Cecil County Animal Control: Trappers,Buddies, SPCA Interested; Delaware Group Arrives Late as DE Crisis Looms

August 26, 2015

Cecil County officials hosted a mandatory meeting on Tuesday for groups or individuals interested in bidding on a new contract to provide animal control services, as it was disclosed that the county is interested in using government employees to apprehend strays while contracting out the housing of animals privately.

At the same time, a Delaware group—First State Animal Center/Kent County (DE) SPCA—got in seconds under the wire, as the meeting was being adjourned, to get its name on a list of attendees. County officials had said that unless a potential vendor attended the meeting and signed the attendance list, they would be barred from bidding. But while the group is considering getting into animal control in Cecil County, it is embroiled in controversy in its home state, with the result that a Pennsylvania group is about to take over animal control in Delaware.

Jason Allison, the county attorney, said at the meeting that the county was “looking for an option” that might just provide a private shelter operation to house animals, so “then the county could consider bringing the animal control function in house.”

For over a year, County Executive Tari Moore, Allison, and Al Wein, the director of administration, have visited multiple government-operated animal control services. But county officials had previously downplayed the prospect of a government-run operation here, citing potential costs. (In the Upper Shore region covering Cecil County, the highest per capita costs of animal control services for many years have been logged by the only local government-run system, in Queen Anne’s County.)

The county’s “request for proposals” (RFP) did not specify a potential option for government-run animal control but it did include the option that someone might sell the county a building to house animals. The RFP also provides options for a bidder to offer animal capture services solely, or to offer animal housing/shelter services only, or both animal control/capture and animal sheltering services.

Animal control services in Cecil County are currently operated under a three-year contract, which expires 12/31/15, with A Buddy for Life, Inc., which rents a kennel in Elkton from retired county Circuit Court Judge Dexter Thompson and his wife for $15,000 a month. The Buddy group’s overall contract costs taypayers over $2.24 million, including $720,000 in direct fees per year plus county-purchased vehicles and equipment.

Three representatives from the Buddies attended the RFP meeting. Also attending were representatives of the Cecil County SPCA/Eastern Shore Animal League, which had held the county contract for decades before the Three Amigos majority of the old County Commissioners board picked the Buddy group and extended an 18-month RFP to a three-year contract in the final hours of the commissioner board’s existence.

An animal trapper/pest management business owner, William Gale, of Wildlife Damage Control in Chestertown, inquired about requirements for providing medical care for stray animals, saying, “Are you going to have to pay $10,000 to repair a dog… if you get ten of them that’s $100,000.”

Gale was accompanied by Tim Lloyd of Chestertown, who was employed by the Cecil County SPCA more than 15 years ago as an animal control officer and was an unsuccessful county commissioner candidate in Kent County.

Representatives of two boarding kennels in the county also attended the meeting while members of Chesapeake Feline Association, which has a zoning case pending to operate a cat shelter in a house and outbuilding, inquired if they could bid just on services to cats. Wein and Allison said that the animal ordinance applies primarily to dogs and a vendor would have to provide services to dogs, although a vendor seeking to shelter animals would have to have space for up to 60 cats.

Tammy Pollard, a local animal welfare activist, asked if the planned contract would separate out the county funds from the activities of the rescue or shelter housing animals. Wein replied that it was understood that there would be “some subsidy for the rescue and adoptions” of animals in the context of overall animal control services.

As the meeting was about to be adjourned, a woman wearing an animal control officer’s uniform suddenly appeared and signed the required attendance list, writing “Lt. Hollett, representative for First State” and also wrote “K. Usilton.”

Kevin Usilton, who was not present at the meeting, is the executive director of First State Animal Center/Kent County (DE) SPCA. In a previous interview with Cecil Times, Usilton said his Camden, DE based group planned to bid on the Cecil County RFP. [SEE Cecil Times exclusive report on the animal control RFP and First State’s intentions here: http://ceciltimes.com/2015/08/animal-control-cecil-county-may-buy-shelter-building-govt-to-regulate-adoptions-delaware-shelter-to-bid-on-contract/ ]

The potential for a Delaware-based group to bid on animal control services in Cecil County, MD took on an odd twist this week, as First State’s unilateral cancellations of current contracts it has with the three counties and the City of Wilmington have brought about the entry of a Pennsylvania-based group to take over services in Delaware.

