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Barking up the wrong tree?

City Paper recently ran an article about the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) (“Barking Mad,” Feature, June 29). The Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is a partner with BARCS in the Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance (along with Baltimore Humane Society and Baltimore City Animal Control), whose mission is to work together to save animals’ lives. We are proud to collaborate with BARCS. They have made so much progress over the years and have such challenging work to do. Our alliance works together by doing joint events (spay and neuter) and by transporting pets in need of adoption. Each group plays a different role, but, the end mission is the same: to save lives.

Much of the article was spent on fundraising, which is a new program at BARCS and takes time to build. Quite honestly, as someone who works and lives in Baltimore City, it concerns me that my city government has decided that this municipal function won’t be adequately funded and is forced to fundraise at all. The role of BARCS and Baltimore City Animal Control is about public safety for all of Baltimore’s citizens, which is definitely a government role. In animal welfare, more is accomplished by individuals and groups coming together, like our alliance. The Maryland SPCA is proud to be a partner with BARCS in our alliance and encourages our community to help its animal shelters: volunteer, donate, encourage proper government funding for groups like BARCS, spay and neuter our pets, and always adopt from a shelter.

Aileen Gabbey
Executive director, Maryland SPCA

The ire in your article about the Baltimore Animal Care and Rescue Shelter is completely misdirected.

I’ll concede that BARCS could do more to raise funds, but the problem with animal shelters in Baltimore isn’t lack of funding or careless staff. The problem is that they are chronically full of its citizens’ pets—pets that people made a commitment to, then dumped at an animal shelter without any thought to what they might go through there. Few of the animals in shelter are genuinely homeless. They had homes, and owners, and were cast aside, often for silly and selfish reasons. Shelters in the area field countless calls from pet owners looking to relinquish their pets every single day. The pet surplus in the city comes from pet owners who refuse to get their animals sterilized and can’t be bothered to look into the myriad spay/neuter programs available that make spay/neuter affordable, and now we have more animals than we can possibly manage. Shelters are simply left to deal with the fallout from people’s lack of personal responsibility and dismissive treatment of companion animals. This city has a problem, but it’s not BARCS. It’s flat-out irresponsible to blame BARCS for failing to cope with an insurmountable problem that keeps growing in size with every litter of kittens born, and every cute puppy-mill bred dog that someone buys on a whim at the pet store and realizes they can’t afford a few months down the road. It’s no surprise that the only open-admissions shelter in the city is struggling, given that Baltimore is infamous for its abused and neglected animals.

Other local shelters euthanized just as many animals as BARCS before switching to appointment-based admissions. I question why city government won’t allow BARCS to make appointments for owner surrenders. You need an appointment for so many things in life—why is it such a big deal to make an appointment to surrender your pet? I have worked for both an open-admission shelter and an appointment-based shelter, and there is no question in my mind which admissions process is more effective. The benefits are clear. Appointments for owner surrenders would free up more space for truly homeless animals, animals in need of emergency assistance, and strays, and would allow animals more than three or four days before being “bumped.” It would allow BARCS staff to effectively manage their space so that fewer healthy animals are euthanized. Baltimore City needs to lift the requirement that BARCS be open-admission, and allow them to run their shelter in logical, effective manner. It is so simple and could save so many lives, and somehow, everyone still insists that euthanasia is the answer.

Attention needed to be drawn to this issue, but you’re putting the blame in the wrong place. If we spend less time demonizing animal shelters and shelter workers, and more time examining why Baltimore is one of the worst places in America to be an animal, we might actually get somewhere.

Linda Gerhardt

I read with interest the article in this week’s edition discussing BARCS. I am an animal lover, have volunteered with Humane Society, SPCA, and other groups throughout the years. I have attempted to volunteer with BARCS on two separate occasions with no response, which has been very disappointing. Due to the number of dogs in the shelter, I completed an application to foster a dog in February. As an attorney, I offered to volunteer for the board months ago. I have yet to receive a response. I have heard similar stories from many other friends who have attempted to assist with foster care, building maintenance, etc. and received no response.

The article stated that the organization has 42 staff members with one part-time development person? This makes no sense. And the basics of manuals, procedures, etc. should have been in place years ago. A member of BARCS was also scheduled to meet with my community association in June and no one appeared. These events could increase volunteers, foster homes, and financial contributions. My biggest concern from my experience and the article is the animals at the shelter. I hope that there is a change soon that enables them to be better cared for.

Suzanne Bailey

Correction: Due to incorrect court records, Thomas Paul Macchia was originally misidentified in “Bocce Brawl,” (Feature, June 22) as Thomas John Macchia. City Paper regrets the error.

Editor’s note: With this issue, we say a fond goodbye to Arts Editor Bret McCabe, who is leaving the paper to take a job with Johns Hopkins University’s alumni magazine. He departs after six years of being in charge of our arts coverage (after some three years spent as music editor), and we have no doubt the local arts community that he’s covered on a weekly basis will miss him as much as he’ll be missed here daily. Both local arts and the paper have benefitted enormously from his ferocious intelligence, his vast erudition, his masterly writing, his gimlet wit, his locomotive work ethic, his low tolerance for Mickey Mouse, his generosity (not least with his Lexington Market snacks), and his keen interest in, well, a great many things. We wish him the very best of luck.

And as we say goodbye to one old friend, we welcome back a couple of others—namely Jonesin’ Crossword and Psycho Sudoku. Yes, the puzzle page is back, and it’s on 67. You’re welcome.

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