September 26, 2011
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Timothy W. Saffell
Prince George's County, MD - A Prince George's County Non Profit Organization is seeking grants from the Prince George's County Executive and County Council members to help it provide services that should be covered by tax payments.
Timothy W. Saffell, President of Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA says, "County residents pay taxes in order to support the functioning of their government and in order to provide appropriate services and protections. One of those services that many county residents feel is important is Animal Management."
Saffell points out in a request to the County Executive and County Council members, "Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA receives calls every day from county residents who need help with animal issues, but do not want Animal Management Division to be involved because of their extremely poor performance record. It is shameful that, after paying taxes to support Prince George's County and services that should be expected to come from those taxes, residents must depend on a non-profit organization for programs and must make additional donations to support the activities that should be provided by the County." The letter asks for a grant of $10,000 from the County Executive and each of the County Council members to cover costs and legal fees.
Mr. Saffell reports that dysfunction permeates the Animal Management Division and has led to the filing of a suit in order to force compliance with the law.
Animal Control Officers (ACOs) receive no formal training, either in Animal Control techniques or the Statute and their rogue behavior includes enforcing laws that do not exist. Since Animal Management has failed to produce any regulations, ACOs have no guidelines for enforcement and routinely prohibit activities that are not illegal, a violation of the residents' constitutional rights. The same lack of regulations leads to arbitrary enforcement and selective harassment of certain individuals.
Mr. Saffell says, "PGFF SPCA finds that we are needed to defend county residents against the rogue activities of Animal Management employees and the Commission for Animal Control. We have been forced to engage the services of an attorney and file suit for an injunction."
The law suit alleges that the county has engaged in the unconstitutional enforcement of the Animal Control Statute, failed to make regulations as required by law, and violated the Open Meetings Act by allowing the Commission for Animal Control to meet behind closed doors to formulate policy.
"This is just the beginning." Saffell says, "The more we learn, the more violations we find." PGFF SPCA is planning to expand the suit to include the improper adoption of a discriminatory breed-specific prohibition, the overreach of the Commission for Animal Control into areas that are beyond their administrative purvue, and possibly additional violations of the law."
The letter to the County Executive and Council also alleges that Animal Management has failed to fulfill its primary purpose, in the mind of most residents -- to protect the lives of animals. It points out that over the past decade, 60 percent of all animals that came into the Animal Services Facility were killed while adoptions amounted to only about 10 percent of the county's demand for pets to replace those who died. The Monthly Report of Animal Management for June shows an all-time high kill rate of 930 in the single month, with only 40 veterinarian-directed euthanasias.
The letter in PDF format is here. The text of the letter has been copied below, as well.
### Beginning of Letter ###
September 22, 2011
Mr Rushern Baker III
14741 Gov Oden Bowie Dr, 5th Floor
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772
Dear Mr Rushern Baker III:
County residents pay taxes in order to support the functioning of their government and in order to provide the appropriate services and protections. One of those services that many county residents feel is important is Animal Management.
Our Animal Management Division, however, has been allowed to go rogue.
Animal Control Officers are routinely prohibiting activities that are not illegal by either the County, State or Federal law or regulation. This is a violation of the residents' constitutional right to engage in a legal activity.
Animal Management has failed to make rules or regulations as required by law. This has led to the arbitrary enforcement of the Statute and the allows selective harassment of certain individuals.
The Commission for Animal Control has been created with duties that are beyond their administrative purview.
The members of the same Commission have become entrenched, as a result of being permitted to remain members for years beyond their appointments' expiration. The chairperson of the Commission recently said, on the record, that the way one becomes a member of the Commission is to be a friend of someone already on the Commission.
The Commission has routinely met behind closed doors to develop public policy in spite of being subject to the Open Meetings Act.
The County Council apparently established a discriminatory breed-specific prohibition in 1998 without following the required procedure. Since then many beloved pets have been confiscated from their loving families and killed, creating hostility in the parents towards their county government and trauma among the children, some who now sleep with their dead pet's leash and collar.
The Council also ignored their own task force's findings that the breed-specific prohibition was extremely expensive and had failed to be effective. Our county's task force report has been the basis for the repeal of similar ineffective laws in numerous other jurisdictions.
In addition to the issues that I have enumerated above, Animal Management has failed to fulfill their primary purpose -- to maintain public safety and protect the lives of animals. Over the past decade, Animal Management has killed an average of 60% of all animals (85% of cats) that were taken in while adopting only about 10% of the demand for pets by county residents to replace those who die. In spite of assignments given by the previous Director of the Department of Environmental Resources, Mr. Charles W. Wilson, there has been little but superficial change at the Animal Services Facility while, under the current Director of DER, the kill rate set an all time high in June 2011 with 930 animals being needlessly killed. (There were only 40 euthanasias during the month.)
Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA receives calls every day from county residents who need help with animal issues, but do not want Animal Management Division to be involved because of their extremely poor performance record. It is a shameful that, after paying taxes to support Prince George's County and services that should be expected to come from those taxes, residents must depend on a non-profit organization for programs and must make additional donations to support the activities that should be provided by the County.
PGFF SPCA finds that we are needed to defend county residents against the rogue activities of Animal Management employees and the Commission for Animal Control. We have been forced to engage the services of an attorney and file suit for an injunction. Fortunately, we have a tremendous attorney with extensive constitutional, administrative, property, and animal law experience. This caliber of experience does not come without a cost.
Since we are performing the function of Animal Management which should be provided by our county tax revenues, I am asking the County Executive and each member of the County Council to provide a $10,000 grant, which will help to offset the cost of our defense of county residents this year. The total $100,000 per year is only a fraction of what an experienced constitutional law attorney demands, but it will help to supplement the donations made by county residents who are not being served, or worse yet, are being abused by Animal Management.
As always, I am available to discuss the ways in which open admission municipal shelters in other jurisdictions are transforming their Animal Services Facilities into positive community resources and saving 90% or more of all animals, while maintaining public safety and saving money.
/s/ Tim Saffell
Timothy W. Saffell
### End of Letter ###
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