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Cecil County Animal Control Contractor Nets Extra Cash from Taxpayer Contract Despite Multiple Rents; Dog Head Count Questions

October 18, 2013
By Nancy Schwerzler

A Cecil Times Special Report: Second in a Series

Cecil County’s animal control contractor—which has a more than $2.2 million contract with the local government—is spending less than it gets from the county to take in and care for animals, according to required financial reports. But the reports also raise questions about where over 200 dogs were cared for after their county-paid holding period ends and their care becomes the responsibility of the contractor.

A Buddy for Life, Inc., a Delaware animal rescue group linked to Mindy Carlettii– a local veterinarian who almost singlehandedly re-wrote the county animal law– was given a three-year contract by the “Three Amigos” political majority of the former county Board of Commissioners in the last few minutes of its existence last year. The Buddy group has consistently documented costs below the $60,000 a month that taxpayers are giving the group. In addition, the county purchased two pickup trucks and special ‘caps’ for them at taxpayer expense, that are leased to the Buddies for a total of $2 a year.

In the first quarter of the year, the Buddies reported a net gain of $24,566 over expenses; in the second quarter, the gain was $5,434; and the group ended the third quarter of the year with a net gain of $2,621.

Foremost in the Buddies fiscal reports to the county, which by contract are due on a quarterly basis, is the cost of renting kennels. The group was given the county contract late last year although it had no shelter of its own, no experience operating an animal control facility, no employees and no track record in handling an open-admission facility charged with taking in all stray dogs—and housing at least 40 cats– in Cecil County.

The Buddies have been paying an average of $5,000 a month to a Pennsylvania kennel to rent 11 kennels, and at least $3,000 to $4,000 a month to an Appleton Road building in Elkton that, under county zoning law, was not permitted to house dog kennels and has been vacant for much of the time. And the group has paid an increasing amount of rent to occupy part of the Rainwood Kennels in Elkton, which is owned by retired county Circuit Court Judge Dexter Thompson and his wife.

The Buddies managed to get out of their lease on the no-dogs building on Appleton Road, despite a three-year contract the group had signed, in August, after a final $3,006 rent payment, records show. In previous reports, the group was paying from $4,000 to $8,000 on a monthly basis for the Appleton Road no-dogs-allowed building. In addition, the Buddies were paying $5,000 a month to rent 11 kennel cages in Oxford, PA, through July.

The Buddies have now consolidated their operations at the Rainwood Kennels owned by the Thompsons, who continue to operate a private kennel in a separate area of the building. The Buddies recently escalated their payments to the Thompsons from about $12,600 a month to $15,909 in August.

But even after costs, questions arise about the accounting for animals after the county-paid eight day “holding” period for stray animals– and whether the costs of kennel rents are being charged to the county allocation to house animals that, by contract, are supposed to be the full financial responsibility of the Buddies. Overall, the care of over 200 dogs, after accounting for adoptions and other dispositions, has been turned over to the Buddies’ own financial responsibility since the group began its contract in January.

Prior to obtaining the county contract, the Buddies had just $6,000 in its bank account, according to federal IRS filings.

The Buddy group states in online posts that it uses “foster homes” to house some of its animals but the reports to the county do not specify how many of the animals it takes in under the animal control contract are subsequently placed in temporary custody in private homes at the end of the county-paid holding period or if they remain at the Rainwood rental property. Previous reports to the county earlier in the year listed a few animals that were transferred to the custody of outside “rescue” groups but the most recent report does not show such listings.

In the third quarter report, the Buddies stated it took in 150 dogs, of which 45 were returned to owners, and 8 died or were euthanized for medical reasons. After the holding period, 97 dogs were listed as being “transferred” to the custody of A Buddy for Life.

In the second quarter report, 154 dogs were taken into the shelter, with 33 returned to owners, 2 died/euthanized, 24 transferred to other rescue groups, and 34 adoptions—for a net remaining Buddies responsibility for 51 dogs.

In the first quarter report, 151 dogs are listed for intake, with 32 returned to owners, 4 died/euthanized, 20 adopted and 6 given to rescue groups, for a net remaining Buddies responsibility for 89 dogs.

Consequently, after accounting for other dispositions of dogs taken into the shelter, the Buddies were left with responsibility for caring for 209 dogs, on their own without county funds, through September.

