Published: July 13, 2011
On behalf of the board of directors of Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), I want to clarify a few of the many inaccuracies in “Barking Mad” (Feature, June 29). The small—and shrinking—group of individuals quoted in the article do a grave disservice to the staff and volunteers who perform heroic and heart-wrenching work at BARCS every day, and who have produced a six-year record of improvement that is incredible.
It is true that in 2005 the City Animal Shelter was a different place, with a euthanasia rate of 98 percent, broken cages, torn-up floors, and minimal staffing. Starting that year, BARCS Executive Director Jennifer Brause, in consultation with city officials, came together with passionate community members to build the new organization and make desperately needed change. Relationships with rescue organizations were forged. Staff was recruited. Volunteers were organized. The one result that really matters: This year, more than 6,000 animals that would have been killed were placed in loving homes. Since 2005, more than 20,000 lives have been saved.
The truth is:
• Animals are not neglected. Daily, staff veterinarians ensure animals are medically treated, fed, and comfortable. This fact is attested to by two separate surprise inspections by the state’s Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners this spring.
• The shelter is not overcrowded. Yes, BARCS takes in over 11,000 dogs and cats each year, but the shelter has a maximum capacity that is not exceeded. Each cage houses only one animal, with the exception of litters.
• The absurd notion of a “one-time bump” saddens us. Let’s be clear: The suggestion is that BARCS kill animals even though we have the space and ability to care for them. Sadly, BARCS is forced to make tough decisions every day based on the high volume of animals it must accept. But where we have the capacity to provide humane care, we will always opt to do so. BARCS’ mission is to save as many lives as possible.
Each year lives saved and adoptions have increased, and—even in this challenging economic climate—so has fundraising. Each year the conditions for the animals have improved. This public/private partnership is a shining success that returns enormous value to Baltimore and its residents.
Times are tough for city budgets, and BARCS will see cuts this coming year. So, even as efforts to raise private funds ramp up, BARCS needs community support to continue to improve. That support can take many forms: donations, volunteering, adopting, or simply spaying or neutering your own pet.
Spend some time at BARCS and you will see the goodness among us. Dedicated staff and volunteers give their time and love to animals that have been lost, surrendered, abused, or neglected. Just a few years ago, almost all of them would have been euthanized. But because of the efforts of many, today they stand an excellent chance of finding a safe home and a place in the hearts of a caring family.
Co-Chair, board of directors, Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter
Andrea Appleton responds: Nowhere did the article say that the shelter was overcrowded, that animals were neglected, or that more animals ought to be euthanized. What you call “inaccuracies” are the claims of members of a group of former volunteers and board members, claims to which the executive director, current board members, and other BARCS supporters were given ample opportunity to respond.
BARCS’ practice of warehousing more animals than staffers can properly care for—which has reportedly resulted in overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, animals being denied exercise and social interaction, disease outbreaks, and even animals attacking and killing each other—isn’t doing animals any favors.
This situation may be an example of a troubling trend: institutional animal hoarding. Under pressure to avoid euthanasia at all costs, some animal shelters acquire more animals than they can handle and keep them caged indefinitely, sometimes even for years. Intensely confined, overcrowded, and neglected, many animals go “kennel crazy”—becoming severely depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive. Crowding causes disease to quickly spread, adding to animals’ misery and sometimes requiring mass euthanasia.
Institutional hoarders also try to avoid euthanasia by reducing their open hours to discourage people from surrendering animals and allowing anyone who walks in off the street to adopt animals—regardless of whether they can provide a loving, lifelong home.
Warehousing animals is cruelty, plain and simple, and it will never solve Baltimore’s animal overpopulation crisis. The only way to do that is by spaying and neutering—enforced through laws and assisted by low-cost clinics. I urge BARCS to commit to keeping its shelter population at a healthy and humane level, even if the best that can be offered to some animals is a merciful release in the arms of caring shelter workers. To learn more, visit peta.org.
Animal Care and Control Specialist
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
In response to your article, I feel compelled to question the 38 percent euthanasia and decreased impoundment rates at BARCS, and believe so should everybody else. I have followed Ms. Mead’s “no kill” initiative that started six years ago with support of her many “no kill” fanatics, and the invitation and presentation by Nathan Winograd of “no kill solutions.” Ms. Mead started her mission to become “no kill“ by indiscriminately unloading huge numbers of cats to “rescue” groups in the city, Howard and other counties, farms, and fosters, recruited from the public through newspaper ads and pleas for help. Her relentless determination to “adopt” her way to lower euthanasia rates compelled her to increase off-site adoptions, free adoption events, two-for-one events, Christmas specials, and, most importantly, the support of her enablers, the countless “rescues.”
For almost five years, none of the animals were sterilized before adoption, and several groups and fosters also handed them out intact. The shelter decreased hours drastically to 30 hours/week currently, from being open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week in the past, limiting the public [hours] to surrender its animals and increasing abandonment, already a common practice in the city. The staff’s attempt to limit impoundment even further can be evidenced by announcements to a crowded admission area that, “We are full and everything has to be euthanized, including them,” in the hope and actuality, that they “rehome” their animals themselves (official letter of complaint sent to the health commissioner).
Ms. Mead has been commended for putting “the city shelter back on the map,” and for creating a “kinder, gentler image of the shelter,” but she has had no consideration or real compassion for the animals. “No kill” advocates and hoarders alike seem to believe that life, regardless of quality, is better than being euthanized at an open-admission public shelter, in a city that desperately needs public education and public spay/neuter with transportation, to remove barriers that prevent many cat/dog owners from getting their animals sterilized because spay/neuter resources are only “plentiful” when they meet the need of the community.
Our group, the Educated Cat, provides low-cost/subsidized spay/neuter to low-income cat owners who need transportation in the city and counties, and the response is huge! While BARCS has been bailing water, and actually added more water, communities actually want to plug the hole! [Mead’s] obsession with adoption is obvious. “I need these animals to be adopted,” [she said in the article.] Unfortunately Ms. Mead has increased suffering, hoarding, and overpopulation while bailing!
The Educated Cat
Correction: The subhed to last week’s story on Animal Collective misstated that the group had returned to its native Maryland to work on music together for the first time since it formed (“Back to Nature,” Music, July 6). As the story itself reported, the group had in fact come back to Maryland to work on music for the Feels album in 2005. City Paper regrets the error.
Editor’s note: The finalists for the 2011 Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) Awards were announced recently, and City Paper was nominated in three categories among papers with a circulation of 50,000 or more. Contributing photographer Ryan “Rarah” Stevenson was nominated for Photography; Art Director Joe MacLeod’s Mr. Wrong was nominated in the Column category; and Staff Writer Edward Ericson Jr. was nominated in the Special Topic: Drugs Reporting category for “Cleaning Up,” his 2010 series on the drug-rehab industry in Baltimore. The winners of the national awards will be announced at the annual AAN Convention in New Orleans on July 22. Congratulations to all the finalists.