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Cecil County Cats: Vets Urge Cat Rules for Safety; Activists Seek County $, Claim Mass Murder if Cats Regulated

October 18, 2012
By Nancy Schwerzler

It was the veterinarians and victims of problem animals versus the cats activists Tuesday, as the Cecil County Commissioners held a public hearing on their latest proposal to re-write a new animal control ordinance. And both sides highlighted serious problems with the county’s “interim” animal control plan that has left people, seeking help for stray and injured animals, helpless

One woman rolled up her sleeve to show scars from a cat attack; a veterinarian new to the county described her problems finding county government help for an injured animal “dumped” at her clinic; a woman told how she lost a baby due to an infection caused by cat feces; and supporters of several animal rescue groups urged deletion of cats from most provisions of the law and they asked for money from county government.

The county has been operating without an animal control services contractor since 8/30/12, when the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA) terminated its contract to provide services due to what its attorney called unenforceable, burdensome and in part illegal provisions of the new ordinance.

The CCSPCA also withdrew its bid to reinstate services under a “request for proposals” (RFP) several weeks ago, because it felt the bid process was “tainted” by possible advance communications with a rival bidder that costly cats provisions would be removed from the law after the deadline to bid. The county is currently reviewing the bid proposed by A Buddy for Life, a Delaware volunteer group with no shelter to house stray animals.

During the formal hearing as well as in an earlier “citizens’ corner” public comment session, veterinarians and citizens also criticized a flawed temporary animal control plan, as well as the new ordinance that was adopted in July by the usual Three Amigos majority of the county commissioners—Commissioners Diana Broomell (R-4), James Mullin (R-1) and Michael Dunn (R-3). The ordinance just took effect 10/1/12 but the Amigos have proposed new changes in the law they voted for in order to exclude its regulation of cats, especially on “public nuisance animals,” damage of neighbor’s property and “fouling” of the air from feline odors that affect neighbors.

The discussions on Tuesday also had political dimensions, both real and perceived, just a few weeks before the November election.

Commissioner Robert Hodge (R-5), who voted against adoption of the new law, was particularly outspoken– perhaps prodded in part by the presence in the audience of his election opponent, James Crouse, a Democrat, who spoke out at a candidates’ forum in support of the CCSPCA and criticized the delays and setbacks in producing a workable animal control ordinance on Hodge’s watch. Hodge has been the commissioners’ designated point person on the issue for the past four years.

Hodge blasted the majority of his fellow commissioners, saying that “three of the commissioners decided they wanted to make a big change but they didn’t have a Plan B.” And the animal ordinance drafting process was “hijacked by some people with special interests,” Hodge said.

He added that he has three indoor cats who sleep with him, as well as barn cats on his farm, and “nobody is trying to kill cats” by ensuring that cat owners were held responsible for damages or public health problems their pets create.

Hodge also said the interim animal control plan—which only responds to emergency situations with an animal trapper transporting injured animals to 24-hour veterinary hospitals in Harford County– was flawed and the county was just “faking it” on animal services now.

Broomell repeatedly accused Hodge of “political commentary” and “politicizing” the animal law issue.

Dr. Alan McCarthy, a Chesapeake City veterinarian and the Republican candidate for County Council in District 1, called out Broomell during the ‘citizens’ comment’ discussion Tuesday evening in a spirited debate.

“This is an animal control ordinance, not a dog ordinance,” he said. Dr. McCarthy pointed out that cats are the leading cause of rabies transmission to humans. He also noted that Mullin and Broomell had previously admitted in public sessions that they did not read the final version of the animal law, which included cat regulations, before they voted to support it. And now they want to exclude cats from the law they voted for, he said.

McCarthy then challenged Broomell on what was the responsibility of a commissioner as “a representative of Cecil County.” Broomell said she had read previous versions of the law and thought that cats had been removed from the final version. “I view it with a great deal of reverence and honor,” she said of her duties as a commissioner.

