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Tag: baltimore county

Changes vowed at Baltimore County shelter

animal-shelter

Some long called for changes may be coming at Baltimore County’s animal shelter.

After more than a year of pressure by animal advocates for improvements, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced yesterday that  the shelter in Baldwin, Md., will be shifting from the “narrow view” of it being a place for dangerous animals and focusing more on caring for animals and getting them adopted.

That’s exactly the sort of change we called for in yesterday’s ohmidog! post — the one suggesting local governments ditch their use of the term “animal control” and become animal protection departments.

Baltimore County hasn’t announced any formal plans to do that (maybe it’s not too late to work that in), but the county executive did outline future steps to add more employees, expand low-cost spaying and neutering services, cooperate with a program aimed at neutering feral cats and increase the shelter’s focus on getting animals adopted.

Kevin KamenetzKamenetz said he’ll hire a volunteer coordinator and a foster care coordinator at the shelter – two areas animal advocates have been critical of. He also announced that  a new Facebook page will be set up devoted to promoting adoptable animals, and that the shelter will be receiving guidance from the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, commonly known as BARCS.

The changes will be included in his next budget for Animal Services — a division of the county health department — and would go into effect at the start of the next budget year on July 1, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“We think we’re moving in the proper direction in a deliberative manner,” Kamenetz said.

Animal advocates and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland complained to the county last fall that shelter volunteers were banned from taking pictures, in violation of their First Amendment rights. The county has been working with the ACLU on training shelter employees on the rights of volunteers.

Earlier this month, the County Council passed a bill creating an animal services advisory commission to review the shelter’s operations. The 11-member commission has yet to be appointed.

In a statement released by the county executive’s office, Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins praised the proposals as “bold steps to upgrade animal services in Baltimore County.”

The county already is building a new shelter on its current site,  scheduled to open in August.

Our hope would be — in accordance with the proposal we put forth yesterday, and in accordance with the new focus Kamenetz spoke of — that the sign in front of it reads Animal Protection, or Animal Services …  anything but Animal Control.

(Photos: Protest sign from WJZ; Kamenetz from Baltimore Sun)

What the Raven did to the gator and the dog

cody2

Once there was a Raven, an alligator and a dog, and the latter two were allegedly abused and neglected by the former.

Apparently that’s all the information officials think we’re entitled to as the curious case of Terrence Cody continues not to unfold.

Even with news of his indictment — the former Baltimore Raven faces 15 charges — what is alleged to have transpired in the Baltimore County home of Cody isn’t being shared with the public.

The charges include two counts of aggravated animal cruelty with a dog, five counts of animal abuse or neglect with the same dog, five counts of abuse or neglect in connection with alligator, and one count of illegal possession of an alligator, according to Deputy State’s Attorney John Cox.

But what exactly Cody is accused of doing, or neglecting to do, in connection with both animals is being left to our imaginations.

That, especially given he was in the NFL, leaves us free to picture the worst — as in staging fights between the two species, as in maybe the alligator went unfed until it tried to eat the dog, as in maybe Cody used them both to attack a girlfriend on an elevator, as in who knows what.

That’s a disservice, to the public and to Cody.

“Ban Terrence Cody From the NFL for Allegedly Feeding His Dog to His Pet Alligator!” says a headline on the website Care2. Clicking on a link to a petition, though, readers are informed  “Terrence Cody did not feed his dog to his alligator as the author of the petition has falsely indicated. New info reveals that his dog passed away as a result of worms, after being severely neglected by the ex-Ravens player.”

When there is an information void, our imaginations, and sometimes our websites, are only to happy to fill it.

Once an indictment is revealed, some details should be released by authorities that go beyond “he did something illegal to this animal and to that animal.”

Imagine if law enforcement and prosecutors had taken that no-details approach in the Michael Vick case. Imagine if they had said, “We seized all these dogs because something bad was going on, but we’re not going to say what until the story unravels in court — if it even goes to court.

News that Cody, 26, was being investigated for animal cruelty came out the same day the Ravens announced he was being released from the team.

The Ravens didn’t go into the allegations, and coach John Harbaugh, in announcing Cody’s termination, said only that the “threshold of tolerance” had changed in the NFL. “It’s a privilege to play in the National Football League. It’s a privilege to be a part of the Ravens. There’s a standard to uphold there, and we expect them to.”

Cody was officially released from the team Monday — the same day the indictment came out.

The indictment says the felony aggravated animal cruelty charges (they carry a maximum three-year sentence) stem from the death of his Presa Canario.

Through the indictment, the public learned there was an alligator involved as well — though not necessarily in connection with the dog’s death. In addition to five counts of abuse or neglect of the alligator, Cody was also charged with one count of possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia and one count of possession of marijuana.

The investigation was started after Cody took his dog to a veterinarian.

Peter Schaffer, Cody’s agent, told the Baltimore Sun that Cody took the dog to a vet for treatment of worms, and that the dog died there. He didn’t share any additional details, either.

“This is all a result of the NFL allowing players to be convicted before they’re tried,” Schaffer said. “If Terrence wasn’t a public figure, they wouldn’t have ever charged him. It’s just ridiculous.”

