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Will dog lovers give up on Baltimore?

Anne Madison, an ohmidog! friend and correspondent, provided us with a copy of a letter she has sent to her city councilman, James Kraft.

As it so articulately sums up the concerns and feelings of many dog owners — both in regards to the recent increases in fines and the city’s overall lack of dog-friendliness — we’re reprinting it here in its entirety:

(A City Council committee is holding a hearing on the fine for unleashed dogs today –10 a.m., on the fourth floor of City Hall — and is considering lowering the fine from $1,000 to $250 for a first offense.)

Dear Councilman Kraft:

I have been a resident of Baltimore for almost thirty years, and for the past twenty have resided in your district. My husband and I own a rescued purebred Beagle who was acquired by us as the direct result of two violent crimes–a burglary and a home invasion in which my then 80-year-old mother was seriously injured by criminals who robbed her. While not an “attack dog” by any means, the dog provides us with security and peace of mind by barking appropriately and alertly when anyone comes into our space. My husband works on the third shift, and our dog provides additional comfort and security for me because I do not need to feel I am alone at night. Frankly, after what happened to my mother, it was buy a dog or buy a gun. We chose the sane and non-violent alternative.

We are responsible dog owners. Our dog is exercised on leash in the neighborhood or off leash at the Canton Dog Park, which as you know was built through the efforts and fundraising of the dog-loving community members of Canton. Our dog is properly vaccinated for rabies and other canine diseases. He is microchipped. We acquire and pay for the correct license each year from the city. He is neutered.

I am appalled by the punitive animal control fines recently enacted by the City Government for various transgressions that are, to be blunt, fairly minor. I am stunned by the fact that one careless failure to “scoop the poop” or one lonely afternoon of dog “separation anxiety” can net a fine TWICE THE AMOUNT of that levied against someone running a dog fight or running an unlicensed boarding facility or (as it appears) hoarding animals or running a puppy mill.

What was the City Government thinking? It appears at first glance that you may have chronicled the impression that this was some sort of untapped revenue source there for the taking. It appears at first glance that you, the members of the City Council, care more about rolling in the bucks than you do about the welfare and well-being of either the city’s human or animal population. We’ve heard a great deal of hoopla about dog parks in various areas of the city–but there’s been little action. People in the Patterson Park area have been trying for seven years to get some small area of that vast expanse set aside for their use. Apparently giant balloon-like skating structures and asphalt tennis courts are “attractive” but a fenced dog park is “not attractive.” It appears that the “Friends of Patterson Park” aren’t actually friends to all.

You should be aware that average, working, tax-paying, bill-paying people regard dog ownership as a quality-of-life issue. When the quality of life gets too poor, or the cost of living in the city becomes too burdensome, people flee their city homes for the suburbs or the country. To be honest, we’re at the point where if a friend asked us whether to move to Baltimore City or one of the surrounding counties, we’d seriously advise that person not to come here.

While I am on the subject, I found it singularly unattractive that someone sent two Baltimore City police officers to make their presence felt at the recent MD SPCA March for the Animals at Druid Hill Park. Frankly, Mr. Kraft, it was bad PR. It had the appearance that they were looking out for tickets they could issue. I hope the event will be relocated to a county park next year.

I urge you and the other City Council members to reconsider these outrageous fines.There should be warnings and progressively larger tickets to weed out people who genuinely don’t care. And you should punish animal abusers just as severely or more severely. While you are at it, it is past time to make a move towards reasonable off-leash exercise areas in various parts of the city. Tomorrow’s hearing provides the City Council with a golden opportunity to set things right. Please do your part to see that they avail themselves of it.


Anne Madison

(Photo by Anne Madison)


Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time April 28, 2009 at 11:24 am

I must sit corrected!! I had a note from Tami Gosheff at the Maryland SPCA regarding the police presence at the March for the Animals. She says:

I noticed your letter that John posted on his blog and thought that I should clear something up. The police officers that were there – they come to the March every year. We are incredibly grateful for their time. They volunteer every year at the March as a sort of added security. Again, we are lucky that they do this for us. With so many donations being turned in the day of the event, it is nice to have them there.

Comment from JillyBean
Time April 28, 2009 at 11:42 am

Bravo Anne!!! Thanks for putting into writing (and to someone who needs your vote) what the rest of us have been saying to one another. Hopefully, you’ll get some kind of a response from Mr. Kraft. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting for Mr. Reisinger to respond to either of the two emails I’ve sent to him.