Meanwhile, Dr. Gloria Kilby, a Colora veterinarian, testified that cats should be included in the ordinance because, unlike the sentimentality of the Disney movie of “Lady and the Tramp,” emotions do not reflect the reality of animal issues. She listed the problems of cats that negatively affect neighbors, such as “screaming tomcats” and potentially toxic excrement on neighbors’ property. “This ordinance is nuts, as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

“Everything about this ordinance is unconstitutional so I think it needs to be re-thought,” Dr. Kilby said.

Dr. Kerriann Hanlin, the new owner of the North East Animal Hospital on Route 40, testified about her recent experience trying to be a “good Samaritan” when a stranger “dumped” at her clinic two stray dogs he had hit with his car. One dog was so injured it could not be saved, she testified. But when she sought help for the other dog that she could not assume responsibility for, she said she hit “a brick wall” from county officials and 911 emergency staffers, who refused to do anything to help the injured animal.

(Jeanne Deeming, executive director of the CCSPCA, told Cecil Times that the Chesapeake City shelter responded to Dr. Hanlin’s plea for help and the same day the dog was “dumped” on her, the CCSPCA took the dog into the shelter at no cost. And, the Doberman mix dog—now named “Priscilla”– has been spayed at the CCSPCA’s expense, treated by the shelter’s staff veterinarian for wounds and skin conditions, vaccinated and is now available for adoption.)

Dr. Hanlin also testified that from her professional experience, “I don’t see how you could possibly exclude cats from the ordinance.” She also urged that there should be “a way to re-write the ordinance to enable the contractor to come back on board” to provide animal control services.

But the medical professionals’ views were in sharp contrast to some of the cat activists and volunteer animal rescue groups, who had organized an email campaign to the County Commissioners and Facebook postings that claimed the county government would be subsidizing the killing of thousands of cats by including cats in regulations governing “nuisance” animals. They also claimed that the ordinance would impose a costly burden on an animal control contractor, and ultimately taxpayers.

One Earleville man, who said he is involved with “trap, neuter, release” (TNR) of feral cats, testified that such cats were in danger of being “round up and sent to death camps” and “killed for convenience.”

Brieann Masenior, who operates a volunteer group known as “Rufflife Rescue” that houses animals in several private, volunteer homes locally and in nearby states, testified that such rescue groups should get money from the county government. “We are entitled to it,” she said. Masenior has also posted on Facebook allegations that county government money set aside for animal control has been misappropriated and she wants funds given to volunteer groups.

Commissioner Tari Moore (R-2), who voted against the new animal ordinance along with Hodge in July, called local volunteer rescue groups “our heroes” at the evening meeting and posted on their Facebook group after the hearing that their fears of a “round up” of cats to be killed was a “point well taken” even if that was not the law’s intent.

Edie Crick, an animal activist who served as an unofficial note-taker and “administrative assistant,” according to county records, for a disbanded animal control task force, said she wanted cats removed from the ordinance because otherwise it would be “a law that would be too costly to enforce.”

The task force largely disbanded after it produced an ordinance, based on two years of work, that was put out to public hearing in early 2011. However, Crick, along with Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian, re-wrote the task force plan for the next year and a half. They opposed putting cats in the law but commissioners inserted the language during deliberations before it was adopted.

Crick testified that the county government should give the animal control contract to “A Buddy for Life.” Carletti provides vet services to that group and one of her employees is actively involved with the group and handles its internet postings.

Ricky Lewis of Perryville, who operates “Cat Crusaders” rescue group, said cats should be deleted from the ordinance because enforcement costs would be “astronomical.” And “why should I have to pay for a problem somebody has on their property,” he said.

A woman who identified herself only as “Vanessa” of Perryville and a tattoo parlor operator, said she worked with Carletti on cat TNR and such programs should get county money, instead of spending it for “mass murdering” of cats and “murdering the family pet.”

