Animal Control: Cecil County May Buy Shelter Building, Govt. to Regulate Adoptions; Delaware Shelter to Bid on Contract

August 3, 2015

Cecil County government has published a “request for proposals” (RFP) seeking animal control services under an 18-month contract, beginning 1/1/16, including provisions to allow the county government to buy a shelter building and assume its operating and maintenance costs. And a Delaware animal shelter that has been embroiled in fights with state and local government over animal control there plans to bid on the Cecil County contract, the group’s executive director told Cecil Times.

County Executive Tari Moore and her senior aides have visited at least three county government-owned shelter facilities in Maryland—Harford, Frederick and Queen Anne’s counties, according to records of Moore’s official schedule that were obtained by Cecil Times.

In addition, Moore’s schedule shows a meeting on 2/12/2015 with “Mary Thompson re: Rainwood Kennels.” Thompson and her husband, retired county Circuit Court Judge Dexter Thompson, own the Rainwood Kennels in Elkton that are being rented by A Buddy for Life, Inc., the current animal control contractor, for $15,000 a month, with the full rental fee paid out of county funds supplied under the Buddies’ contract with the county.

Sources said possible sale of the Rainwood facility to the county was discussed at the meeting, and a figure of over $500,000 was mentioned.

The Rainwood facility has had space and maintenance issues, as cited by former volunteers and an unannounced visit last summer by County Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), who is a licensed veterinarian. McCarthy called the facility “a mess” and noted dogs crammed into wire crates on the building’s second floor that lacks running water.

Moore’s schedule also shows a 9/23/14 “tour and meeting” at the Delaware SPCA facility on Stanton Cristiana Road in Newark DE (which was mis-identified in the schedule listing as “New Castle Co SPCA.” Delaware SPCA got out of animal control contracts for services in the City of Wilmington and statewide several years ago.

But another Delaware shelter, First State Animal Center/Kent County SPCA, located in Camden, DE –which currently holds statewide contracts for animal control—plans to bid on the Cecil County MD contract, Kevin Usilton, the group’s executive director, told Cecil Times on Monday.

“Our board has voted to respond” to the RFP in Cecil County, Usilton said, adding that he had not yet seen the RFP that was issued last Friday. The group’s board also voted over a month ago to terminate its contracts with the three counties in Delaware and Wilmington as of mid-September, saying that a new state plan to take over animal control with state employees was poorly planned. The group also declared that it would not bid on housing stray animals for the state after state employees captured strays.

But late Monday, Usilton said, he emailed Delaware officials and offered to continue animal control services in that state for about a year, until 7/1/2016. (The Cecil County RFP calls for services here to begin 1/1/16, meaning there would be an overlap of six months when First State would be housing both Cecil and Delaware strays.)

Asked if he had been contacted by Cecil County officials, and why his group would consider animal control in Maryland when it wanted to get out of such services in its home state, Usilton replied, “I’ve been in contact a few times with the Cecil County administration for issues or support for animal control over the last year.” He said no county officials had toured his group’s Camden facility. He said the problems in Delaware were caused by state and local politics.

But he said his group’s long term plan is to get out of all animal control-related services and renovate its facility to provide doggie daycare, boarding, grooming and related services in addition to adoptions of dogs and cats. He said he expected those renovation projects could be undertaken even while temporarily performing animal control services for local governments.

Usilton said his group would obtain a “satellite” facility in Cecil County where strays would be held for the required “holding period” and then transferred to the Camden facility or offered to rescue groups.

If Cecil County purchased a building, or First State rented a site, for use as a ‘satellite’ center, it could be relatively small since Moore has proposed, in separate legislation to the County Council, to reduce the current county paid holding period from eight days to just five days—so animals would be transported out of the state rather quickly. In addition, Cecil County zoning law currently allows a dog kennel to be located “by right” in any “business general” location—a fact that drew strong opposition from nearby residents of a private Appleton Road kennel that has since shut down.

Usilton said his group has an average of 350 animals in its care on any given day right now, with some housed at a rented 22-space kennel in Newark during their ‘holding period.’ The Camden facility has 88 dog kennels and 80 cat cages, although “pop up crates” are used for dogs if needed.

So for a resident of Port Deposit, it would mean about a 70 mile drive, and perhaps a toll on Del. Route 1, to look for a lost dog after the five day hold.

