County to play larger role in managing animal shelter -- Gazette.Net







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Animals shivering in kennels in an old and outdated building — that is how some have described the Montgomery County Animal Shelter, which is run by the Montgomery County Humane Society.

But when Montgomery County moves its animal control and adoption services into its new $20 million facility in Derwood this fall, it may also be leaving the Montgomery County Humane Society behind. Officials at the nonprofit say they will carry on its work to help animals with or without the county.

“We’re very proud of the work we do,” said Cris Bombaugh, who has been president and CEO of the organization since 2009. “We love the animals and serving the community.”

And the nonprofit may continue to do so, but in a different capacity, said Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger. The county is going to have a larger role in running and overseeing the shelter’s operations, he said.

The county’s Animal Services Division, under the auspices of the police department, is responsible for enforcing animal control and anticruelty laws, among other things.

“The recommendation has been made to me to try to do this internally,” County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said. “We had sort of a mixed operation where we had both county employees, under the police supervision and leadership, and with an outside contractor doing some of the other work.”

A panel of five people, including an expert in the subject matter,has interviewed 17 candidates for the position of agency director, which no longer will be filled on a rotating basis by a sworn police captain, but will be a non-sworn permanent position in the police department. Of the 17 candidates, the panel has selected four to be interviewed by Manger.

The county’s employment website also lists postings for adoption manager, volunteer coordinator, adoption counselor and behavior evaluation specialist.

In the fiscal 2014 budget, which was approved in May, the police department gained 40 extra personnel: 120 new sworn officers and 14 police civilian employees. Although the above positions were not specified, Leggett mentioned adding officers dedicated “to animal cruelty calls.”

Manger described conditions at the county-owned shelter on Rothgeb Drive in Rockville as “deplorable.” The new Animal Services and Adoption Center is at the corner of Muncaster Mill Road and Airpark Drive.

Manger, who hired consultant Renee Harris of the San Diego Humane Society, has been scouring the country looking to integrate “best practices” into the new facility, he said.

For example, some shelters pair up with running clubs to ensure that every dog gets a daily dose of socialization and exercise.

Lucille Baur, a county spokeswoman, said the county has not made any official decisions about whether it will continue to partner with the Montgomery County Humane Society, or perhaps another nonprofit.

Currently the Humane Society, which has operated the county’s animal shelter since the 1960s, provides animal services such as adoption, neutering and licensing on a $1.6 million budget, according to its 2012 annual report.

The organization has had problems in the past. Amid declining donations, three board members resigned in 2008 citing conflicts with J.C. Crist, who was the organization’s chief executive and president. Crist, who himself later resigned, died in January this year.

In 2010, Montgomery County Partners for Animal Well-Being, or MCPAW, an independent nonprofit, was founded to provide a source of supplemental funding for the new center.

President and co-founder Allan S. Cohen, who once served on the Montgomery County Humane Society board, said that “the quality of management is crucial.”

Montgomery County and its animals deserve a state-of-the-art shelter, he said, along with a team of professionals who know how to run it.

“This facility is a shame,” he said of the current shelter.

On the MCPAW website, board member Kenneth Kelley wrote that a “few short years ago, it was considered a farfetched dream that the current 30-year-old, dilapidated Montgomery County Animal Shelter would ever be replaced ... and with radiant heated floors so the animals will no longer shiver and feel desolate on the cold winter nights.”

Whatever role the county decides the Montgomery County Humane Society should play in the new center, the nonprofit has no plans to disband, Bombaugh said.

“The Montgomery County Humane Society is not going away. There’s so much work to be done,” Bombaugh said. The Humane Society plans to continue focusing on its privately funded programs such as foster care, veterinary care for special-needs animals, enrichment and training, pet care and behavior seminars, humane education and community outreach.

And if county financing dries up, Bombaugh said she is not concerned.

“We have a huge community of very generous donors,” she said. To help run the Humane Society, 240 volunteers were recruited, trained and supported in 2012, a 20 percent jump over 2011, providing nearly 8,700 hours of time to help with animal care, adoptions, clerical work and special events, according to the organization’s annual report.

The Montgomery County Humane Society adopts out about 3,000 animals every year, according to the annual report, and helps return about three pets a day to their owners. The nonprofit handled a total of 8,227 animals in 2012, including 1,827 wildlife. The Montgomery County Humane Society stated mission is to place all adoptable animals in appropriate environments and aim toward no euthanasia.

In fiscal year 2010, 1,372 animals were euthanized. That number dropped to 1,250 for fiscal year 2011 and further to 879 for fiscal year 2012, according to b.j. Altschul, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Humane Society. Those numbers do not include wildlife, she said.

“We are encouraged with the decrease in euthanasia, which mirrors a national trend,” Altschul wrote in an email to The Gazette.

A no-kill or no-euthanasia shelter is one that does not euthanize animals that are healthy and adoptable.


Staff Writer Daniel Leaderman contributed to this report.