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Cecil County Councilor/Vet Finds ‘Mess’ at Buddy Animal Shelter, Oversight Chair Questions ‘Overstaffing’ at Govt. Expense

August 4, 2014
By Nancy Schwerzler

A CECIL TIMES SPECIAL REPORT

Cecil County Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), who is a licensed veterinarian, made a surprise visit to the Buddy for Life animal shelter in Elkton late last week and found unremoved feces, odors and many dogs with serious “mange” and other skin conditions. “It was a mess,” he said of the facility, which county taxpayers are supporting with payments of $60,000 per month for animal control services.

In addition, the chair of an independent oversight panel has questioned what she called overstaffing at the Buddy operation at taxpayer expense.

And the County Attorney– while suggesting minimal county concerns with recent state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners’ sanctions against both the Buddies and its veterinarian, Mindy Carletti– said he and the County Executive would meet later this week with the Buddies to discuss the sanctions and other “contractual/performance issues.”

Top county officials were unaware of the state vet board sanctions until personally informed of them by Cecil Times. After publication of our exclusive Cecil Times Special report on 7/28/14 [SEE Cecil Times report here: http://ceciltimes.com/2014/07/state-vet-board-fines-buddies-for-no-license-at-animal-shelter-carletti-sanctioned-for-violations-on-controlled-dangerous-substances/ ] county officials got copies of the reports that had been obtained by Cecil Times under a state Public Information Act filing. And the Cecil Whig published a limited front-page article on the issue a few days ago but without the normal journalistic courtesy of acknowledging that the documents, sanctions and related matters were first reported exclusively by Cecil Times.

Meanwhile, McCarthy told Cecil Times that his unannounced visit to the Buddy shelter last Thursday was “very disappointing.”

“On a scale of 1 to 10,” with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, McCarthy said, “I’d give it a 3.” He did not examine individual animals as he would if treating them as a vet, he said, but the problems were obvious just walking through the two-floor facility. About 100 dogs were on site, many held in portable crates, and there were at least 50 cats, he said. Animal feces were evident in dog areas and unscooped cat litter pans and several outdoor animal runs and exercise areas were “dirty,” while a stairway leading to the upstairs area that has no running water was “filthy,” the councilor/vet said.

There was “no separation” between county-subsidized stray dogs on an 8-day holding period and dogs whose care is supposed to be paid for by the Buddies’ private “rescue” operations, McCarthy added. Most of the dogs on site were pitbulls or pitbull mixes and when he examined tags on cages he saw that many of them had been held there for a year or more.

Since the Buddies began their $2.25 million, three-year contract with the county on 1/1/13, the Cecil County Executive’s administration has conducted several announced-in-advance inspections of the rented facility, including administration officials with no training in animal health or welfare. But they did not invite Councilor McCarthy on those visits despite his being a licensed veterinarian. (Recently, the county has conducted two announced-in-advance inspections that did include a retired Pennsylvania veterinarian who was deemed acceptable to the Buddies, and he found no significant problems.)

In a statement issued by Jason Allison, the County Attorney, he said the county was “in the early stages of fact finding” regarding the state veterinary board’s sanctions against the Buddies and Carletti. As reported by Cecil Times, the Buddies were fined $750 for operating for nearly a year without a required state license and Carletti was fined $3,000 and her license suspended for a week for violations of “state and federal law” dealing with “Controlled Dangerous Substances.” The state board stayed collection of $2,000 of her total fine and imposition of the license suspension while Carletti completes a six-month probation imposed by the state.

Allison mis-stated the nature of Carletti’s services, claiming that she only provided medical services to the Buddies in their private “rescue” capacity. However, as reported on the Buddies’ website, all stray dogs entering their shelter under the group’s animal control contract receive an immediate rabies shot—which by state law can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian. But Allison acknowledged there was an “attenuated nexus between Dr. Carletti’s provision of veterinary services for this vendor and the County contract with” the Buddies.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the county’s Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission (ACCOC) on 7/30/14, Edie Crick, who prepares the Buddies’ required reports to the county, told the oversight panel that in the second quarter of the year the Buddies’ animal control officers picked up 54 stray dogs and “seized” 21 dogs. But, according to her data, private citizens took the initiative to transport and bring the majority of the dogs taken in to the group’s Hutton Road kennel site: 54 stray dogs were turned in by citizens who found them and brought them to the kennel, while another 41 dogs were surrendered to the shelter by owners who could no longer care for them.

