooks said he had no knowledge of the Canine Care facility and directed inquiries to Feehley.)

The Canine Care boarding kennel has been the subject of complaints in the past to county zoning officials, with concerns from area residents back to 2006 about noise and other issues. However, according to county zoning officials, the Canine Care facility—housed on about 2 acres of land in a largely residential area—is “grandfathered” because it existed long before current zoning regulations were adopted that would not permit a large scale commercial kennel and boarding operation in the area.

According to documents obtained by Cecil Times, the Canine Care facility is allowed to have a commercial boarding kennel operation and the property owner, Simmons—whose website advertises he is a breeder of German Shepherd dogs he offers for sale to the public—is allowed to have 17 separate kennels for his “own” dogs that may not be combined with the boarding operation.

Brooks told reporters that Canine Care would have a “separate area” for county dogs taken into custody for animal control services, but it was unclear if he was referring to the kennels designated by zoning rules as personal kennels separate from the commercial boarding kennel operations. (Pictures on the facility’s website show one unified kennel area.)

Meanwhile, CCSPCA officials expressed concern for the welfare of animals in the county in light of the current uncertainty and insisted the organization would not abandon its commitment to animal welfare.

“We are heartbroken at these turns of events,” said Jeanne Deeming, executive director of the CCSPCA. “But we felt that the majority of the County Commissioners were unwilling to listen or do what was best for the animals and pet parents in our county. We just could not sit by silently with these misguided policies, and absorb the exorbitant costs that full enforcement of this new ordinance would require.”

Deeming said the CCSPCA was not consulted about the interim plans, but the shelter would be more than willing to accept adoptable animals from the temporary boarding kennel, at no cost to the county, at the end of the holding period so as to provide these animals with medical care, spay/neuter and vaccinations, and the chance for adoption.

“We continue to be committed to animal welfare in Cecil County,” Deeming said.

But the shelter is also embarking on a new course, in the absence of animal control duties and a contract with the county, to re-invent itself as a one-stop animal care facility and “no-kill” animal adoption/rescue center.

CCSPCA will continue to exist but will operate under the name of a subsidiary, “Eastern Shore Animal League,” to provide to the public low-cost animal medical care, including vaccine clinics and spay/neuter services, doggie daycare, and animal adoptions, Deeming said. Local artists are donating services to decorate the daycare area, kennels and new “get acquainted” rooms to bring animals and families together to facilitate adoptions.

She did not rule out a resumption of CCSPCA providing animal control services to the county in the future, but said it would “take a very different attitude” in Elkton.

[DISCLOSURE: The editor of Cecil Times has adopted several pets from the CCSPCA and in the past served as an unpaid, volunteer board member.]

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28 Responses to Who’ll Let the Dogs Out? Days from Deadline, Cecil County Scrambles to Handle Animal Control

  1. Too Much Government on August 29, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Are the Commissioners in their right mind? An unlicensed kennel, a wildlife trapper to replace the SPCA and no licensed vet? How are people going to accept it when their loved pet is mishandled? I smell a lawsuit in the making.

    Why did it have to come to this? Because of the three morons, and Smigiel and Carletti who want retribution for a charade that went very wrong for them? Now, the animals of Cecil County have to suffer. What idiots!

    I can’t wait till November election, and hopefully people will see the light and vote for McCarthy, Crouse, and Howard.

    • Broomless 2014 on August 29, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Don’t throw out Moore and Hodge with the bilgewater. They have a great record of hard work and constituent service. Being on the Smigiel/Pipkin enemies list is an endorsement.

      • Ron Lobos on August 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm

        I’d have to agree with Broomless. Of the 5 commissioners, Hodge and Moore are the only two with common sense who are looking out for Cecil County citizens rather then their own special interests. If I remember correctly, those are the only two who voted against this animal ordinance.

        • Topcat on August 29, 2012 at 8:37 pm

          I wouldn’t count on Moore. She is on the facebook page for Carletti’s henchmen, buttering them up. Hodge has been the only reliable vote to date.

          • Phillip Abbott on August 30, 2012 at 2:06 pm

            Your comment made me curious. I’ve always found Moore to be straighforward, responsible and responsive, so I went on that facebook page and I saw nothing there that looked like “buttering” people up – unless you think encouraging people to apply for a volunteer commission qualifies. Frankly, I’d like to see more information on what’s going on – this interim plan doesn’t look well thought out.

        • cats on August 30, 2012 at 6:19 pm

          Moore only voted against the 209 law because she thought it would cost too much to enforce. The facebook page she is on are all the people that are for 209, not against it.