The Chester County (PA) SPCA has signed a contract with the City of Wilmington while Kent County (DE) is expected to do the same this week– apparently after rejecting an offer from First State to temporarily resume its animal control services statewide until next summer, if the local governments would come up with another $780,000 in fees to cover bonuses, severance pay and unemployment compensation for its animal control staff. The state of Delaware is taking over animal control from the counties but is looking to contract out housing of animals to private shelters. First State has declined to bid on future housing of Delaware strays apprehended by the new state animal control officers.

[SEE News-Journal article on Pennsylvania takeover of animal control, First State issue here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/2015/08/20/chester-spca-take-wilmington-animal-control/32084115/?fb_action_ids=999992620053266&fb_action_types=og.comments&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B1195580370467830%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.comments%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D

In his previous interview with Cecil Times, Usilton said his organization has no long term interest in providing animal control services anywhere and is looking to get funds to renovate its Camden, DE facility so as to provide doggie daycare, boarding and other services to pet owners and animal adopters. Usilton also said he had been in conversations with Cecil County government officials during the past year about “animal control” issues.

Meanwhile, Wein said there were some inconsistencies or questions that have come to light in the local RFP and there will likely be amendments made to the document before the October 1 deadline for vendors to submit bids.

Also attending the RFP meeting was a Harford County resident, David Fang, who said he was a former president of the Harford Humane Society. The Harford County government is now spending more than $6 million in taxpayer funds to build a new shelter for the Harford Humane Society, to house animals under a contract with the county government, which also has its own employees to apprehend strays.

In an interview with Cecil Times, he said he was interested in, but undecided about, offering services here. He acknowledged he has no ties or connections in Cecil, has no established organization that could offer services and no location at which to house animals. He said he was not interested in the animal control/capture aspects.

Although he has no local connections, he said he had recent discussions about animal services with Wein and Allison and in the past with Richard Brooks, the county’s emergency services director who was a member of a panel that recommended awarding a contract to the Buddy group.

In contrast to the local government conversations with out of state and out of county people regarding animal control, sources said that Moore never responded to a letter from the Cecil County SPCA/Eastern Shore Animal League last summer when the group offered to help house animals at its Chesapeake City facility after County Councilor Alan McCarthy (R-1), who is a licensed veterinarian, complained about conditions he described as a “mess” at the Buddies rented shelter.

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11 Responses to Cecil County Animal Control: Trappers,Buddies, SPCA Interested; Delaware Group Arrives Late as DE Crisis Looms

  1. Mike R on August 26, 2015 at 12:44 pm

    As I’m reading both the Cecil Whig and your articles, one has to say you just can’t make this stuff up. How bizarre that the tri-state area is playing chess with its animal control services. While we read about the turmoil within Delaware with First State Animal Services formerly Kent County SPCA and its intent of dropping all animal control services within its state to renovate and open a boarding, day care, grooming, etc. facility, suddenly they are interested in Cecil County? Why?

    The fact that Delaware is looking to Pennsylvania for services tells us that Usilton is only looking to Cecil Co for a short term money making deal to enhance his coffers for his renovation project.

    This County needs to invest in Cecil County and not the neighboring counties/state. Although from Queen Tari Moore’s perspective, having an out of county vendor may give her the feeling that out of sight, out of mind. What better way to get rid of the animal control problem but farm it out of state or out of county.

    Now knowing who the bidders might be, I only see two vendors which should be serious contenders and with that said, the existing vendor being one of them is certainly questionable considering the conditions the animals are forced to live in. The other viable contender is the former Cecil County SPCA which has been so wrongly accused of abuse and neglect in the past, but were cleared of all allegations.

    We all know that you can’t make everyone happy when it comes to animals. but interestingly enough, even the animal rights group PETA has a proven history of killing cats and dogs. At least the SPCA does not have a record of putting aggressive dogs out for adoption or foster as does the Buddy group.

  2. Donna Moore on August 27, 2015 at 10:47 am

    The ongoing drama concerning animal control leaves me speechless. Has Cecil County not learned its lesson yet by dealing with outsiders who were ill equipped and experienced in handling animal control? Obviously and ultimately it is the animal owners that are irresponsible in caring and maintaining their animals according to the ordinance as written, but this costly process is weighing thin on Cecil County taxpayers who are watching and paying the freight.