Lyn Yelton, the oversight panel chair, pointed out that the group was still including “patrol checks” on its list of so-called “incident reports” – and claiming that driving randomly through a neighborhood looking for strays was equal in importance to responding to specific calls for service from the public. But Yelton has pointed out that despite clocking many miles on such “patrol checks,” only one stray was actually apprehended on such patrols.

In its most recent report to the county, the Buddies started claiming IRS mileage rates for usage of its two animal control trucks—which are actually owned by the county and leased to the Buddies for $1 a year each.

Yelton, who holds a Master’s degree in business and worked for years as a financial analyst, said her review of the Buddies’ reports showed a “tremendous increase in salary” expenses paid by the group— up 32 percent in just the first six months of this year—and costing $178,000, but the number of dogs covered by an eight-day county-paid holding period “hasn’t changed.”

Crystal Litteral, co-director and “owner” of the group according to state records, said there were 10 full-time and 4 part-time employees.

“I think you are overstaffed,” Yelton said, questioning whether that level of staffing was needed for the average 9 dogs per day under county-paid care — or whether the staff was actually spending most of its time on the group’s “rescue” animals that are supposed to be the Buddies’ own financial responsibility.

Litteral declared, “We are contracted to care for them until they are adopted.” The contract in fact specifies that no county funds are to be used for the “rescue” and adoption operations.

Sounding a bit like County Council worksession arguments over the minutes of past meetings, the ACCOC got into a spirited debate over minutes written by the oversight panel’s secretary, Ricky Lewis, a staunch ally of the Buddy contractor that the panel is supposed to oversee.

At several points, the panel’s chair, Lyn Yelton, said that Lewis was making “editorial statements” in the minutes that were “just not factual,” especially on the matter of a previous discussion of citizens’ concerns about locations of feral cat colonies. The panel voted 4-1 to strike out a controversial section of those minutes, with Lewis voting no. The approved minutes for several past ACCOC meetings had still not been posted on the county government’s website as of 8/4/14.

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20 Responses to Cecil County Councilor/Vet Finds ‘Mess’ at Buddy Animal Shelter, Oversight Chair Questions ‘Overstaffing’ at Govt. Expense

  1. Gerald Eldreth on August 4, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    How is the county going to address the feral cat problem in Cecil county? My neighborhood has a feral cat colony complete with a cat lady that feeds them everyday but doesn’t take care of any of their other needs. They just keep multiplying. There must be 20 or more.

    They are a public nuisance and a danger to the area’s natural wildlife as they kill any bird, rabbit, squirrel or anything else. As well they are a danger to the neighbors pets. They use the neighbors gardens as their litter box and are a health threat to the residents.

    Who do I call? I looked at Buddies website and it says they are not taking any more. Even if you were to trap them yourself there is nowhere to take them. Please Help! This issue needs to be addressed now. It’s only getting worse by the week. Who should I call? Where should I go?

    • Rick O'Shea on August 5, 2014 at 10:44 am

      You are meowing up the wrong tree when you contact Carletti/Buddies for Life/All Paws for relief from the feral cat problem. They are 100% behind their trap-neuter-release program.

      • Opinionated mom on August 6, 2014 at 11:23 pm

        Nope. When I called BFL they simply said “we aren’t responsible for cats.”

        • Rick O'Shea on August 7, 2014 at 1:18 pm

          Yup. They are not responsible for enforcement regarding cats. Convenient loophole in the code written by Carletti and approved by the former “Three Amigo” controlled Board of Commissioners. They are, therefore, free to promote feral cat colonies.

    • taylor on August 7, 2014 at 10:19 pm

      It is never the animals fault. Ask yourself how did the cats get there? Animals are innocent creatures. You should blame the heartless people that dump the cats, not the cats or the lady who’s heart is in the right place. Trap and release works great if done right…. I have worked with animals all my life. I never met an animal I didn’t like but many people for their lack of compassion or interest to what is right.

