Animal Control Oversight Panel Eases Kennel Regs; Silences Protests by Bite Victim, Buddy Critics
A Cecil County citizen oversight panel on animal control has voted to ease several controversial regulations for dog kennel operators, but the group refused to consider concerns raised by citizens– including the victim of an attack by a ‘foster’ dog placed in her home by A Buddy for Life, the county’s paid contractor for animal control that the panel is supposed to oversee.
About two dozen citizens packed a small meeting room at the county administration building in Elkton Friday night (11/8/13), when four of the five members of the Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission met to review some kennel regulations and approve several proposed changes. County Executive Tari Moore recently suspended the current rules until next spring so that the oversight panel could draft revisions that will be submitted to her and the County Council. [See Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2013/10/cecil-coungty-exec-delays-new-kennel-license-regs-animal-control-oversight-panel-questions-buddies-dog-housing-at-shelter/ ]
Lyn Yelton, chair of the oversight panel, said that the group would not take public comments at the meeting—as it had in the past—because of the time constraints to finish the regulatory revisions. For more than an hour, citizens sat and listened to technical discussions of the rules but they erupted into loud outbursts of dissent when one panel member sought to defend the Buddy group.
Ricky Lewis II, a cat rescuer who has been associated with Mindy Carletti—a veterinarian who works closely with the Buddies and who drafted most of the county ordinance that the oversight panel is now working to revise—claimed that the Buddies “do a background check” on homes to which it releases dogs for foster care or adoption.
“That’s a lie,” shouted several citizens, including Kasie Bolton, an Elkton woman who offered to provide “foster” care for a dog she said was placed in her home by the Buddies. She says the group did not do a home inspection or even request that she bring her four other family dogs and her four-year-old twin daughters to the Buddy shelter to observe the foster dog’s interaction with the family.
Bolton says the Buddy’s dog, “Brittany,” mauled to death her pet Chihuahua so violently that the little dog’s eyeball popped out of its socket. The foster dog then viciously attacked Bolton, requiring her to obtain medical treatment. [SEE previous exclusive Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2013/11/state-vet-board-to-investigate-buddy-animal-shelter-on-license-inspection-issues-family-says-buddy-foster-dog-killed-their-pet-attacked-woman/ ]
At Friday’s meeting, Bolton and others challenged the oversight panel to address their concerns about that incident, the housing of dogs in portable wire crates at the group’s rented Elkton shelter, and questions raised by the state’s Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners about apparent lack of proper licensing for the shelter and its operations under state regulations.
As tempers flared, Yelton warned the audience that it was not a public comment session and that unless people piped down, they would be asked to leave. Then Lewis went downstairs and returned with a security officer from the building’s front desk, who then stood in the doorway for the rest of the meeting.
After the formal meeting was adjourned, Yelton explained to the citizens that the way the animal control ordinance was written, the oversight panel’s powers are limited. Citizens with complaints about the Buddies must first write a complaint to the Buddies, and if the citizens are not satisfied with the group’s response, then must file a formal “appeal” to the oversight group.
Tammy Pollard– a former volunteer at the Buddy shelter who complained to Moore and county Director of Administration Al Wein– asked if the panel had been given her written complaints about conditions for animals at the Buddy shelter and photos she presented at a meeting with Wein that she and three other volunteers had. Yelton said the panel had not been given any information from county officials about Pollard’s complaints.
During the consideration of the Carletti-drafted ordinance last year, the then-County Commissioners board made it clear that they were installing the oversight panel as way to buffer the elected officials from citizen complaints. However, citizens still have a Constitutional right to contact their government officials to seek redress for grievances about county issues, including the expenditure of over $2.2 million that the county is giving the Buddies under an animal control services contract.
That contract includes provisions allowing for termination of the contract by the county government for any reason.
In an interview with Cecil Times, Yelton said she had not been contacted by the state vet board about the Buddy group’s licensing issues, nor did she contact the board herself. Yelton also said that the Buddy group still has not provided answers to several questions she raised at the 10/ 22/13 quarterly meeting between the Buddies and the panel—including just how many dogs were being housed at the kennels the group rents from retired Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Dexter Thompson and his wife.
During the Friday evening meeting, the panel discussed rules in the current law that state cages with “wire floors” are not permitted for commercial dog kennels, boarding facilities or “hobby kennels.” Former volunteers at the Buddy shelter have said dogs are being housed there in portable wire cages with wire flooring.
Yelton told Cecil Times that she attended the Buddy group’s public “open house” on 10/26/13 and at that time “there were no dogs in wire crates in the upstairs area.” About a week earlier, Wein and two other county officials inspected the Buddy shelter after Pollard’s complaints and he reported seeing large numbers of dogs confined in wire crates in the upstairs area. Yelton said she had no idea where the dogs that Wein saw went.
Yelton also told the citizens that on Friday, the panel received its first formal “appeal” of a complaint about the Buddies. She said it involved conditions at the shelter and questions about its licensing.
Yelton said she was scheduled to meet with county officials and representatives of the Buddies later this week to review the panel’s proposed revisions of the animal law. At the outset of the Friday meeting, Lewis objected to making changes and voted “no” on consideration of revisions, saying any problems should be left up to the Buddies to resolve. He was outvoted, 3-1.
During Friday’s meeting, the group agreed to remove a limitation for Maryland-only veterinarians to provide care to dogs at commercial kennels, so vets licensed in other states could provide required care. The panel also eased rules demanding documented veterinary examinations of all kenneled dogs every six months, but retained six month exams for breeding dogs, seniors and “special needs” dogs, although that term was not defined.
And one of the more onerous regulations questioned by local kennel operators—that dogs must be given two hours a day of “exercise”—was eased to provide that there must be an exercise plan “description” on file without mandating the number of hours per day each dog must be “exercised.”
After the meeting, several citizens questioned why there were no formal complaint forms that people could fill out and wondered where to address their concerns.
Under the Cecil County Code, citizens should file an initial complaint BOTH with the Buddies AND the oversight panel. The Buddies get first shot at responding, but if a citizen is not satisfied with the response, an appeal can be made to the oversight panel, such as by simply re-sending the original complaint to the oversight group with an added request for an appeal review:
In Accordance with the Cecil County Code Chapter 142, Article II, §142-3 (G):
“All complaints concerning the Animal Care and Control Authority shall first be submitted in writing to the Animal Care and Control Authority, as well as to the Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission. The Animal Care and Control Authority shall notify the Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission, as well as the complainant, in writing, of the outcome of the complaint. In the event a complainant feels his/her complaint was not handled in an appropriate manner by the Animal Care and Control Authority, the complainant shall then appeal to the Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission.”
Citizens may email their complaints to the Buddies at: firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the county website, citizens may email their complaints to the oversight panel, addressed to Lyn Yelton, the chair, but using a county employee’s email address: email@example.com
In addition, citizens may contact members of the County Council, Wein, or Moore via email. Wein’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Moore’s email is email@example.com
Cecil County Council President Robert Hodge’s government email is firstname.lastname@example.org
And County Councilor Alan McCarthy, who is a licensed veterinarian, has a government email address at email@example.com