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Cecil County Exec Delays New Kennel License Regs; Animal Control Oversight Panel Questions Buddies’ $, Dog Housing at Shelter

October 23, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

Cecil County Executive Tari Moore announced Tuesday night a delay in enforcement of dog kennel licensing rules under a new animal control law until an oversight panel can propose revisions. And the county’s new animal control contractor could not answer the oversight panel’s questions about the number of dogs housed at its rented shelter but did admit that county money is being used to house animals after an eight-day holding period when the full cost of care is supposed to be covered by the private group with its own funds.

Moore– who was on vacation when a group of volunteers at the rented animal shelter operated by A Buddy For Life, Inc. met with other county officials a week ago to complain about conditions there– did not address those concerns directly. But she sounded a conciliatory tone, saying, “All of us absolutely have one thing in common and that is the best interest of the animals.” And, she added, “I think we’re all united” on that.

“There was every expectation that there would be a lot of things to work through” with the new animal law and the Buddies as a first-time shelter operator, she said. “Where we go from here remains to be seen,” Moore added. “We may need to make modifications.”

Moore then announced that new regulations and license application forms, which dog kennel operators and some members of the Animal Care and Control Commission that oversees the new animal law have said were both vague and onerous in their mandates, would be suspended for the next few months until the commission can propose revisions. The panel, Moore said, should “take the time to make sure it’s done right.”

County Administrator Al Wein proposed a tentative timetable for the oversight commission to present proposed revisions to the kennel regulations in the next few weeks, with a bill introduced in the County Council on 11/19/13, followed by a public hearing and subsequent council action in January. Revised kennel rules would then be effective in May, 2014, when license applications would be required.

The key concerns, raised by some members of the commission itself as well as dog kennel operators—such as breeders, dog boarding facilities and home “hobby kennels” that would have to be licensed and inspected if they had just four non-neutered/spayed dogs—were mandates that only a Maryland veterinarian could treat animals, each animal must have a two hours per day “exercise” regimen, and vets must examine each animal every six months.

The only point on which the Buddies group was willing to concede on Tuesday was the rule that only a Maryland veterinarian could be used to certify and meet the mandates. Some kennel operators have noted that, given Cecil County’s proximity to Delaware and Pennsylvania, a Maryland-only vet mandate in the county law amounted to restraint of trade/interstate commerce legal violations.

However, the oversight panel is working on other possible revisions, such as substituting a vet’s certification that an animal is in good physical condition for a mandatory two hours per day “exercise” program.

Meanwhile, after Moore left the meeting following a brief appearance at its outset, the oversight panel got into review and questioning of the Buddies operations and its most recent third-quarter financial and animal disposition reports.

Lyn Yelton–chair of the oversight commission who has been attacked by some allies of the Buddies for her past questioning of the group and the animal law—asked how many dogs were housed at the shelter that the Buddies rent from former Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Dexter Thompson and his wife in Elkton, at a cost of more than $15,000 a month.

Jenn Callahan, listed as the co-director of the Buddies, at first said that there was now dog kennel space for 39 dogs and other dogs were held in wire crates in an upstairs area for a total of 78 dogs on site.

But then Callahan immediately added, “That doesn’t seem right to me” and said she would provide another number to the commission later.

Under questioning by Yelton, Callahan admitted that the Buddies were housing animals at Rainwood at county expense beyond the eight-day county-paid holding period—despite contract provisions, inserted by Moore when she was a county Commissioner, that no county funds should be used to pay for subsequent “rescue” group care of animals after the required eight-day holding period.

Callahan defended the practice, saying that the county was paying $60,000 a month for overall operations of animal control and incurred no extra expenses by having the post-county holding period animals housed at the same Rainwood location. She did not address the issue of having almost as many dogs confined to wire crates in an upstairs area, without outdoor kennel “run” access, and whether county-paid strays were getting priority for the outdoor kennel runs during their eight-day subsidized stay.