          • Douglas on August 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm

            Moore also wants this to work. I talked to her a few weeks back and agrees that the current spca situation needs to be a new one. how hard is it to run a clean operation?

    • cats on August 30, 2012 at 11:16 am

      Yes, It is time to vote out the three Amigos!

  2. Rick O'Shea on August 29, 2012 at 9:51 am

    This is a plan? Use an unlicensed kennel? Don’t inspect the kennel to determine if it has the necessary and appropriate space? Underestimate the number of calls? Commissioner Broomell said “I see this plan working”. Where is her often self proclaimed “due diligence”?

    This crisis was caused by the Three Amigo’s continuation of their mentor, Delegate Smigiel’s, war on the Cecil County SPCA. His high profile smear campaign resulted in exoneration of the SPCA and shame on him. The animal control ordinance debacle is based on the Three Amigo’s erroneous assumption that they could dictate terms to a vendor. Wrong. A vendor does not have to accept their terms.

    The SPCA spokesman stated that resumption of services would “take a very different attitude in Elkton.” That sounds like the Artesian position on the wastewater purchase. Broomell and Dunn must follow Mullin out the door.

  3. RD on August 29, 2012 at 11:43 am

    “Meanwhile, CCSPCA officials expressed concern for the welfare of animals in the county in light of the current uncertainty and insisted the organization would not abandon its commitment to animal welfare” Are you freaking kidding me?? If Jeanne Deeming was SOO concerned about the welfare of the animals in Cecil County, she would have at least extended the contract until the end of September. She was even asked to do so, but declined. This isnt concern for the animals, this is just plain vindictive! Also, keep in mind that these emergency measures are just temporary. There will be an animal control contract in place, someone that does take the welfare of our animals, ALL ANIMALS, regardless of breed, as a first priority, not someone with a “sour grapes” mentality…

    • Rick O'Shea on August 29, 2012 at 1:40 pm

      At some point enough is enough. The Three Amigo approach is classic bullying. I applaud the CCSPCA for standing up to them. The Three Amigos should have had a backup plan.

    • Too Much Government on August 29, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Vindictive hell, it’s good business practice. How can anyone continue to operate in this economy with the same money for four consecutive years and then take a $25,000 cut last year? Sounds to me that you have your own sour grape mentality.

      • MikeR on August 29, 2012 at 2:58 pm

        I heard from a very reliable source on Chesapeake Blvd. that the CCSPCA was well within their legal contract to terminate the animal control services. They did not have to extend services till the end of September. It’s not like the County had not been warned by the CCSPCA’s attorney at several of the worksessions and that is public record. I applaud the CCSPCA.

        Too bad you probably have never been to the CCSPCA to see what they really did for these animals rather than listening or reading Smiegel’s propaganda. BTW, Smiegel’s star witness in the smear SPCA campaign, Carl Ewing, was charged and pled guilty to assaulting his wife and others in a January rampage and is looking at up to 10 years in jail according to the Cecil Whig.

        • Topcat on August 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm

          I have read the financials for them and the county.The CCSPCA spent some of their own money caring for the animals from their 501c3 funds.They actually saved the county money– and the county with the aid of some misfits repay them this way? This whole thing was instigated because Carletti didnt get the head vet job at the CCSPCA and she has decided to take it out on kennels and the CCSPCA. I dont know what dirt she has on the 3 amigos but they don’t deserve an (R) by their name as they are so unfriendly to small business. November is not close enough !!!

        • RD on August 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm

          I would assume they were within their legal right to terminate the contract- most contracts do include some sort of a termination clause

          Your next comment about never having been to the SPCA really shows your ignorance. I have adopted many animals from there, currently have 3 in my home and was very supportive through adoptions and donations for many years, until I realized what really goes on there. Time for a major overhaul, way past due!

      • RD on August 29, 2012 at 10:21 pm

        No sour grapes here, just want what is best for the animals in our county. As far as a cut, how about the CCSPCA director take a cut from her $100K salary? Who makes that kind of money running a shelter? That, my friend, is NOT “good business practice”!

        • Topcat on August 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm

          I keep hearing this over and over — cut their pay then we can have animal control. Let’s see what the county gets in response to the requests for proposals for animal control. Did you also consider that some of the money at the SPCA also came from their charitable side and not Cecil County? …

          I also keep hearing from the Carletti bunch at the meeting and on their FaceBook page that Anne Arundel county runs their shelter for $95,000 a year. Where did you all learn to read financial reports or budgets. Anne Arundel County has 10 animal control officers, so what you are saying is they are paid $9,500 a year to work there? I don’t think so.