The Rainwood facility has a limited capacity even as the Buddies have expanded their presence and the kennels rented with county funds are supposed to be reserved for incoming strays and dogs still in the “stray hold” period.

The reports do not indicate where the net remaining 209 dogs went, even after the accountings for adoptions and transfer to other rescues.

In other details of the most recent quarterly report, the Buddies reported a huge increase in fines imposed on local animal operations in the past month by assessing $3,000 fines against two dog kennels, totaling $6,000, while a county oversight commission was debating possible revision of the mandates and regulatory forms required for commercial dog kennels. The kennels were cited for lack of required kennel licenses. [By law, the fines are paid directly to the county government, not the Buddies, so they are not counted in the group's revenues. Even if fines are assessed, they are often not paid by violators who challenge them in court.]

[In the second quarter expense report, the Buddies charged the county government more than $17,000 for purchase and installation of "fencing" on the Thompson-owned property that the Buddies are renting, thus enhancing the value of the Thompson property at taxpayer expense.]

The most recent report also lists $1,729 as an expense against the county payments for animal control officer training, apparently for Heather Buckley, employed by the Buddies as an animal control officer despite no previous experience in such a position. The other animal control officer employed by the group, Gerald Hawkins, received similar training and a certification that was paid for by the previous animal control contractor, Cecil County SPCA, out of its donated funds, not county resources. The report also listed $1,108 spent by the Buddies for purchase of a computer.

The Animal Care and Control Commission will meet on Tuesday, 10/22/13, from 6- 8 p.m., at the county administration building in Elkton to review the latest filings by the Buddies and discuss overall operations. The meeting is open to the public.

[For the first article in this series, on legal actions by the Buddies against a volunteer and attacks on the chairwoman of the oversight commission by Buddy allies, see previous Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2013/10/buddy-group-with-2-2-million-cecil-county-animal-control-deal-and-allies-push-legal-steps-against-critics-oversight-panel/ ]

(For a previous report on the Buddies first quarter filings with the county, see this Cecil Times report here:
http://ceciltimes.com/2013/04/buddy-group-profits-25k-from-cecil-county-animal-control-in-1st-quarter-wheres-the-cats/

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11 Responses to Cecil County Animal Control Contractor Nets Extra Cash from Taxpayer Contract Despite Multiple Rents; Dog Head Count Questions

  1. cats on October 18, 2013 at 12:49 pm

    It would be nice to know if the Buddies keep dogs at Rainwood Kennels after the holding period on the county’s dime? Who would know the difference? This needs to be addressed by the council and Tari Moore if they are really interested in doing their jobs.

  2. Too Much Government on October 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Way too much funding for this haphazard animal control operation. Are these income and expense reports reviewed and compiled by a CPA accountant or is that also left to Buddys? … Since I have not seen a report, is management responsible for the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statements in accordance with the cash basis of accounting and for implementing and maintaining internal controls relevant to the preparation and fair presentation of the financial statement?

    It seems these reports are being done by someone who has no accounting experience and therefore accountability, and transparency can and should be questioned. If they are having trouble with animal accounting, certainly one would question financial accountabity and transparency.

    Also as a taxpayer, I want to know whether animal control has a written contract with the Thompsons and how many kennels and sq. ft. does the animal control facility utilize. Do the Thompsons use the same equipment as animal control for private boarders or do they have separate equipment such as food, buckets, dishes, hoses, and more? For $15,000+ a month, the county better not be paying for that.

  3. MikeR on October 18, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    A few weeks back I happened to see a plea from Carleti that they were not getting the volunteers they were hoping for. If that is the case, how can they justify their numbers and where are the foster homes? I can’t help but feel that the county money is being used to subsidize those animals beyond the 8 days required by the county.

    Which brings up another question– why in the world are these animals being kept and paid for by the county for 8 days, when the Maryland State Law required 72 hours or 3 days? Does Cecil County have so much money that they are willing to pay an extra 5 days?

    We certainly can tell that this Ordinance was written by someone who had certain expectations and would gain financially.

    • Eileen Starr on October 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm

      These are pretty bold assumptions about the ordinance… I suggest you do some research from legitimate sources rather than those who have alternative motives. Don’t drink the koolaide.