According to the county’s RFP documents, any final contract initiated by the county executive would be subject to County Council review and a vote on whether to approve the contract, with a projected date of 12/1/2015 for final Council action.

In the current Fiscal 2016 budget, County Council President Robert Hodge (R-5) initiated a $60,000 spending cut for animal control, to $660,000, down from the previous $720,000 a year paid to the Buddies. But since the old County Commissioners board approved a three-year contract, from 1/1/13 through 12/31/15, the Buddies are still getting their full $60,000 a month payments from the county for half of this fiscal year.

As a result, any successful bidder on the new RFP will only have $50,000 a month available for the last six months of the budget year—unless the county executive were to seek County Council approval of a budget amendment to increase the line item spending for animal control. However, the RFP provides for another 12-months of services in Fiscal 2017, for which no county budget has yet been developed.

The RFP is a bit like a smorgasbord of various options, providing that bidders could bid on full animal control and animal sheltering/adoption services or break it up into just a bid on animal control (capture or intake of strays or owner surrendered animals) or just a bid on housing the animals captured by someone else and also providing services at an “Adoption Center.” And there is also the option for someone to sell a building to the county for use as an animal control facility. The RFP doesn’t make clear how someone could bid for providing shelter staffing and services at a county-owned facility.

Indeed, the RFP sets up strict standards on who can bid for the contract, with required in place licenses, facilities and employees– rules that indicate a volunteer-based rescue group wouldn’t stand much of a chance of success. When the Buddy for Life group was awarded a three year contract worth over $2.24 million in late 2012, it was a Delaware foster group with no shelter, no employees and a pittance in its bank account. The county even gave them $10,000 in start up money on top of their $60,000 a month fee and purchased two trucks for them. The group operated for nearly a year without a required state license and was fined by the state for that violation.

During their tenure as the county’s contractor, the Buddies have repeatedly refused to answer questions about the “rescue” side of their operations, telling members of an Animal Care and Control Oversight Commission that anything that happened after the eight-day county hold period was none of their business. The group’s contract specified that county funds were not to be used to support the “rescue” and adoption activities. Moore recently disbanded the oversight commission and is asking the County Council to replace it with an “advisory board” controlled by senior county government officials.
[ SEE CECIL TIMES report here: ]

But the new RFP suggests the county, or at least someone in the administration, wants to be able to track everything the contractor does with animals even after the county-paid five day hold. The 44 page document also demands that “Only animals that were impounded at the Animal Control Center location under the county’s ordinances will be placed in the Adoption Center.” How that requirement would apply to an out-of-state contractor, mixing Cecil County animals with Delaware animals at its facility, is unclear.

That level of micromanagement also fails to reflect common realities in the animal rescue and shelter community—for example, a suburban Washington shelter in need of small dogs for apartment dwellers might transfer a large Chesapeake Bay Retriever to Cecil County where such dogs are beloved and will easily find an appropriate home, while a Cecil shelter might reciprocate by sending a small dog to that suburban facility.

The RFP also insists that the contractor estimate, by month, how much revenue it might receive from adoption fees paid by families for a dog or cat from the shelter and demands that such adoption fees be used to “offset the costs of providing Animal Control services” to the county. That provision apparently would apply no matter how long the shelter had cared for an animal or what medical care it needed, all paid for by the shelter itself, after the five-day county paid period .

The RFP also mandates that all animals must be spayed/neutered and microchipped before adoption. But the county would not provide money to pay for such services.

In a discussion of Moore’s legislation sent to the County Council on Friday to convert the ACCOC into an advisory panel and to reduce the county-paid holding period from 8 to 5 days, Jason Allison, the county attorney, seemed particularly pleased by provisions in the separate RFP that would allow the county to track an animal’s history, such as adoption and what family or rescue group might have taken custody of a dog or cat, even years down the road from the five-day period of the county-paid care. (In a Facebook post at the time of an incident involving Girl Scouts who were allegedly subjected to racial slurs after an ACCOC meeting, Allison defended the current contractor and said his mother was a member of PETA, a controversial national animal rights group. That and other posts were subsequently deleted and Allison was given a “reprimand,” Hodge told the County Council at the time.)

The RFP also specifies the type of employees a contractor must have, and for the sheltering/adoption center side requires a “customer service” employee. The document projects that volunteers will provide the bulk of direct animal care, such as cleaning kennels and feeding animals.