Callahan also defended the expenditure of over $1,700 in county funds to pay for training of Heather Buckley in an animal control officer education program—despite language in the contract with the county that “continuing education” costs for animal control officers must be paid by the Buddies out of its own funds. Buckley– who lives with Mindy Carletti, the veterinarian who virtually single-handedly re-wrote the county’s animal law and now serves as the Buddies “staff veterinarian”– had no prior animal control experience before being hired by the Buddies.

Before getting the lucrative $2.2 million Cecil County contract for animal control, the Buddies had only about $6,000 in its bank account, according to federal IRS reports, and had no shelter, no employees and no experience in providing open-admission animal control services for a local government.

Callahan said that the Buddies have 7 full-time employees for animal care and one part-time adoption adviser as well as two Animal Control Officers to respond to complaints from the public about animal problems. She also said that the group’s program for volunteers to aid in shelter cleaning and animal care was now being “re-vamped

Those revisions follow the complaints by four of what was at the time five volunteers who met with Wein to complain about conditions, overcrowding and health of animals at the Buddies facility. Callahan said she wanted to bring in “more reliable volunteers” in the future.

During a public comment portion of the meeting, several members of the Cecil County Patriots—a grassroots community group concerned about county spending and taxpayer costs of local programs—questioned the costs and policies of the Buddies, including the fact that many taxpayer-supported dogs were being held in wire crates when private kennels were not allowed to do so.

Other public comment questions were raised about the Buddies’ reports listing multiple “incident” reports as though they were animal control responses to citizen complaints when in fact they were “ride throughs” or “patrol checks” of local neighborhoods where there had been no immediate reports of animal problems. Indeed, a Cecil Times review of such “incident reports” show they were clearly padded—such as a half-dozen reports on one afternoon in Earleville, in which each street in the area was listed as a separate ‘incident’ to look for possible stray dogs but none were found.

In other Buddies fiscal matters, Callahan declared that taxpayers should be required to pay for an independent audit of the group’s finances that is required by its contract. “That would be a county expense,” she asserted.

The previous county animal control contractor, the Cecil County SPCA, paid for an independent audit by a Wilmington, DE CPA firm at its own expense, and which certified all expenses and fiscal accounts were properly accounted for.

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13 Responses to Cecil County Exec Delays New Kennel License Regs; Animal Control Oversight Panel Questions Buddies’ $, Dog Housing at Shelter

  1. Susan M on October 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    When a government agency hires inexperienced, unskilled individuals who do not even meet the basic requirements for such a large contract of $2.2 million or $60,000 a month to operate a multi million dollar service is simply apalling.

    Their contract says the county moneyy is not to be used to help fund any animal after its 8 days stay, county money is not to be used for educational purposes of the staff. Two breaches right there.

    Also if they are in the animal business and they loudly profess that they are in it for the animals, why are the animals kept in crates instead of indoor/outdoor runs? Since they were asked how many dogs they had last night and were unable to answer, that shows me that they have no clue how to run this operation nor do they know how to manage dollars. Anyone with any business sense knows at all times what it’s costing them to keep that product/animal on hand.

    Every other department is asked to run cost effectively, and yet their is no professional oversight of this inept group. Shame on all the county elected and appointed individuals for allowing this charade to go on.

    • Arlene K. on October 30, 2013 at 8:51 am

      I can’t agree with you more! As I read these articles on A Buddy for Life, I am disheartened and disgusted. The county elected officials, especially Tari Moore, should hang their heads in shame for allowing this. Hopefully, the residents of Cecil County who are funding this nightmare will wake up and demand some accountability. To award a $2.2 million dollar contract to such an inexperienced group is ludicrous….

      I have been to that shelter and was appalled to see how the cats lived. Dirty cardboard boxes (someonel had the nerve to say these are sanitary – has anyone seen vomit sitting in them for weeks on end–NOT SANITARY), cats with runny eyes, etc…

      For those poor souls who have been deemed ‘nasty,’ ‘aggressive’ or a ‘troublemaker’ the punishment is living in a room not much larger than a walk-in closet. As for the dogs in crates upstairs, that is just plain cruel. Even human prisoners are allotted time out of their cells.