      • Susan M on October 20, 2013 at 8:02 am

        What alternative motives, Eileen Starr? I have been keeping up with this charade for several years now. This is costing the taxpayers plenty. It’s time to put all this nonesense to rest. I have never seen so much time put into a project or service that is in such shambles. I have no fight in this and have remained neutral but the more I see, like the bullying of the Chairperson and the volunteer, I am now onvinced that this contract was pre-arranged by Broomell, Mullin and Dunn in close consultation with Carletti.

        Councilman Hodge made the big mistake to send the ordinance back to Carletti back in February 2011 because certain groups were unhappy with the size of the dog houses. Instead of just reviewing and rewriting that section, there was an entire do over. They also put in incredibly high fees and fines for everything.

        But tell me why the worst problem in this county was never addessed and that is CATS. Cats should be licensed like dogs. Isn’t it interesting that Carletti is a cat rescuer and that cats are forgiven for all the damage they do and the nuisance that they are to many people’s property?

        Cecil Times is the only publication that cannot be bullied. It is the only publication that takes the time to get to the facts and went through the reports to the commission. Perhaps you have had a few glasses of the Carletti kool-aid?

        If cats don’t need laws and licensing, why do the dogs? The county could save millions of dollars by eliminating animal control completely. Cats can be just as dangerous, can attack, bite, scratch and destroy and do spread disease and parasites. So again I ask, why are they not included for the safety of the citizens of this county?

  4. cats on October 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Good questions about kennel sizes– private kennels and “breeders” are held to a new law that says what size kennels can be used– yet ABFL has their dogs crammed in cages way to small. It should be what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.

  5. Topcat on October 19, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    …This place should have been inspected…before they got a chance to perform their cleanup routine.

    …Tari Moore, you need to step up and there needs to be a reckoning here as this has really gone on for years, what with the ordinance being revised by a task force and then Carletti being allowed by the Commissioners to re-write it just to her own liking.

    It’s time to demand action from government representatives and elections will be coming up next year and this will be a highlight of them for me. …

  6. Topcat on October 19, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Everyone needs to attend the upcoming meeting. We dont need it to be packed with Carletti’s friends that scream and bully people to be quiet. We need all the citizens concerned about their tax dollars to be there. Here is the date and time so no excuse for not attending. Let’s not let this go on till the end of this contract and we are out 2.2 million more dollars.

    Animal Care & Control Oversight Commission Meeting – October 22, 2013

    County Administration Building, Perryville Room, Elkton, MD 21921
    Tuesday, October 22, 2013
    6:00pm-8:00pm

    Informational meeting between County Executive, County staff, Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission, and Animal Care and Control Authority.

  7. ColorMeCrazy on October 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    It’s very interesting to see posts asking for donations of cat litter, cat food, fencing, volunteers, etc from the organization in question (especially when they have called the “fired” volunteer a liar and threatened her with legal acton.) They had volunteers who bought, contributed, cleaned, cared, GAVE, and those volunteers were arrogantly and ignorantly asked not to return because they got disgusted ….

    Individual volunteers were asked to leave tho they spent their own dollars to help get the cat rooms set up properly and never asked for anything in return. What they got is an absolute shame.

    This isn’t about the people in charge, it’s about treatment of the animals that you are being PAID, through Cecil County taxes, to care for with the dignity and respect they deserve.

    They should have to abide by the same laws imposed by the Buddies on breeders, kennels, and common folk. …But who enforces them on the organization in charge of enforcing?

    Our elected officials don’t have to admit to being wrong but now they must be held accountable for making a bad call. Save face before it’s too late. … Sometimes, the best of intentions are plagued by inexperience, inadequacy and inability.

  8. Rick O'Shea on October 21, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I hope that the meeting on Tuesday, 10/22/2013 at 6 PM will be held in the Elk Room rather than the Perryville Room. Plenty of seating and audio recording should make for a productive meeting.

  9. Fur The Kidz on October 22, 2013 at 8:08 am

    In addition to concerns with funding for housing animals past the 8 day hold, are the Buddies taking over payroll for staff required to provide care for the adoptable animals or are they compensated through the county animal control contract? There are so many valid questions and concerns being raised making it hard to believe our County would award an organization such a large contract without having all of the processes defined prior to assuming responsibility.

    It’s like learning to bake a cake after you open the bakery and expecting the patrons to pay up front and be patient while you figure things out. Way more wrongs than rights in this situation but I’m just a tax payer in Cecil County, what do I know?!

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