The document also requires that a contractor accept cats on a “space available” basis but requires housing a minimum of 60 cats. The Buddies’ contract only requires 40 cats.

Responses to the RFP will be reviewed by an unnamed panel of senior county employees. And the document sets a 7-point priority list of which cost is only one factor, equally weighed with other points such as “availability of key personnel,” “qualifications of key personnel,” “relevant project experience,” “project approach,” “schedule,” and “financial responsibility.”

The county is looking for the “best value” and not necessarily the lowest cost for taxpayers, the document noted.

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8 Responses to Animal Control: Cecil County May Buy Shelter Building, Govt. to Regulate Adoptions; Delaware Shelter to Bid on Contract

  1. Dawn George on August 3, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    Well Tari Moore and company have lied again. I emailed her and her misfits 4 weeks ago that I had found out that Cecil County asked Usilton to bid on the contract. He is bad news. First of all, he is a Kill Shelter. Well, since we know Allison is a PETA person, I guess that won’t matter since PETA was outed and found that they had killed all cats/kittens they supposedly rescued. Usilton is also known to shelter hop and he has dropped contracts if he didn’t get his way.

    Why should any of this surprise us? By keeping animal control hidden from public view, we can not complain. But her [RFP] has many legal questions. She thinks we are not intelligent enough to see what she is doing?

    You know, I am truly glad that when that story about the girl scouts went viral, that I was able to educate people across the country that the abusers were not Cecil County residents. They were from Delaware and had no clue how to run a shelter. I told them that our county government has covered up atrocities by the Buddies and that no written media was covering anything, except the Cecil Times! They found stories from this online source and tweeted them out. I told these people that it was tragic for the animals in the counties care but as the saying goes, if you abuse animals there is a direct link you will abuse children as well. It is truly sad but uplifting that people from Arizona, Wisconsin, Mississpi, California felt our pain about the fight we have been up against for nearly 3 years and the fact that our county government has NEVER supported any county resident whether we were fired or threatened…

    However, my two year plan is to continue to do what any person that loves animals will do. Seek justice for what has had happened and will continue to happen unless a proper rescue is opened in this county without county funding. Although I do believe that the revenue from all the county dog licenses should be used to offer low cost spay/neuter and vaccines especially for our cat crisis thanks to the lack of education by the Buddies about this. But then again, when Carletti took cats out of the county code, she effectively took care of that “problem that they would be responsible for.”

    As far as Allison, let us just say that words will haunt him soon. The fact he attacked me on Facebook is safely stored with a group of individuals who have been consistently floored by the county– but for an attorney to make the remarks he did? Hodge is not innocent in what he knows about the “lost dogs” Right after Delegate Rudolph met with Moore last summer with a list of everything that has been happening and the fact that I and several other citizens began emailing Moore to please sever the county contract and sent in alot of ideas for the county to do what was right for the abuse and neglect we had witnessed and still have visiins of. She turned down every plan. When I started to mention the rotating Facebook dog circus occurring monthly he knew and laughed. I told him I was not amused. He wanted me to email him a list of plans, ideas, grants. I told him to go over and ask Moore for a copy. The remainder of my two years before I leave this county, that has been trashed by comments around the nation, I plan to start to make sure that Moore, Hodge and every person involved in this reign of terror is made known…

  2. Mike R on August 7, 2015 at 5:54 pm

    Well let the games begin! Looks like a replay of the last animal control RFP. Any animal control authority is dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t. It matters not what the facts are, it’s all about one’s perception of the responsibilities of the program. No animal control can save each and every animal that comes thru their door, not even Buddys 4 Life. There are not enough homes and not enough money to save them all.

    In addition, knowingly placing a questionable animal back out in the public is unconscionable, but yet some people will scream and complain if it isn’t done. It also puzzles me that a vendor for animal control is treated differently than a vendor bidding to build a bridge or pave a driveway. Looking thru other RFPs on the county website, what other vendor needs to provide the kind of intrusive and detailed information required for this contract. It’s no wonder that the county is not to be trusted.

  3. Jeannette H on August 8, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I read this article,the various facebook pages, the Whig regarding the changes from a commission to an animal control advisory group. I must ask why so much of taxpayer money has to be spent on animal control? I’ve said this before, this is not rocket science. I do realize it is very charged with emotion especially from those individuals who feel every animal should live regardless of how sick or vicious they might be.