    The Kent County Delaware SPCA or now known as First State Animal Center is in breach of contract with the State of Delaware; Chester Co. Pa. SPCA is currently being sued by Delaware Co. Pa animal control and yet is going to contract with the State of Delaware for animal control services because the Kent Co. Delaware group is miffed at the State of Delaware and unwilling, without a boat load of additional monies, to continue handling animal control in its own state.

    Why would it even consider bidding on Cecil County animal control when it is clearly not abiding to its current contract? And as noted, they technically did not attend the pre-bid meeting since a representative for Ken Usilton showed up and signed in just as the meeting was ending. Do you see a pattern here?

    Cecil County government needs to contract with a long standing Cecil County organization and stop wasting our taxpayer money by attempting to contract piece meal a service which it fully intends to continue. These are tumultuous times, animal control needs to be simplified, not farmed out piece meal. Even though this is only an 18 month contract, continuity for the future is essential for a successful service.

    Forget the animal rights/PETA type whackos from within your own organization as well as out of state and county, and concentrate on what is reasonable. They are not the ones paying your government salaries – Cecil County taxpayers are! The 2016 elections can’t come soon enough. Tari Moore you should clearly consider your options for the next election and retire from county government. Your performance is short of stellar.

  3. Jeannette H on August 27, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    So which one is it? Did Allison let the cat out of the bag by stating that the county was really considering bringing animal control in house– and is the county just looking for animal housing to contract out? If indeed they are bringing that function in house, why not be up front about it instead of wasting vendors time in preparing a bid for the complete package?

    Is this another Tari Moore smokes and mirrors? Which one is it Tari, AL and Jason– the entire package or not? Taxpayers want to know, because we don’t trust the three of you.

  4. Joe C on August 27, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I have two questions for now; Will the new vendor be a “no-kill” facility or a slaughterhouse at weeks end? What is the transition plan when one contract ends and the new one starts? This needs to be in place before awarding new contract.

    • Jeannette H on August 27, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      You obviously did not read the RFP. Government is micromanaging this entire process. It’s all spelled out.

      • Joe C on August 30, 2015 at 9:26 pm

        Glad that they covered it all!

      • F G Moody III on September 4, 2015 at 11:57 am

        I have not read the RFP. What is the answer to the question?

        Let me say that I advocate a quick kill approach to animals presenting a risk to public health or safety. The definition of risk to public health or safety must be defined by ordinance. Perhaps if an owner is unable to present proof of a current rabies vaccination that would, by definition, be proof of a risk to public health or safety.

        Humane placement of animals is a noble cause, but should not be done using tax dollars.

        Before anyone becomes upset by my apparent callous position toward animals, allow me to say that I see too many people having genuine, heartbreaking, unfulfilled needs for us to fail to distinguish between animal control and humane treatment of unwanted pets or feral domesticated animals.

  5. M Wilson on August 27, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Am I reading this right? Tari Moore and her senior staff have all the time in the world to talk to a guy from Harford County with no organization, no shelter location, no plan, etc. and a guy from Delaware who has cancelled contracts in his home state and says he does not want to do animal control for the long term anywhere?

    But Tari Moore can’t be bothered to even reply to a local Cecil County shelter with a large facility in our county that handled animal control for years with no problems other than the lies by the disgraced, booted out of office Delegate Smigiel?

    Maybe someone needs to educagte Mrs. Moore that the Three Amigos are gone, Smigiel is a joke who local voters dumped, and the Smipkin organization is now DEAD! What is she afraid of?

  6. Mike R on August 27, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Joe C, since you were such a supporter of the 3 amigos, who brokered this 3 year deal with the pitbull rescue, you should educate yourself as to what “no kill” really means. It doesn’t mean you keep every cat and dog alive at any cost. Viscious, aggressive dogs and cats should be humanely euthanized and not fostered or adopted out for the safety of the public. It is also not the taxpayers responsibility to provide costly vet care to a severely injured or sick cat or dog. That is not considered “slaughter”.

    • Joe C on August 30, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      I agree with your assessment of when to humanely euthanize animals, hopefully this will be done with drugs and not bullets.

      • Ronald Demmler on August 31, 2015 at 2:24 pm

        You’re dead both ways, but I do not believe it was ever proven that the shelter used that method. In fact, the person making the accusation to using bullets to kill recanted her story saying she made it all up.

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