Proposal for second animal shelter in Prince George’s gains support -- Gazette.Net


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For Prince George’s residents who have long complained that the county needs more than one animal shelter, a solution may be on the way.

Adam Ortiz, director of the Department of Environmental Resources, under which animal control falls, said the county and municipalities could open a second shelter in the northern part of the county.

The current shelter is in an unincorporated area in Upper Marlboro.

“We’re open to that. We have too many animals that are adoptable, and we need to get them out the door,” Ortiz said during a meeting of the Four Cities Coalition, which includes Greenbelt, College Park, Berwyn Heights and New Carrollton. “We’re open to any good ideas, and a partnership makes a lot of sense. A Four Cities partnership with the county to secure space — we’d be open to that.”

The four municipalities meet quarterly to discuss issues of importance to the communities.

Ortiz had been invited after a discussion in July between the four cities on animal-control efforts.

Greenbelt runs a small no-kill shelter, and College Park has a small shelter that is not accessible to the public. Berwyn Heights and New Carrollton do not have shelters.

Ortiz said the location of the current shelter inhibits pet adoptions.

“I think it is a big problem that the animal shelter is in the middle of nowhere. It’s not even in Upper Marlboro, and Upper Marlboro is in the middle of nowhere,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said the majority of pet adopters come from the northern part of the county; getting to the shelter is inconvenient for them.

“We found three concentrated areas where people adopt. It’s the Route 1 corridor from Laurel all the way down to Hyattsville, Bowie and some in the Largo-Mitchellville area,” Ortiz said.

The problem, Ortiz said, is funding. The animal control division budget has been cut 52 percent during the past seven years, he said.

Ortiz said that because of the cuts, the shelter has turned to low-wage contract labor, which has resulted in high employee turnover.

Greenbelt Councilman Rodney Roberts suggested the county might save money by partnering with the coalition cities in a new shelter.

Greenbelt Mayor Pro Tem Emmett Jordan said the city’s no-kill shelter is always filled to capacity and has no real source of revenue other than city general funds.

“It’s gotten to the point where people actually drive in to Greenbelt and drop off their pets, knowing they’re going to be picked up and go to our shelter,” Greenbelt Councilman Edward Putens said.

College Park Councilman Patrick Wojahn (Dist. 1) said his city’s shelter has limited capacity and is almost always full.

“We rely very heavily on volunteers to take care of the animals, to the point where the volunteers are getting burnt out,” he said.

Wojahn said the city has maintained its shelter because residents are concerned about the high euthanasia rate.

According to information from the county website, approximately 36 percent of the dogs, cats and other domesticated animals taken to the shelter were euthanized in 2012, a figure that includes injured and ill animals, as well as feral cats and pit bulls.

“We’ve been very reluctant to rely on the county shelter in any way, and the reason is because of the county’s high kill rate, and our residents are concerned that sending an animal to the county shelter is essentially a death sentence,” Wojahn said.

Ortiz said the shelter euthanasia rate is in part due to the county policy regarding pit bulls and feral cats.

janfenson-comeau@gazette.net