    To impose on any business, contracting to do a job, the restrictions that are proposed for animal control is not a financially sound practice. You are tying their hands before they even start. When an animal discussion takes place, all reasonable decisions are criticized. When you are in animal control operations, the county needs to realize they cannot and never will make everyone happy. There would be no need for animal control if people took responsibility for their animals. The problem is not with any animal control agency but with the county residents who don’t do what needs to be done for their animals.

    Instead of putting the blame on the animal control workers which seems so easy to do, put the blame where it belongs, on the owners who do not take care of their animals and on the animal fanatics who think it is far better to have feral cat colonies all over the place rather than humanely euthanize wild animals that carry life-threatening diseases. The responsibility must fall on the owners and caretakers and not the taxpayers.

    It really doesn’t matter who takes over animal control, the same people will be spewing out similar complaints no matter how well the contractor takes care of the animals. If it is not one complaint, it will be another, always is and always has been. Why county government is buying into this circus is difficult to understand. Just put out an RFP like any of your other RFP’s; there should be no discrimination, and there should certainly not be so much county government employee involvement. Doesn’t this county waste enough money as it is, without adding to the cost with high paid government employees running this circus?

  4. Donna Moore on August 10, 2015 at 12:22 pm

    I concur with Jeannette H. This county has spent unnecessary time and money trying to appease all of the animal fanatics in this county and those who don’t even live in Cecil County. Tari Moore should know by now, that you will never please everyone and that she should be more concerned about the taxpayers of this county than some animal activists and some politicians. This county never abandoned the good old boy mentality and neither has Tari Moore. It blows my mind to think that Buddy’s is renting a kennel owned by a former circuit court judge Dexter Thompson and his wife for an ungodly monthly rental. I guess fiscal responsibility does not play a part when you have to help your old cronies. That kennel could never have netted that kind of profit as a boarding facility and we all know it. Most county residents are not stupid to the political games being played by this administration.

  5. Barbara Wald on August 13, 2015 at 11:36 am

    Fiscal responsibility is the theme at all levels of government. Having read thru the RFP on line, I can say with authority that this request is loaded with unnecessary additional costs for the county. Cecil County taxpayers are fed up with all the costs associated with animal control. Animals are the responsibility of the owners and their caregivers, not the taxpayer. How can county government argue that oversight as spelled out in the request, at a hefty price tag if you extrapolate the salaries of those county employees who will be assigned to this advisory board, is going to change the mentality of those who neglect their animals? What qualifications in animal husbandry and care do these government employees have to provide advice?

    Common sense tells me that no organization who handles animals will ever satisfy everyone. It’s not the animal rights activists that Tari Moore needs to placate, it’s the taxpayers who pay her salary. Anyone that expects any rescue or animal control facility to save each and every animal that is surrendered is living in some other stratosphere. It can’t be done for public safety reasons. And we want fiscal responsibility, and not a bunch of smoke and mirrors.

  6. Dan B on August 13, 2015 at 11:51 am

    With all the media publishing of the changes coming to animal control, I can only say that what has been available on the county website looks like a county government micromanaging an outside vendor. Do you really think this brings forth your best candidates? Someone in county government needs a refresher in business relations and finance 101. It appears that animal rights activists take precedent over county taxpayers. It’s quite obvious that the majority of comments for this “no kill” mandate is coming from individuals outside the county and even the state.

    If county government is now going to micromanage the placement of animals, I would be concerned about privacy issues if my family adopted an animal– will the government look over my adoption application and gather a lot of information about my house, my family, etc. How will they use that information?

    • Mike R on August 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Good point Dan B. More and more intrusion into our private lives, doesn’t the federal government do enough of it without county government having to know even something as personal as adopting a dog or cat. Our constitutional rights are being invaded from all directions and our tax dollars wasted yet again by Tari Moore and her highly paid entourage.

  7. M Wilson on August 23, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    I am shaking my head on this. Aren’t we trying to promote jobs and economic development in Cecil County? Why should Cecil County taxpayers subsidize a very far away Delaware operation, especially when our citizens would have to drive nearly two hours to get to a southern Delaware place to look for our lost dogs?

    So maybe Tari Moore is thinking out of sight, out of mind, and that no one from Cecil County will drive two hours to see what is really going on there? I think that is what is really going on. Shame on you, Mrs. Moore!

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