Cumberland Times-News

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July 16, 2012

Disease situation at shelter typical, sporadic

Manager answers policy questions

CUMBERLAND — After reading accusations about conditions at the Allegany County Animal Shelter by a former volunteer and concerns about the situation voiced by Delegate Kevin Kelly, you might think the Allegany County animal shelter is ravaged by disease.

Actually, so far this has been a good summer for the animals at the shelter, with only limited disease issues so far, said shelter manager Karl Brubaker.

Summer would typically be the most likely time for a shelter to have disease outbreaks, Brubaker said.

“Right now things are actually very good. We’ve had sporadic episodes of parvo (parvo virus) over the past few months,” Brubaker said. There have also been a few instances of upper respiratory infections among cats.

The shelter is open and accepting animals, although Brubaker asks people to be patient and drop off animals at the shelter only if there is no alternative, since summer is the shelter’s busiest time of year.

Cats are kept in crates, but only until spaces in the regular cages open up, shelter workers have said.

“Of the 1,300 cats we get a year, about half of them are within a three month window,” said Brubaker. That three month window is now, he said.

The alternative would be to euthanize the cats because of the space issues. The slaughter of thousands of animals to keep space in the shelter open, when it came to public attention over the past two years, “outraged” many people, Brubaker said.

A big part of the shelter’s space problem is that “it was not built to do what we are trying to do,” that is, save as many animals as possible, Brubaker said.

“It was built to hold animals 96 hours and then euthanize them,” Brubaker said.

The current building “fights against us every day,” Brubaker said. He said the best chance for change is a new facility.

And that facility is being planned right now.

The Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation is in the process of planning and continuing fundraising for a new county animal shelter.

The cost of the new shelter will be paid for with private donations.

Once the new facility is in place, the foundation will oversee the shelter with county support.

Founded in 2000, the Allegany County Animal Shelter Management Foundation has worked with the county to improve the lives of animals at the shelter by providing support and services, especially money.

The facility is projected to cost $1 million, county officials have said.

Contrary to some criticism, Brubaker said the animal control officers do respond to calls, but that limited staffing means calls have to be prioritized.

Calls dealing with sick, injured and aggressive animals are handled as soon as an officer is available. Control officers will not respond after hours when calls are for a dog running loose but not causing any problems, he said.

Kelly has called for some sort of inspection of the animal shelter by the Humane Society of the United States or another organization.

However, animal shelters in Maryland have no oversight organization, and some people believe the Humane Society, which focuses in Maryland on legislative issues, is the proper organization to do any inspection.

In Virginia, for instance, the state veterinarian’s office does yearly inspections of animal shelters.

“I would like to respond to the proposal of inspection, and just note that if something like this is put in place, I implore you not to use the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS is first and foremost a lobbying and marketing organization. Only 0.5 percent of their yearly budget actually goes to shelters who are working directly with their community’s animals. My main concern with HSUS comes from personal experience in which I went undercover for the organization to investigate neglect and abuse,” said Jodi Sweitzer, a local animal welfare activist. Sweitzer said the humane society did nothing with the information she provided.

Kelly’s attempt to intervene at the animal shelter, including calls for an inspection, has stirred controversy of its own, including a response by Peter Masloch on his blog.

Masloch, now an employee with the shelter, believes the information provided to Kelly was inaccurate.

For Masloch’s full blog post on the controversy, visit: http://nokillallegany.wordpress.com/2012/07/15/how-a-delegate-from-allegany-coun ty-got-framed/

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