  2. Vincent Sammons on August 5, 2014 at 7:11 am

    I think a good pellet gun is the most humane animal control after reading this story??

    • Morris the cat on August 5, 2014 at 6:29 pm

      Hi I’m Morris the feral cat. I have to speak out on behalf of my feral cat buddies. These “cat lovers” need to try living out in the rain, sleet, snow, heat and more and then decide whether or not TNR is a good thing for us cats. Believe me when I tell you I would be much better off if I had been humanely euthanized than to have to fend for myself.

      I never know whether those so called colony keepers will show up to feed and water us. I have no bed to call my own and very little if any pleasurable play time. If humans think this such a great life, tell them to come spend a week or more with us. Believe me it ain’t what these cat crazies lead you to believe it is. It is hell!

      • Gracie on August 7, 2014 at 3:44 pm

        Morris. I’m fairly certain that a “down on his luck” feral guy like you probably doesn’t have his own internet connection out there in the “colony”. Clearly, you must have used a friend’s computer to write this post, so my next comment is for your dear friend. Why not skip the clever comments under the cute “pen name” and instead devote some of that free time and energy towards helping one of the rescue agencies out? The world is full of smart a***s, why not aspire to be something more?

      • Stupid Intolerant on August 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm

        Morris,Sounds like you have a lot in common with O’Malley/Obama’s “new Americans”.

  3. determinedcitizen on August 5, 2014 at 8:02 am

    So, all the volunteers who reported the unacceptable conditions are finally vindicated! And you wonder why the Buddies bring their lawyer to every meeting. Are the tax payers footing the bill for that dude too?
    One could also think that Ricky Lewis is on the Buddy payroll since he speaks for them at every turn and obstructs any meaningful work of the Oversight Commission.

  4. just the facts on August 5, 2014 at 11:04 am

    What happened to accurate non opinionated journalism? This article possesses hidden agendas and personal attacks by the reporter. Please stick to the “Facts” and reports on them without your opinions peppered all over.
    Thank You

    • Mark Jones on August 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      This article quotes a County Council member who also happens to be a licensed veterinarian– would you like to censor the views and observations of an elected official who also happens to be a very well qualified observer of animal health matters?

      And were you in attendance at the oversight group’s meeting that this article reported? Did you read the buddy reports that the oversight group was reviewing in a public meeting?

      It looks to me like you don’t want to have the facts reported and allow the citizens to know what is going on. Don’t attack the ‘messenger’ for telling the truth to the Cecil County citizens!

  5. My 2 Cents on August 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Why isn’t the County Executive making an ‘unannounced visit” to the shelter that WE are paying for? Isn’t that part of her job description? I bet she would do something quick after seeing the horrible conditions those poor animals are entrapped in! Oh, wait, I guess that’s what the ‘Oversight Committee’ was created for!

    Funny isn’t it, the members of that committee are mostly all ‘Buddies’ of AB4L. Hmm, and the plot to scam the county taxpayers out of 2.25 MILLION dollars thickens. There are other ‘established businesses’ that could take over AB4L with the stroke of a pen.

    • Jeannette H on August 5, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      What really would an unannounced visit by the County Exec accomplish? Is she educated in animal care and veterinary medicine? I know for a fact she is not. (Dr. McCarthy, a licensed objective veterinarian on the other hand did just that and reported on his findings.) The only thing that would accomplish is giving the Buddy group another chance to lie and spew out their nonsense.

      Bottom line here is the numbers don’t add up and we as taxpayers are paying for their pitbulls being sheltered and cared for by our tax dollars. They are contracted to handle animals taken in for 8 days, not until they are adopted 1 year or more later.

  6. Mike R on August 5, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I thought the County Fair was over and all the clowns had left Elkton. Smoke and mirrors continue and the County government thinks we are all stupid. Complaints about the conditions of the Hutton Road facility have been out there for months and months. Do they really think that they are magicians and if they don’t do anything about it, they will just vanish?