      I just read in the Delaware paper that the group Safe Haven (another rescue group who did not know how to handle its animal control contract and it was canceled) will be closing its doors. Maybe Cecil County officials should take note and take some action on cleaning up this mistake!

      • Str8arrow on October 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm

        Arlene, you might be interested to know that some volunteers purchased brand-spanking-new wire crates for the cat room (with their own money) but have you ever seen them in the cat room? The purpose was to allow newcomers to acclimate slowly to the 60+ other cats already there. But apparently they think that cardboard boxes are better. I have seen nursing mothers with their newborn kittens in dusty cardboard boxes in a corner; caved-in cardboard boxes with filthy linens inside.

        …One of the new cats that was tossed into the room was attacked very badly. It is painfully obvious that there are problems with handling the cats at that shelter.

  2. Jeannette Houle on October 23, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    As a newbie to this county, I had been warned that politics were not like the big city that I am from. The big city has nothing over this group of clowns. This is truly reprehensible that these inexperienced people are allowed to operate a government funded service with no facility, no experience and no financial knowledge. The lack of professionalism at last nights meeting was quite an education.

  3. Str8arrow on October 23, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Let me get this right: the Commissioners want to rewrite the code so that there is no more 2-hour exercise period each day? How convenient. The dogs that live in the wire crates upstairs at the Buddies shelter are lucky to get out for 10-15 min. 2x a day.

    The conditions there are deplorable. The noise-level is extremely high, with just a piece of paneling separating the cats from the dogs. Doesn’t anybody realize that this is stressful for the cats? Oh wait, that’s right, Carletti didn’t want the cats to begin with, why worry about silly things like their stress levels and living conditions?

    With SEVEN full-time paid employees, why are the litter boxes always dirty, why are the water bowls empty, dirty linens not changed daily, and has anyone on the oversight committee thought to peek into the Isolation room? That is a window-less, airless (no vents) closet that plunges the inhabitants into pitch darkness for up to 14 hrs. at a time.

    And now Callahan wants to find “more reliable volunteers.” In other words she wants people who will dedicate their time, effort and money to the care of the animals, but keep quiet when they see the problems. They HAD reliable volunteers but when they spoke up about things that were wrong, they were asked to leave.

    Wake up Cecil Co. This is how your hard-earned tax dollars are now being spent.

    • Fur the Kidz on October 24, 2013 at 7:46 am

      …How can A Buddy for Life justify income received for dogs and cats being held at a facility where the entire rent is paid for by Cecil County tax dollars? The animals are brought in, placed on 8 day hold (not in the appropriate kennels but rather in crates – FACT) and at the end of 8 days become the property of A Buddy for Life. Then they can get money from people who adopt them after they paid nothing (vaccinations, shelter, attendant fees, food and water provided by Cecil County tax dollars to benefit a DE based rescue). And they want residents to volunteer and provide unpaid labor to them, too? Kidding me right?

  4. Topcat on October 23, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    Utterly amazing and an epic failure for Cecil county. Is Tari Moore going to stop this side show or just give it a tune up?

    They admit they are using county money to pay for housing dogs after the 8 day hold. That is against the contract but Jenn Callahan tries to explain it that it isn’t really costing the county any more money by doing that. What about the new dogs coming in, under the county’s auspices– why should they suffer the overcrowding because the Buddies don’t have their own place to put the other dogs?

    If they are doing that what else are they doing to violate this contract with county residents. They admit to using money for continuing education against the contract and they now want Cecil county to pay for their audit. This boondoggle gets worse every day and we are going to have to endure this operation for how long?

    All the complaints that were lodged at the old S.P.C.A. pale in comparison to this operation and they were only getting $600,000 per year. Sounds like a bargain and was definitely run better than this operation. It was only after Carletti and the BFL crowd complained and bullied their way into this contract and made the SPCA a target of their vile insults that the SPCA backed out. They obviously knew the deck was stacked against them with the Three Amigos.

    The 2.2 million dollar question is what will Tari Moore do. It’s broken and does not look like it can be fixed with the present players at the helm. I predict more insults will be thrown at the individuals on the commission that don’t agree with BFLs answers or way they operate. I don’t see them changing the way they operate– through fear and intimidation– any time soon.

