State Vet Board to Investigate Buddy Animal Shelter on License Issues; Family Says Buddy Foster Dog Killed Pet, Attacked Woman
A Cecil Times Special Report
A state veterinary regulatory board will investigate the animal shelter operated by A Buddy for Life, under an animal control contract with Cecil County, amidst questions about lack of proper state licensing and inspection. And an Elkton family is mourning the loss of a pet Chihuahua they say was mauled to death—and its owner bitten severely– by a dog placed in their home for “foster” care by the Buddies.
The Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners oversees licensing and inspection of veterinary hospitals and animal control facilities, as well as individual veterinarians. But the vet board did not receive an application for, and did not issue, a required animal control facility license to the Buddies for its shelter operation on Hutton Road, according to Laura Downes, the Board’s executive director. Nor does the Buddy’s shelter have a veterinary hospital license that is required for any facility at which vaccines and prescription medications are stored and administered to animals, Downes added.
“We will certainly look into it,” Downes said in an interview Monday with Cecil Times. She said that if any medical care is being rendered at the site “that facility needs to be licensed and inspected as a vet hospital with our office,” Downes explained. And since the Buddies are operating an animal control service under a county government contract, the facility should also be registered under the Board’s animal control shelter license rules, she added.
Even if controlled dangerous drugs (CDS) such as animal tranquilizers or euthanasia chemicals are not kept on site, Downes explained, the Buddy shelter still must obtain state licensing.
The Buddy group, which has a more than $2.2 million animal control services contract with the Cecil County government, has told county officials that animals will only be euthanized for medical reasons and euthanasia is performed by Mindy Carletti, a Perryville veterinarian. In addition, Carletti has told members of the county’s Animal Control Oversight Authority that she spends at least a day a week at the shelter caring for animals.
A co-director of the Buddy group also told the panel 10/22/13 that the shelter has on hand prescription medicines that staff administers to animals “under orders” from Carletti. The group’s website also states that multiple vaccinations are administered to strays immediately after they are brought into the shelter.
Downes said that before opening to care for strays under its contract with the county, the Buddy shelter should have applied for proper licensing and submitted to an inspection by state Agriculture Department officials. Downes said the state board would be following up on the matter and could also contact county government officials.
Meanwhile, an Elkton family is mourning the loss of a two-year-old pet Chihuahua, Molly Mae, that they say was viciously attacked and mauled to death by a Rottweiler placed in their home for “foster” care by the Buddies. The violence of the attack was so severe that the little dog’s eyeball popped out of its socket, the kitchen was covered in blood, and the mother of the family was severely bitten multiple times, according to Kasie Bolton.
Bolton said her twin four-year-old daughters were not in the kitchen when the attack occurred but came running when they heard her screams and saw their beloved Molly’s limp body and “blood everywhere.” The children still have nightmares, Bolton said. And she herself is undergoing medical treatment for multiple bites on her left arm so severe that “you could see the muscle showing through.”
Bolton said her family’s nightmare began when she heard that the Buddies were looking for ‘foster homes” that would temporarily care for stray dogs until the group could find permanent adoptive homes. An animal lover who already had four other dogs at home—a Shepherd, two Labs and little Molly—she said she “wanted to help out” and visited the shelter, speaking with one of the group’s two co-directors. Bolton said the staff urged her to take “Brittany,” a Rottweiler mix, that was said to be good with children and other dogs and housetrained.
Bolton said no one from the Buddies inspected her home or asked her to bring her children and other dogs to the shelter to observe how Brittany interacted with them. While no one can predict animal behavior, most shelters require observation of a stray interacting with young children and other pets in the family before placing them in the home.
On 10/5/13, Bolton picked up Brittany at the shelter and signed what she thought was a foster care agreement—but when she got home saw that it said “adoption” agreement. Bolton said she called the Buddies and was told that she could return the dog in 30 days if she decided not to keep it. Bolton said she received no medical records or other information about Brittany.
“Molly seemed to be afraid of” the foster dog, Bolton said, and “kept her distance.” Then, on Thursday 10/24/13, Brittany suddenly and without provocation attacked Molly, “grabbing her by the neck, biting and then shaking her back and forth” while clutching the little dog in her jaws. Bolton said she tried to rescue Molly and Brittany turned on her, biting her several times on the arm before Bolton managed to get the big dog out the door into the back yard.
Bolton said she called the Buddy’s animal control emergency number and a male officer came to the home and he summoned “Crystal”—apparently Crystal Litteral, a co-director of the Buddies—and they took Brittany away.
No one gave her any advice or information on what to do about her own injuries or Molly’s dead body, Bolton said, but she decided to seek medical treatment that night at the Express Care clinic in Elkton. Bolton said the staff took all the information about the bite incident and gave her antibiotics and dressed her wound. She said she is still having to change dressings twice daily and has an appointment to see a wound specialist.
State law specifies how animal bite incidents are to be handled, with the local Health Department having primary responsibility for overseeing the process. Doctors and hospitals treating a bite patient are required to file a report to the Health Department. If the animal is in custody, there are two options: a 10-day quarantine in a secure location to monitor for possible signs of rabies, or euthanasia of the animal and its brain tissue sent to a state lab for direct rabies testing.
A spokeswoman for Express Care told Cecil Times the practice could not comment on whether a bite report on Bolton’s case was sent to the Health agency due to regulations governing confidentiality of a patient’s medical records.
A spokeswoman for the Cecil County Health Department also cited medical privacy in declining to specify whether it received a bite report or took any action in the case. However, the county took it a step farther, claiming that any information about any dog placed into quarantine on that date was also confidential because it might be related to a human patient.
“I cannot talk about this case at all,” said Janis Shields, the spokeswoman.
However, state law mandates the local health department to track animal bites and report the numbers and results of any pathology sample tests at the state lab. So under questioning by Cecil Times, Shields finally did say the agency listed 9 dogs placed into quarantines in the month of October and there was also one dog tissue sample sent to the state lab—“but not the week of the 25th.”
So that appears to indicate that the dog Bolton says attacked her would have been placed in a 10-day quarantine, which would have expired this past weekend. Cecil Times contacted the Buddy group on Friday and asked for Crystal Litteral, who Bolton said was on the scene at her house, to verify where the dog was being quarantined and what its disposition would be after the required holding period. Litteral did not respond to the request for comment.
Bolton said Friday that she now regrets trying to help the Buddy group and says they never apologized for the trauma her family suffered and no one from the health department had contacted her. She said her family paid to have Molly cremated.
“I just hope that they don’t try to send that vicious dog into another family’s home,” Bolton said.