Christina Clark, of Port Deposit, rolled up her sleeve to show Commissioners a scar on her arm from a cat attack. “I’ll have this forever,” she said. Roaming cats have also attacked her chickens, she said. “This whole law is nothing but a loophole and designed to fail,” she said, and it “should be stripped down and re-worked by a more qualified staff.”

Anke Masters, of Elkton, brought the room to a hush as she described moving many years ago into her house that had previously been occupied by a cat hoarder. After removing loads of feces from the house, she developed toxoplasmosis and the disease was transmitted to her unborn child. “I lost the baby,” she said.

She questioned why the commissioners seemed to be “bending over backwards on behalf of” certain groups and said the handling of the bidding process for an animal control contractor was a “giant conflict of interest” that “maybe the Ethics Commission needs to look into.”

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10 Responses to Cecil County Cats: Vets Urge Cat Rules for Safety; Activists Seek County $, Claim Mass Murder if Cats Regulated

  1. Hillary on October 18, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    If the “PETA” look-alikes called a truce and stopped spreading lies about the SPCA and its staff, it’s conceivable that given the hopefully new political climate come the November election, the real animal control experts would be willing to renegotiate with the Cecil County government.

    When Mullin, Dunn and Broomwitch keep bringing up the same old lies over and over, that should be cause for harrassment charges against the commissioners and their muppets.

    Two of these same “PETA” types cut and pasted an ordinance which has become costly and time consuming even before the ordinance went into effect. The number of hours that the commissioners and department heads spent on this ridiculous and discriminatory ordinance and the labor cost of the clerical needs for rewrite after rewrite will make the cost of controlling cats in the ordinance seem like pennies. Hopefully charter government will provide Cecil County some relief from the now three clowns and hopefully only two after the November election.

    Unequivically, this has been a vendetta precipitated by Smiegel and his then employee Dunn, and former employee Broomell, which has cost the county taxpayers a very large sum of money. When you have the County Administrator, the Budget Manager, the Director of Planning and Zoning, county commissioners and other county employees attending these countless meetings to review and rewrite the same thing over and over, there needs to be a price tag attached to this process.

  2. Too Much Government on October 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Someone needs to request an accounting of the cost of putting this Ch. 209 together from its inception in 2009 to current. Labor, equipment, supplies, advertising, review after review, meeting after meeting, rewrites and second and third chances at the RFP.
    People should take responsibility for their pets and save the taxpayers from all this drama. If there are no cats included in the ordinance, than dogs should be dropped as well.

  3. MikeR on October 18, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    There are many people in this county who think that cats are a real nuisance. They carry parasites, rabies and deadly disease. They need to be included in the ordinance.

  4. cats on October 18, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    No one is out to murder cats– how ridiculous. All anyone wants is honesty, which doesn’t seem to be the Three Amigos forte, and not an Animal Control Agency that is totally anti breeder.

    Election time is around the corner. McCarthy has my vote! At the public hearing all the Carletti crew would say we as tax payers. I hope the commissioners realize we are taxpayers and VOTERS also; their careers could depend on it! The commissioners need a board with a qualified committee, a un-biased vet on it, a kennel owner, a pet shop owner and a sane rescue group, etc.

  5. venesa huber on October 22, 2012 at 10:29 am

    I would like to start out by clarifying that Christina clark breeds bengal cats and that is were her scares on her arms came from . Was told that personally from her. She also has been a vet tech for years. Also was employed by a vet who does TNR. I have spent many days waching feral an d domestcated cats being handled and both are about the same to handle. Actually domestic cats are a little worse because sometimes you under estimate them. Feral you automatically handle with protocall to protect animal and self.

    Also the lady who lost her child due to exposure from cat extrement. My doctor ask if i owned pets when i very first went for prenatal care. I was told not to clean or handle cat litter boxes. I am very sorry for her loss as i also lostva child from SIDS, Which has no reason for loss…

    I am amazed that doctors of animals would stand and support death to animals instead of educated and doing their best to help the problem. But then again possibly money they could earn to euthanize is worth it to them.

