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Tag: anti-animal abuse task force

Task force on animal abuse calls for changes

phoenix3Baltimore could be doing a far better job of protecting its pets and animals, a task force appointed by Mayor Sheila Dixon concludes in an interim report released this week.

Its recommendations include stiffer penalties, stronger laws, greater police involvement, a larger and better equipped animal shelter, improved coordination between city departments and a greater effort to increase public awareness about the problem.

The task force was created after a pit bull was doused with gasoline and set on fire in West Baltimore in May, 2009.

Police Officer Syreeta Teel observed the burning dog on the 1600 block of Presbury Street and extinguished the flames with her sweater. The dog, who was subsequently named Phoenix by her caretakers, suffered severe burns over 95% of her body and died four days later.

The task force was charged with looking at ways to eradicate animal abuse, and dogfighting in particular, in the city; increase awareness of animal cruelty laws; legislation to protect animals and prosecute abusers; and how animal control and law enforcement could better handle animal cruelty cases.

“Our examination into these subject areas has not been all bleak,” the task force reported. “While the Department of Animal Control is in urgent need of assistance and reform, other systems, such as the current system for tracking animal related concerns, operates fairly effectively and needs only minor revamping to track animal cruelty cases.

“And while additional legislation should be enacted to prosecute abusers, on a positive note, the State’s Attorney’s Office of the City of Baltimore has shown great commitment in the prosecution of Travers and Tremayne Johnson, the defendants charged with aggravated animal cruelty in the burning death of Phoenix.”

The report adds: ”The public response to the work of the Task Force has been positive. Public sentiment is changing and a “no tolerance” policy toward animal abuse is emerging. Moreover, it is well recognized that animal abuse is a precursor to violent crime against people …

“If the City of Baltimore seeks to eradicate drug violence, gang violence, child abuse and spousal abuse, it must also eradicate animal abuse, for when one encounters animal abuse or dogfighting, one of the former scourges is likely to be present. Stamping out animal abuse is one of the most effective crime prevention tools available to law enforcement officials.”

You can find the full report on the mayor’s website.

Recommendations in the report call for a better system of reporting and tracking animal abuse, beefing up Animal Control staff, better communication with the city’s social services department about animal abuse cases, and assigning three police officers to work full-time with Animal Control.

Currently, there are no officers assigned to work with the department and no liaison between Animal Control and the Baltimore City Police Department, and no channel of communication to discuss ongoing investigations, the report says.

Animal control officers have no authority to make arrests or carry guns, the report notes, and “must call for police backup when investigating dogfighting or crimes in progress against animals.” Police response times can vary, but can be as long as 40 minutes. “In the interim, witnesses flee, crime scenes are not secured, and evidence degrades.”

Maryland has recently dropped into the bottom tier of states in terms of the strength of its animal cruelty laws, according to the report, which calls for stiffer penalties for animal abuse.

Here is the complete list of recommendations:

Read more »