    I for one am very disappointed in Tari Moore, Al Wein and now Jason Allison. Do these three live in Cecil County or are they just passersby? Buddy’s For Life has been in breach of contract from the very day they submitted their proposal to take over animal control. I would venture to say that these three are our current 3 Amigos in clowns clothing.

    THEY ARE IN BREACH OF CONTRACT; even an average citizen can figure that one out. The meeting to investigate is more smoke and mirrors because you, county government, are not doing your job. Do your jobs and fire all of them. If you are unwilling to do your job then I firmly believe you should resign.

  7. Joe C> on August 7, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Ok, so if they are in breech of the contract, then I ask what is the solution? What are you proposing the county do? Have any of those complaining taken time to care of these animals? These animals did not ask to be placed there, irresponsible people let there dogs breed more dogs that can not be taken care of by any one!

    Spay and neuter all dogs and cats and if you are responsible please adopt one and stop complaining. You all should be more concerned about the 70 million dollar debt our county is running up, heck 2-3 million is chump changes to these big spenders.

    • Rick O'Shea on August 9, 2014 at 8:22 am

      The solution is for the county to cancel the contract and award a re-written contract to a competent entity.

  8. A Daily Witness on August 8, 2014 at 6:27 am

    I work near A Buddy for Life so can personally vouch that the dogs are rarely walked, exercised or let out of their cages. How pitiful, cruel and inhumane for a place that is supposed to be looking out for the welfare of these animals who already have suffered enough.

    If anyone cares to read the original bid documents when A Buddy for Life was awarded this contract, you will see what they are supposed to be providing to care for these animals. There are multiple exercise runs up and never used. For a shelter who is supposedly “over staffed” they certainly do not focus their efforts where they should be.

    I realize this is a never ending problem and people continue to not neuter/spay and dump their pets but the shelter needs to play a positive role in rehoming these animals and if they do not have the proper management and people in places changes must be made. It’s as simple as that.

  9. Politics for Dummies on August 11, 2014 at 9:59 am

    I think there are two very serious issues here: 1) A gross misappropriation of tax dollars and 2) Animal abuse and neglect. These statements have been repeatedly made, by numerous individuals, and have basically gone unaddressed and unresolved. This has been allowed to continue for far too long and has become overwhelming and cruel, as can be seen in photos recently taken by The Guardian. Anyone who can call the treatment of those animals on the 2nd floor at Rainwood Kennel humane needs to do some serious soul searching and, if an employee of ABFL, they should probably look for a different, better suited, occupation (one that doesn’t deal with living, breathing beings). Those photos do not depict a “rescue” but would better qualify for an episode on Hoarders.

    We all know, and most agree, the Animal Control Contract with A Buddy For Life should have never happened and while there were three who allowed this to come to fruition there is now one who holds the power to end this debacle. To remain politically correct, or to save political face, should not override common sense and morality. There are real solutions and honest rescues who would step in and assist with re-homing efforts so, at this point, it’s not a question of how, it’s a question of when!

  10. Dawn George on August 29, 2014 at 10:42 am

    Tari Moore and company has decided to keep the Buddy for Life contract. She specifically stated to me in an email that she encourages all publicity and wants to hear from any citizen any problems/concern that anyone has with A Buddy for Life or Animal Control Services. Her phone number is 410-996-5202. Her email address is tmoore@ccgov.org. Tari Moore has been offered assistance with plans to start with a new county run animal shelter. The animals currently at Rainwood Kennel belong to AB4L. So, sever the 60,000 monthly tax dollars the Buddies continues to misappropriate and use for their rescue now.

    Moore’s statement to me 13 months ago was that they were were trying to straighten out the 8 day stray hold payment. That should have been figured out by by 01/31/13 when they saw the first monthly statement and realized that the Buddies had no intention to do any fundraising or grant writing. As a matter of fact, the Buddies do receive some online financial monthly donations through a program called Give Back America. They did not report that on their yearly financial just a they did not report several donations I gave in early 2013. I questioned this at an oversight committee meeting and never got an answer.

    Mr. Sammons, if I hear that you are shooting a pellet gun at a cat I will make a personal effort, not with the the effort of our useless animal control, to have you charged with felony animal abuse.

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