Cody, having played in only one game last season, wasn’t too major a public figure, and maybe that’s why law enforcement and prosecutors think they can get away with providing virtually no information about what transpired.

He was a nose tackle, not a quarterback, and possibly authorities thought the case could pass quietly under the radar.

The alligator twist probably kept that from happening.

Other than informing us that Cody turned himself in and was released on $10,000 bail, and dutifully reporting the few details officials have released, there hasn’t been much digging, it seems, by the news media.

The NFL has said it would look into the case only if Cody signs with another team, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

Manwhile, the news media, and the animal welfare community, should be demanding some details.

One, because we have a right to know. Two, because animal cruelty cases shouldn’t be swept under rugs. It is through exposure that problems can be addressed and changes can occur.

What, exactly, is Terrence Cody alleged to have done? Why, exactly, aren’t law and order types letting us know? And, while the dog died, and while Cody will be a Raven nevermore, what has become of the alligator?

Pit bull slurs lead to boycott of 98 Rock

More than 1,000 pit bull lovers in Baltimore have joined in a boycott of 98 Rock after morning show co-host Mickey Cucchiella issued a call for pit bulls to be banned, kicked and executed.

To hear his rant, go to my Facebook page.

To support the boycott, go to its Facebook page.

Cucchiella, the abrasive and often sophmoric co-host of the morning show on WIYY (97.9 on your FM dial), made the remarks after a 7-year-old girl was attacked in Dundalk by two dogs, initially identified as pit bulls.

Later, Baltimore County issued a correction, stating the dogs were not pit bulls, but American bulldogs. Both dogs were euthanized with their owner’s consent. The girl remains hospitalized with serious facial injuries that will require multiple surgeries.

“Here’s what flips me out,” Cucchiella says in the broadcast. “A little girl’s face was eaten and you hear like ‘Oh, that’s terrible.’ Michael Vick killed these idiot dogs that were people killers. That’s what he was doing, he was making them fight each other … The whole world’s in an outrage… ‘Look what Michael Vick did it’s horrible.’

“But one of the idiot f-in dogs that were bred to kill bites a little girl’s face and and people go ‘Oh, I hope she’s ok.”

“… These stupid f-in dogs need to go …  they should be banned from everywhere, they’re dumb, vicious dogs.

“I don’t want to hear from you idiot dog owners … ‘My little Choo Choo is a great dog.’ I’m sure one member of al-Qaeda is probably a decent guy and a little misguided. That doesn’t mean you don’t want to kill al-Qaeda, because most of them are bad …

“I think any dog should be able to be airborne after you kick it.”

Later, Cucchiella insists — contrary to several studies — that pit bulls have the most powerful bite of any dog. “I can grab a border collie’s bite and pry it apart, you can’t do that with a pit bull.” Read more »

Attacking dogs weren’t pit bulls, after all

 

After its news reports blamed two pit bulls for the mauling Saturday of a 7-year-old girl, ABC2 News in Baltimore took steps to correct the error.

But take a look at the news report (above) and see if you agree with me – that they only compounded it in this story touted as “the real truth about dangerous dogs.”

Rather than clear the name of pit bulls, they besmirch that of American bulldogs, lumping them in with pit bulls and saying they share the same “aggressive” traits and legendary jaw power – or “muscles of mastication” as one vet calls it.

“They have muscles of mastication. They have muscles in their jaws that are so strong they have 500 pounds of pressure. They can snap a broom just like that,” Dr. Kim Hammond, of Falls Road Animal Hospital, says in the report. “They’re a predator if you’re lower on the food chain and they’re good at their job, and they’re going to win.”

Those remarks – inaccurate and irresponsible as they might be in reference to pit bulls or American bulldogs – were apparently being made about pit bulls, which he also compared to “a loaded gun.”

My guess is that ABC2 sent a reporter out to do the knee-jerk, misconception-spreading, how dangerous-pit-bulls-are story, then learned it was two American bulldogs that were actually involved in the attack on Amanda Mitchell, who remains hospitalized with severe facial injuries.

For the sake of expediency, it appears, the report portrays pit bulls and Ameridcan bulldogs as peas in a pod, which wouldn’t be so bad if the pod wasn’t 99 percent wrongful stereotype and 1 percent fact.

Mitchell was playing outside when the dogs escaped from a neighbor’s yard in Dundalk Saturday. Both dogs were later seized by Baltimore County Animal Control and, with the consent of their owner, euthanized.

On Monday, the Baltimore County Health Department issued a correction – identifying the dogs involved as American bulldogs – and, after more than a few complaints from vigilant Internet commenters, ABC2 corrected the story, pointing out that police had provided the misinformation.

In all fairness, the breed of the dogs was also misreported by other media outlets, including the Baltimore Sun.

Even though most news outlets have corrected their reports, the misinformation remains – not just in the public consciousness, but on Google, where search result summaries of news reports since corrected still describe the dogs as pit bulls.

