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Buddy Group Profits $25K from Cecil County Animal Control in 1st Quarter– Where’s the Cats?

April 15, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

A CECIL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT

A Delaware animal rescue group that took over animal control for Cecil County in January realized a nearly $25,000 profit in the first three months of its contract with the local government, which cost taxpayers $190,000, according to documents submitted to the county.

And some of the group’s past expenses—such as renting vans—will disappear going forward since the county recently purchased two pickup trucks—at a cost of $65,270– that are being leased to the group for just $2 a year. The cost of the vans is paid by the county in addition to the $60,000 a month contract for animal control services. Overall, the three-year contract and government expenses for animal control services will cost taxpayers over $2.2 million.

The rescue group, A Buddy for Life, Inc., submitted reports showing financials, animal population, and responses to citizen complaints for January, February and March, after the close of the business day on Wednesday, 4/10/13. Under the new animal control ordinance adopted last year, the Buddies were required to submit the documents “at least seven days prior to the quarterly meeting” of a new Animal Control oversight commission that will hold its first meeting at 7:15 pm Thursday 4/18/13 at the county building in Elkton.

Meanwhile, one of the previously appointed members of the new five-member oversight panel has already fallen by the wayside. Kelly Kalman, who was selected by Councilor Michael Dunn (R-3) and endorsed by County Executive Tari Moore, has moved out of the county, sources said. So the County Council will be asked on Tuesday to support as her replacement Laura Hudson, operator of a horse rescue group that got $12,000 from the county last fall for sheltering ailing horses. (If Hudson’s group receives future funds via the animal control contractor for handling horses, it could be a violation of the county ordinance that requires members of the oversight panel to have no potential conflicts of interest.)

Cecil Times requested the required reports, in person, today at the county building in Elkton and county officials initially were reluctant to release them to the press—but relented when it was pointed out that the reports were specifically mandated by law. (The ordinance also states that failure to file the reports by the specified deadline is grounds for “termination” of the contract and that failure to comply “will also result in a penalty of a nonrefundable five-percent reduction of the County’s monthly” payment to the Buddies, to be “deducted from the next month’s payment for every business day the required documentation is not provided.”)

Apart from financial matters, the reports list intake of cats that were surrendered by owners, strays brought in by citizens, or strays apprehended by the Buddies’ two animal control officers. However, multiple calls to Cecil Times—and emails or calls to some County Councilors from citizens—have claimed that people contacting the Buddies were told that the animal control agency did not handle cats.

(A county resident who contacted officials, but asked not to be identified, recounted her problems with getting help on roaming cats that repeatedly invaded her back yard, menacing her dog and her two very young children. After contacting the Buddies, she said she was told “They are not required to do anything about cats.”)

On the Buddies’ online listings of “strays” for the past few months, only dogs were listed and the stray cats tab was empty.

Nevertheless, the official reports to the county stated that the Buddies took in 70 cats in January; 11 in February; and 27 cats in March. Only two cats were listed as having been adopted, with most of the remainder transferred to the Buddies private rescue operation or other cat rescue groups. Several cats were listed as euthanized for medical reasons or dead upon arrival at a complaint scene.

The Buddies’ contract with the county requires that cats be sheltered on a “space available” basis, with the group responsible to provide shelter space for 40 cats. The Buddies’ initial shelter on Appleton road included one open room that was supposed to hold cats, and an unheated closet designated for cats.

Inclusion of cats in animal control has been a controversial issue, with the Buddies and its allies among the “Three Amigos” faction of the former County Commissioners trying to get cat language removed from the animal control ordinance due to costs. However, the law was not changed despite a public hearing last fall on proposed revisions to drop cats, including “nuisance” cats, from the law. The Three Amigos gave the contract to the Buddies—and extended it from a proposed 18 months to 3 years—in the final hours before the county shifted to Charter government and one of the Amigos was put out of office.

For dogs, the reports listed intake of dogs as 66 for January; 46 in February; and 39 in March. The reports list a total of 20 dogs as being adopted.

The financial reports tell an interesting tale of how the Buddies—which never had its own shelter before it was given the multi-million dollar county contract, never handled animal control for a government agency and never had any paid employees—are adjusting to their new role and the money provided by the county.

The major expense of the group is renting office and kennel spaces—first, at a building on Appleton Road that county zoning authorities rejected for housing animals under the zoning code—and, increasingly, at a private dog kennel on Hutton Road in Elkton that is owned by Mary Thompson and her husband, retired Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Dexter Thompson.

In January, the Buddies paid its Appleton road landlord $8,400 for a site that could not legally house dogs; $5,000 to a Pennsylvania private kennel for 11 kennel spaces, and $5,515 to Rainwood for another 11 kennel spaces.