          Anne Arundel’s budget is difficult to figure out because they contract some work out and also use funds from other county departments. I started to add all the different dollar amounts that I could trace directly to animal control and it was over $700,000. It would probably cost Cecil County $800,000 for all the new rules they have added as compared to surrounding counties.

          Also don’t forget what Cecil will lose because of this. We will have to wait and see the price tag for that, like lost tourism dollars.

    • Topcat on August 29, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      You say all ANIMALS. I heard the horse people whining at the meeting that they were promised they would be left out and warned the commissioners not to mess with them. Is that a threat?

      The SPCA had their budget frozen and then after 3 years of baiting them up you dump 32 pages of cut and paste laws on them and think they are going to eat the cost. Hurray for the CCSPCA for doing what any business would do when faced with this kind of hostile business environment.

    • Keith Baynes on September 3, 2012 at 11:32 am

      Hip, hip hooray for the SPCA.

  4. cats on August 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Where is Dr. Carletti ? She started all this so why is she not offering the 24/7 care for animals since she was the only task force member, 1 person, and made the laws !!!!!

  5. Jenn on August 29, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Cats– what al wein did not tell cecil times is that dr. Carletti did step up to help the county by being on call 24/7 during the interim process. This not only included emergency services but also boarding and re-homing the animals after the 5 day hold period that the current 209 provides.

    • cats on August 30, 2012 at 9:47 am

      If Carletti stepped up to do it, why is she not doing it or why are they not letting her do it?

    • Topcat on August 30, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Carletti has enough problems with conflict of interest.She probably wants to be appointed to head the oversight committee too but conflict of interest doesnt seem to bother this county. Nothing would surprise me.

  6. Topcat on August 29, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Broomless at the meeting on the 28th was worried about bad press and unfavorable comments about her. Well I got some news for the 3 amigos: it isn’t just local its national. I belong to 3 very large animal law lists and Cecil County was talked about extensively on the lists with representatives of CFA, TICA and AKC on these lists. All large animal registries. These are national lists that are read by many thousands of members and legal experts as well as the general public.

    Recently there was a post of someone who was moving to Maryland with their animals and wanted to know where in Maryland a good place to live was. Well it took less than an hour for 2 posts to go up to stay away from Cecil County because of 209 and the way small businesses are treated.

    Hodge was right at one of the earlier meetings about the county being embarrassed by the people involved in the creation of 209’s behavior. Only thing is it’s not just local embarrassment, it’s national now. Will you all fix it now or is the new oversight board going to keep adding to the debacle with more cut and paste endeavors.

    Hey, horse people look out Carletti has stated she wants to TWEAK the laws as she goes along. All I can say is everyone LAWYER up. Its going to be a long cold winter.

  7. concernedcitizen on August 30, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    We have moved a planned event from Cecil County to Harford County. They are happy to welcome us and benefit from us. I know of others who are moving events.
    And yes, the word is spreading with people moving to MD, including the last BRAC movers.

    You reap what you sow, Commissioners. Falling for extreme animal rights fanatics was not a smart move.
    And yes, Commissioner Moore is smooching up to those extremists on Facebook. Keep that in mind come election.

    • Rick O'Shea on August 30, 2012 at 8:32 pm

      Who is we? Moore and hodge are the ones with sensible ideas.

    • Dan - DDS on August 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

      I am a retired dental surgeon who was looking to purchase a home in Cecil County until I inquired about the government and other rules and regulations. I was directed to the county website and perused the “new” animal control ordinance. Are your commissioners insane? Since we are animal lovers and have rescued a number of German Shepherds and other dogs, my wife was emphatic that this unfriendly animal area certainly was not the place to move to. It’s unfortunate because Cecil County would have been a perfect area for us to retire, enjoy the Chesapeake and live.

  8. Hillary S on September 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    I must say that the Cecil Times is a very valuable asset to Cecil County. Seems like the only place you can get unbiased news. When I read some comments on this and other websites, the animal control story is so contorted that you have to wonder if some of these people have all their marbles. Carletti and her band of prevaricators cannot find anything civil to say about anyone. The SPCA according to the state of MD records and Guidestar is a private not for profit corporation, they were exonerated from all those accusations and these simpletons still perservere in making the SPCA an issue. These individuals are so out of the mainstream, maybe they should educate themselves as to payscales even for a McDonald’s manager.

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