    I say scrap it and go back to the original laws. You can’t have the commission try and rewrite them because Carletti won’t have any of that. I’m sure we will see rude comments made about the panel members that are working on it.

    No more money thrown at this thing and it’s time to say enough is enough. It had its chance and it failed. Tari Moore needs to step up and end it before it gets any worse and the animals suffer more needlessly.

  5. Mike R on October 24, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    This is a great follow up from the first report of your series. I was unable to attend the meeting but know several attendees who have commented on Tari Moore’s quick entrance and exit. I’m interpreting that as “I’m not really interested in doing anything’ about this.

    This is rather disconcerting because to me $2.2 million is a lot of money which is being simply thrown away when there are so many really urgent projects in Cecil County that could use these funds effectively. None of this even addresses the worse problem of animals in Cecil County. CATS CATS CATS–it’s in the ordinance as well it should be, cats are dangerous but animal control claims they don’t have to enforce the law. If that is so, then why is the rest of the law being enforced, get rid of animal control and save the county lots of money.

    The stench when you walk into that building is unbelievable. I can’t imagine that the ammonia smell is not a hazard to the health of the volunteers and others walking into that building.

    This is a county problem. You county government people created this problem but now you don’t have the backbone to fix it. Stop patting each other’s back and do what needs to be done.

    • Str8arrow on October 25, 2013 at 10:38 am

      The place stinks both figuratively and literally. You would think that with two paid employees for the cat room alone it would be spotless. But the litter boxes and large food dispensers were not emptied and WASHED (disinfected and cleaned with soap and water) for months, months until finally some volunteers started doing that. I’d like to know exactly what those employees are being paid for. BTW, did management or those employees ever mention the RINGWORM outbreak? I don’t believe they told the volunteers or visitors, yet it is highly contagious to both animals and humans and runs rampant in a “free-roaming” situation.

  6. Politics for Dummies on October 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    In reading about all of the breaches of contract, personal agendas, insufficient staff and facilities I have come to the conclusion that the only time to raise your voice, and loudly, is during elections. Be diligent in compiling facts, asking questions and getting same documented for use at the appropriate time.

    Nothing worth fighting for ever comes with an easy victory but inevitably justice does prevail and [people] will have to answer for what they’ve done, eventually.

    • Jeannette H on November 4, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Poliics for Dummies I can’t disagree with you more. It doesn’t seem to have affected any politician in this county as well as their pals. They just keep on spewing the same lies and hope you will believe. They seem to think that they are sacrosant and that the public’s opinion is unimportant.

      Everytime I see a feral or stray cat running across our street, I can’t help but think of the cruelty and neglect that the County Executive and government are perpetrating.

  7. Stupid Intolerant on November 4, 2013 at 11:23 pm

    People,People,People: Let’s lay this at the feet of those responsible. The past board of commissioners wrote this contract and hired these clowns.The voting record shows Dianna Broomell, Mike Dunn and Jim Mullin called an “emergency session” and voted FOR them. Then commissioners Tari Moore and Robert Hodge (a man who cherishes animals)voted AGAINST!

    Councilman McCarthy, a veterinarian, never would have voted in favor of this flim flam.

    The finger of blame has a specific direction. Come to County Council Tuesday night (11/5@7pm) at the county administration building and see the shameless arrogance of those responsible for yourself.

    • Politics for Dummies on November 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm

      I am sorry that I missed the County Council meeting this evening. I think We, The People totally understand wherein lies the blame – thank you to the 3 Stooges (aka 3 Amigos). Now, We, The People would like to see someone stand up and put an end to this debacle – wave the white flag already.

      It’s time Cecil County officials stopped letting a veterinarian drag them around by the b…. We should not have a dictator telling our elected officials what to do… Our local government appears that much more inept. Yes, the finger of blame has an obvious direction but the field of vision is rapidly expanding.

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THANK YOU, Cecil County voters, for endorsing my campaign for Delegate.
--Alan McCarthy