    I for one made more points than what was stated. I focused on the environmental impact quite a bit. To sum it up just take a moment to track how many rodents, rats and mice will be running our yards, barns, homes, farms, produce for a few. They truely carry deadly diesese. What are we going to use to control that problem? Decon! Pesticides! We have already been down that road with Deet! Chain of death and life is something that will effect all. Mouse eats poison, now you follow the poison from there on a preditor mode. And will end ultimatly with us eating and drinking the poison. For example, our Eagles will cosume the rodents who ate the poison we will need to control what cats control naturally.

    I am not saying we do not have a problem but i feel TNR is the way to go. More programs. What the county is wanting to propose is going to get yes, commissioner Hodge, even yours if it happens to accidently get out of your home. What if your neighbor wants to get at you and just claims your animal a stray or nuisance?

    On closing i would like to say i am 51 years old, always brought home strays and feed and tended ferals. I have never been attacked thus the reason for trapping. They dont come to you. This article is a total embarrassment and represents ignorance to anyone who is educated on this issue…

    Why are humans so fast to want to kill! I personally dont think most of society even deserves to call themselves human.

    • I know the truth on October 23, 2012 at 10:31 am

      And I would like to start out by saying, Venesa, you’re full of horse cra*! I got that large set of deep scars from a feral cat in Carletti’s clinic. I have text and pics that I sent to a friend in New York when it happened, wanna see the proof?

      I would like to set another thing straight: I have not bred in almost a year. I have also rescues and fostered kittens and a dog named Sadie, do you not remember her, Nessie? Before you state facts, make sure you’ve got them right. I have the facts and can back them up with documents, pictures and text messages. ‘Nuff said!

    • Lorraine on October 24, 2012 at 6:30 am

      Venesa’s comment, “this article is a total embarrassment and represents ignorance to anyone who is educated on this issue” is very funny, considering the clearly uneducated ramblings of her statement. Lots of poor spelling and grammar and no logical train of thought in there, but she just attacks people who disagree with her.

      I believe the veterinarians who spoke at the hearing– four years of college plus four years of vet school– know a lot more about this issue and are much more “educated” than Venesa. Cats running loose and wild are a danger to public health and the safety of our citizens. TNR is a dangerous joke.

  6. Justice for All on October 24, 2012 at 12:52 am

    An interesting read on the impact feral cat populations have on wildlife as well as the health threats. http://www.fws.gov/pacific/lawenforcement/Sam%20Stuff/October%202009.html There have been a few instances in Cecil County this year where rabid cats have attacked people. Rabies has not been an issue with properly cared for domesticated cats, and has not been an issue with dogs. This particular ordinance needs to be scrapped and rewritten by more qualified, common sense people. It should not be discriminatory and should protect the animals as well as the public.

  7. F Gaylord Moody III on October 25, 2012 at 9:41 am

    We have to keep focus on the public health issue with feral cats: protect the public from rabies. Mullin and Broomell are irresponsible for excluding cats from an animal control regulation. There has been an outbreak of rabies due to cats roaming the street and going in and out of a restaurant in Port Deposit. If preventing a foreseeable crisis is irresponsible; is the failure to prevent a repetition a rabies outbreak an act of insanity? Or, is Broomell just that narrow minded, mean and vindictive against people who oppose unworkable regulation proposed by her allies?

  8. concernedcitizen on October 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I think it’s quite clear after the meeting that we do not have a dog problem or a breeder problem in Cecil County but a cat problem. The cat activists made that case quite nicely. So, why go after dogs again? How about scratching the entire mess of Chapter 209 and draft something which addresses the cat problem? Set aside money for a TNR fund for rescues and feral colony care takers and quit hounding the dogs! Nuisance animals must be dealt with though, regardless if it’s a dog or a cat.

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