Are New Animal Shelters the Answer to Baltimore’s Pet Problems?

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photo via ACLU Maryland
photo via ACLU Maryland

With overcrowding and claims of high kill rates mounting at Baltimore animal shelters, a pair of pols who represent separate areas have come to a similar answer for the problem: Build new shelters. Still, money and current practices could stand in the way of true reform. 

In Baltimore City, the BARCS shelter takes in more pets than they can handle. As a result, the shelter is forced to put down 23 percent of the animals they take in, director Jennifer Brause told the Baltimore Sun. That’s down from the 98 percent kill rate the city had 30 years ago, but the overcrowding is still getting the pols wagging.

That led City Councilman Robert W. Curran to call for a new animal shelter to be built at a session this week. Curran acknowledged that it would likely take three years to come up with enough money to build a new shelter. Meanwhile, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said all options remained on the table for a new space, including perhaps turning a vacant building into a shelter.

For their part, Baltimore County is also being forced to address animal shelter issues after the ACLU raised concerns about the Baltimore County Animal Services shelter’s no-picture policy. The ACLU action added to past complaints about inhumane treatment at the Baldwin shelter, including high kill rates and facilities that weren’t clean and causing animals to get sick. Citizens staged protests outside the shelter earlier this year.

The solution offered by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz also sounds a lot like the City counterpart. According to CBS Baltimore, plans are in the works to build a new $6 million facility that’s twice the size of the current shelter.

But big questions remain as to whether a new building will solve the problems. Six months ago, the advocacy group Reform Baltimore County Animal Services filed a list of concerns. Some, such as cleaning policies and developing better relations with the community and a call to “Hire qualified and compassionate personnel,” weren’t necessarily aimed at facilities issues.

Kamenetz told CBS Baltimore the County and sought to upgrade adoption practices. Earlier this year, they hired Dr. Leslie Sinclair, a full-time veterinarian who directs the shelter’s operations.

But advocate Lynn Green of Reform Baltimore County Animal Services was not convinced.

“I’m not saying I don’t like the building,” she told the station. “I’m saying that a new building is not enough to save lives.”

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