In February, the Appleton Road no-dog site cost $4,116; the Pennsylvania kennel was paid $5,000; and there were two payments of $12,000 each, or a total of $24,000, to the Thompsons’ Rainwood kennels. In March, the Buddies were still paying the Appleton Road no-dogs site $4,246 and the Pennsylvania kennel $5,000—with their March Rainwood fees of $12,000 apparently pre-paid on 2/28/13. Several weeks ago, the Buddies announced they had consolidated their operations at the Rainwood kennels.

(Unlike the Buddies who do not own a shelter or office space, the previous animal control contractor for the past two decades—the Cecil County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc. (CCSPCA)—owns its own shelter in Chesapeake City that houses more than 50 dogs plus an open cat room for at least 40 cats as well as separate medical and quarantine areas for ill or dangerous animals. The CCSPCA also has a full-time licensed veterinarian on staff.)

In contrast, the Buddies are contracting out for medical services. However, the financial reports supplied by the group raise questions about how such services are handled, especially extra add-on fees for medical services that the reports do not list– but the group is charging families whose pets might end up in the Buddies’ control.

The reports list some modest veterinary fees paid by the Buddies to the VCA emergency hospital in Delaware but do not specify payments for basic services such as rabies shots—which, under Maryland law, must be administered by a state-licensed vet. In its contract proposal and presentations to the county, the Buddies said that Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian who wrote most of the county’s new animal control ordinance, would be on call “24/7” to care for sheltered animals.

Online data posted by the Buddies disclose that every dog coming into their care is immediately administered a rabies shot, and two other medications for distemper and Bortadella diseases—at a total cost of $30. That cost is in addition to a $25 per day fee charged by the Buddies to reclaim a stray pet. But the reports to the county do not document how much money was charged to citizens—and paid directly to the Buddies– for such extra add-on costs of shots to families redeeming lost pets.

Overall, the financial reports show that the Buddies have a net gain or profit of $24,566 over their expenses in the first quarter of the year. The Buddies contract with the county specifies that they may not use county money to subsidize any of their private animal operations not directly related to animal control services paid for by taxpayers.

That gain may increase in the future, as the Buddies will no longer have to pay the cost of renting vans—which cost $1,662 in February—now that the county taxpayer-funded pickup trucks are being given to the Buddies.

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15 Responses to Buddy Group Profits $25K from Cecil County Animal Control in 1st Quarter– Where’s the Cats?

  1. T Mosley on April 16, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Something just doesn’t sound quite right, does it? Not required to take in cats? Never heard of such a thing. Our Humane Society,which is what Cecil County really needs, is full of cats, dogs, rabbits, and guinea pigs!! And there’s always room for one more. They keep the animals as long as it is necessary. It’s not a big building. But it’s staffed with people that care. Some of the cats have been there a year or more.

  2. cats on April 16, 2013 at 6:39 am

    … I also know of people who called about cats and were told Animal Control does not handle cats! I wonder if the county officals even care that things are not on the up and up. I will be at the meeting with some questions of my own.

  3. Mike R on April 16, 2013 at 8:44 am

    Why am I not surprised that this so called animal control group is profiting from a law that was SUPPOSED to be written for the protection of the animals in this county but instead has turned out to be a SCAM for the taxpayers. And, to no surprise, Mary Thompson and Dexter Thompson and their Rainwod Kennels are getting paid, too. Wow nothing like payback for the good old boys….

    BTW, those new hours for animal control are a joke. Why does someone need to wait till noon to get to speak to someone about an animal they may have lost or found. What are they getting paid for? The county taxpayers should be screaming that animal control is making a profit on a service that needs professionalism.

    Carletti and her gang certainly pulled the wool over taxpayers eyes. Wake up Cecil County and see this for what is truly is !

  4. Too Much Government on April 16, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Did anyone really think that “charter government” was going to change anything in Cecil County? Obviously not, because you have the same political mindset at the executive level that was in place prior to this type of government. A self appointed twosome of Carletti and Creek, both now working for animal control, thanks to the Broomwitch, Dunnon, and the defeated Mully, they certainly did a great job screwing the tax payers.

    When is this nonsense ever going to stop. They are not enforcing the law as written and if anyone else had tried that, it would have been splashed all over the front page of the Whig. But instead, these puppets are being protected … This should be stopped now, breach of contract in many ways.

  5. timmy on April 19, 2013 at 8:01 am

    if the spca was doing such a great job they would still have their contract. the problem was they wouldnt get off their fat asses and do it so they lost their contract. boo hoo

    • cats on April 19, 2013 at 9:54 am

      No, they didn’t lose their contract. There was so much political trash and special interest political stuff going on that the SPCA pulled out. That’s a big difference than losing a contract. Make sure you know your facts before speaking. If you think the new animal control is on the up and up, you are living in a dream world.

    • Mike R on May 2, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Oh man, get with the times. You are so far off base, get your head out of it and look at the facts. You don’t know what you are talking about. SPCA terminated the County –not the other way around.