Tragic as it is, the story goes a long way in helping to understand how pit bulls have gotten, and continue to get, a bad rap – based largely on police mistakenly identifying dogs, “experts” who may not know what they’re talking about and the news media’s dutiful reporting of such misinformation.

What gets lost amid all the assumptions and jumping to conclusions is this: Any breed or type of dog has members who can turn violent or aggressive – be it pit bull, bulldog or Chihuahua.

Groomer cleared of animal cruelty charges

Baltimore County prosecutors have quietly dropped the dogfighting and animal cruelty charges leveled against three occupants of a townhouse in North Point, one of whom cared for and groomed dogs at a local doggie day care facility.

Police, after the January arrest, held a press conference showing off evidence they had seized and contending both a dogfighting and drug dealing operation were based in the home on Lange Street.

Now police have dropped all charges related to mistreating dogs against Nicole Marie Caruso, 26, and her two housemates. 

According to a Baltimore Sun article, State’s Attorney Adam Lippe said veterinarians disagreed with the police conclusion that pit bulls Dutch, Whezzy, Lucia, Bruno, Gotti and Kane were used for fights. The dogs — some owned by Caruso, others by her roommates — were all spayed or neutered and healthy, though some displayed aggressive tendencies.

Defense attorney, Brian G. Thompson, said police were overzealous in their investigation and unfairly dragged his client, Caruso, a respected dog groomer “through the mud in public as some kind of Michael Vick character.”

Caruso, who was active in animal rescue, still faces drug and theft charges as do her housemates.

Bill Link, owner of SoBo Dog Day Care in Locust Point, where Caruso worked for six months, said this week that he would wait until all the charges are adjudicated before deciding whether to bring Caruso back to work.

Caruso, meanwhile, said on her Facebook page: “To everyone that has supported me, THANK YOU!! my most exciting news to report is … the cops had to admit they were wrong about dog fighting. … They put me through the ringer and now who is going to announce on the news that they lied ??????”

Caruso’s dogs are now at a shelter, but her attorney said they won’t be destroyed and she might get them all back.

Dogfighting suspect worked as groomer

carusoOne of the three suspects arrested last week in what Baltimore County police describe as a dogfighting operation has a long record — of fighting for dogs.

Nicole Marie Caruso,  a dog groomer at Sobo Dog Daycare & Spa in South Baltimore, is praised by her current and former bosses and friends as an animal rights activist and dog rescuer.

Police say she and the two other occupants of the home they raided in North Point sold marijuana, fought with neighborhood rivals and ran a dogfighting ring centered around their pit bulls – Dutch, Whezzy, Lucia, Bruno, Gotti and Kane.

Police said they found blood smeared on walls, weights, chains, collars, a treadmill, steroids, veterinary supplies  and three aggressive pit bulls that showed signs of injuries.

Police charging documents portray Caruso’s role as that of a nurse treating injured patients – whether the dogs were forced to fight for bets or simply fought one another for fun, the Baltimore Sun reported.

Caruso worked most recently at the SoBo Dog Day Care, which opened last year in Locust Point. Prior to that, she spent two years as a veterinarian technician at Animal Medical Clinic on York Road in Timonium.

Her bosses at both places described her to Sun reporter Peter Hermann as a dog lover who rescued strays, patched wounds, and wrote articles on animal health for websites.

“It’s a huge shame, very heartbreaking,” said Nancy Jolle, the office manager of Animal Medical Clinic. “We’re kind of in shock. We don’t know what to think until they sort out the facts,” Jolle said.

At the SoBo Dog Day Care, owner Bill Link said customers raved about her work. “She has a fantastic following,” Link said. “I just can’t believe she did what they say she did because she’s such an advocate.”

Link reiterated what several of Caruso’s neighbors have said in her support — that she bought the treadmill for $30 on Craigslist to lose weight, not to train her dogs to fight.

Caruso has been released on $125,000 bail.

More cat torture, this time in the county

If you were thinking unthinkably cruel animal torture was strictly an urban phenomenon, take a look — if you have the stomach for it — at this item from the Northeast Booster.

The Booster — an Internet conglomeration of recycled news from Baltimore area newspapers — reports that three men were arrested and charged with animal cruelty Thursday after they allegedly tortured a cat in a microwave, then put it in a freezer, then tossed it into a river.

Kevin Abel, 19, Scott McDowell, 18, and Richard Rioux, 25, were all arrested last week in connection with the cat’s death, which occurred July 31 in the Edgemere area, according to Bill Toohey, a Baltimore County police spokesman.

Abel, who lives in White Marsh, was house sitting for a friend when he apparently invited the other two men over.

Toohey said the cat was spun on the floor, beaten, placed on ceiling fan, put in the microwave, and closed in the freezer before being placed in a bag with rocks and tossed into Back River, off Lynch Point.

The next day, the owner of the cat — whose identity wasn’t  revealed — was informed by McDowell that the animal was dead. All three men were intoxicated at the time of the incident, Toohey said.

Abel, Rioux, of White Marsh, and McDowell, of  Sparrows Point, were all charged with animal cruelty.  A hearing for all three is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Oct. 29 in District Court in Essex.