Updated: Apr 16
Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control, a nonprofit volunteer group that supports animals at the shelter in Millersville, says it has often had to step in for basic needs for the animals at the county shelter. Even during the current emergency, shelter staff and volunteers from the group are devoting themselves to taking care of animals in need.
In a phone interview March 17, friends board member Chris Weinstein was driving to the shelter to help staff as a volunteer. She said the shelter continued to accept visitors, but by appointment only. They are also looking for more people willing to offer foster care for dogs and cats in case of an influx of pets to the shelter. Their concern was that, since people are sticking close to home, not as many residents may be willing to adopt animals.
“We're also working very hard to get more foster's for the shelter. Because it's an open access shelter It can't stop taking animals. So if adoptions slow down because of the fact that people aren’t out and about so much we need to get fosters lined up in case they start to reach capacity in the shelter. They have not for many years had to euthanize for lack of space, but we don't want that to happen now.”
Beyond the current crisis, the Friends group has argued for more funding to the shelter. It has found county funding to be significantly lacking.
During the county executive’s Budget Town Hall series earlier this year the group had been calling out the county for what it said is a shortage of funding for care for the animals.
In 2018 alone, 1,246 animals were adopted and 823 pets were reunited with their owners through the shelter in Millersville.
“In just over five years time, Friends has pumped over $300,000 into the shelter,” said the group’s president Lisa Ingram during the county executive’s District Two Budget Town Hall at Old Mill High School in Millersville on January 16.
“We spent countless hours raising donations, because if we don't, helpless, innocent pets will die. Period. Some of the things we cover for the shelter are so basic that it's appalling, like vet care and food. Thank heaven for our supporters because their donations translate into beating hearts.”
One of the friends group board members, Jaci Kyle, stated at the same meeting that the county had reduced the shelter animals’ food budget from $18,000 to $10,000 last year as the nonprofit stepped in to supply more than $17,000 of purchased and donated food.
“Friends was created to enhance the shelter's abilities to provide excellent care for its animals,” she said. “Not to pay for such basic county responsibilities as feeding them.”
The nonprofit group made the case for better shelter funding at every one of the seven budget town halls, Weinstein said.
County executive Steuart Pittman did offer some support for some help to the infrastructure of the shelter at one of the later meetings, she said.
“The dog cage fronts here are very rusty and actually dangerous, both to visitors and to the dogs,” she said. “Well, the county executive agreed with that. So even though we're talking at these hearings about next fiscal year's budget, he just announced last night that they're going to take some money to get those cages fixed. This is really great.”
Pittman confirmed that this office had made room in the upcoming proposed budget for the project in a February 10 Facebook post. He said he had visited the shelter himself recently and also posted several photos of him socializing with the animals. It is unclear how the current emergency may affect those plans.
“While the FY21 Budget is still in the works, I'm pleased to announce that we'll be able to provide funding within the current year to address their most urgent problem, the replacement of the dangerous rusty dog cage doors,” he wrote last month in the post.
It is not known how the current emergency may impact that expected allocation.
Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control was started five years ago by shelter volunteers who often devote many hours to the care of the animals. Weinstein said there are about 50 active members. She normally volunteers up to 100 hours a month.
“I know it's crazy.,” she said regarding the time commitment. “My husband thinks I'm crazy, too.”
Care for the abandoned, abused and neglected pets that come in is a personal mission for the volunteers. Once in a while it can even become a mission that comes home with them to be part of the family.
“I have a dog that came from here,” Weinstein said. “She had her shoulder shattered and we fostered her. My husband's the big softy with her. (She’s a) pit bull. And then, we were never ever going to have cats again--we have three.”
Although the occasional lucky shelter dog or cat may be adopted by a volunteer, the shelter relies on public adoption and increasingly on vetted rescue partners to find additional care for the animals. These 200 different animal rescue organizations that animal care & control works with allow for improved screening of potential adopters while freeing up some space at the county shelter.
“It's another way to get out other than just adoption,” Weinstein said. “Most of them are foster- based, so the dogs or cats live at home with someone. Some of them are very specific, like to a particular breed of dog. Some of them were for cats. There's even ones for ferrets and mice and all sorts of things like that.”
These partnerships have relieved some of the strain on the shelter. The friends group however, is always looking for ways to improve the conditions for the animals under their care. They see quite a bit of room for improvement.
Other requests to the county that they have made include staffing both a rescue coordinator and full-time veterinarian, increased office staff for screening and customer service, an animal behavioral coordinator and additional animal care and control officers and dispatchers.
According to a statement put out by the group and made available at the District Two budget town hall, Friends of Anne Arundel County Animal Care & Control spent almost $55.000 on veterinarian care on the animals last year, even after receiving sharply discounted rates from the doctors because the $15,000 the county had allowed for medical services was quickly swallowed by expenses.
In the statement they also argue that the county’s $42,000 annual budget for medical supplies was not enough. The county does not have funds for flea and tick treatments, heartworm or kennel cough treatment for the animals.
“Friends has spent almost $37,000 on medications, including $25,000 on flea/tick medications alone,” it reads.
Weinstein said the budget for animal care & control is under the county police department and that it is two percent of that budget.
“It's heart wrenching to know that one of the richest counties in the country does not provide enough funds for its shelter to help a puppy with a broken leg, or treat a cat with dental disease, or save a pet which has been hit by a car,” Ingram said at the Millersville meeting. “If it weren't for Friends all these dear pets would be euthanized.”
To make an appointment to look, adopt, reclaim, or learn about fostering a pet call 410-222-3919 or email ACCFrontDesk@aacounty.org.
To report a found pet call 410-222-3939 or write P93505@aacounty.org
To give up a pet or for euthanizing your pet call 410-222-3894 or email ACCIncome@aacounty.org