      • William on May 6, 2013 at 5:18 pm

        The CCSPCA did terminate the contract ONLY after the county govt. passed New animal control laws that were unconstitutional and opened up the CCSPCA TO lawsuits.

  6. Candy Thompson on May 1, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    For once can this county pulled together for the animals so many could offer land and space to help this new contract and to help get things right. I am very disappointed how some continue to attack this new contract. Stand up and help then, go volunteer, hold a fundraiser, get involved. Overall, animal control is not what most of you think. That is why I challenge all of you to get out there and be a good citizen and set a good example and volunteer, or fundraise!

    • Deuteronomy on May 2, 2013 at 8:18 am

      The current animal control situation is a scam foisted on the taxpayers by Broomell, Mullin, Dunn and Carletti. Cats are exempted because Carletti promotes feral cat “colonies”.

    • Cat Empress on May 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm

      Get things right… They don’t pick up cats, they could care less about providing the service they were contracted for. They are making money off the taxpayers– that’s the big issue. I guess you must have so much money of your own that you really don’t care if your taxes go up or maybe you are one of those that don’t pay taxes.

      Get off your soap box .The Buddy group is swimming in taxpayer money and can afford to hire people that are properly trained to do the job, instead of relying on volunteers that really are not trained to handle dangerous animals. But then they are paying money and supplies to their so called volunteers to hide the stray animals from the public at their homes– in what state? Are these homes inspected for safety, cleanliness– like the county law requires?

      I’m so sick of this Buddy For Life crap. The only reason you don’t hear complaints is that the county government is covering their ass and a lot of average citizens don’t know who to call to complain. If you call the Buddy people, they don’t answer the phone and the county government just tells you to call the Buddy people!

  7. concernedcitizen on May 2, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Fundraise for what?

    Are you telling us that the money Cecil County taxpayers are dishing out for the new contract is not enough? Even though they ‘don’t do’ cats? It was very obvious from the public hearings that this county has a cat problem, not a dog problem, and even less a dog breeder problem . Yet here we are spending a huge amount on this contract. Why should we fundraise even more money?

    I prefer to spend my donations and my time on projects that truly need it – and don’t smack of cronyism. Plenty of those around.

  8. William on May 6, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    The CCSPCA has provided quality animal control for over forty years.
    This all started from a disgruntled employee fired from the CCSPCA.
    One person has caused all this trouble and Cecil County is left with very poor animal control.

  9. Marleen LnF Dogs on June 12, 2013 at 8:30 am

    Sorry, coming to this party late, didn’t see this until it was posted today on Facebook. I have a question. It says in this article that: For dogs, the reports listed intake of dogs as 66 for January; 46 in February; and 39 in March. The reports list a total of 20 dogs as being adopted. So they have *collected* 151 dogs in a 3 month period. May I ask how many actually made it back to the real owners? I didn’t see that on any report — did you? If you live in Cecil County & they ship your dog over to PA in a boarding kennel, does that seem like it would complicate people finding their dogs?

    If they continue at this rate of 151 dogs in 3 months so as an average by the end of one year they will have over 600 dogs. Where are all those dogs supposed to go?

    I’m a rescue in Delaware & I’ve seen that they are posting MD on the DE Petfinder sites. We certainly have more than our share of unwanted homeless dogs but could someone explain to me WHY they are not listing MD dogs in MD. I know that their *rescue* is based in Delaware but Petfinder allows you to have different locations. That means when someone is looking to adopt & puts a search using their zip code – animals are supposed to show up in that area. Does anyone think that MD people seeing a DE location are going to contact them? It’s a miracle they were able to get 20 adopted out of that 151.

    Strange how Cecil County, MD & Sussex County Delaware are living in a parallel universe when it comes to untrained non-professional handling animal welfare.

    For DE it’s Safe Haven which was built thru millions of dollars in donations to provide the animals sanctuary but they took over the animal control in Kent County & our lost animals are being boarded/hoarded in the name of No-Kill.

    Seems you have the same problem there in MD that we do in DE. Due to political ties Safe Haven is permitted to board/hoard animals & what do you think is going to happen there when you have 600 dogs a year with “A Buddy for Life?”

    I could go on & on but I’ll leave at this for now.

  10. Patti on June 15, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I just saw this today on Facebook. I don’t know anything about the politics, so I can’t comment on it. I can say that from the article, it sounds like there are things not right, and they need to be looked into, and quickly. Mostly, though, I can and will say that I have known and dealt with CCSPCA for years, and I like them, and trust them absolutely. I adopted my pets from them ( they KNOW their animals and give very good advice) and I use their vet services – Dr McDermott is terrific. I was very comfortable that they knew what they were doing and did it well, and would be very comfortable with them again in their prior position of Animal Control Services.

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--Alan McCarthy