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'It's Disgusting': Baltimore County Shelter Nearly Killed Woman's Microchipped Dog

An Owings Mills woman said her dog was four days from being euthanized at the shelter, where staff told her the dog wasn't being held.

Just because a dog is microchipped doesn't mean the owners will be contacted in Baltimore County, an Owings Mills woman told WBAL. (Credit: WBAL screenshot)
Just because a dog is microchipped doesn't mean the owners will be contacted in Baltimore County, an Owings Mills woman told WBAL. (Credit: WBAL screenshot)
Shayla, adopted last year by an Owings Mills family, was microchipped when she got loose from their backyard, but her owners said that wasn't enough to keep her off doggie death row in the Baltimore County shelter.

Helen Turner told WBAL that she searched around her neighborhood after the dog got out and called Baltimore County Animal Services, among other places, multiple times, and didn't receive a call back. When she posted Shayla's picture on Facebook, someone took a photo inside county shelter in Baldwin confirming the dog was there.

Being microchipped and tattooed—as Shayla was, after being adopted from the Humane Society—is not enough to identify animals, according to Baltimore County Health Department Director Gregory Branch, who told WBAL that animal behavior or chip placement may prevent identification from being found during the two scans the shelter conducts. WBAL showed a picture of Shayla's tattoo, clearly visible against her white fur.

Animal advocates say that obstructing animals from being claimed is not new for the shelter, which has a more than 60 percent kill rate and where volunteers are not allowed to take photographs of the animals to help them get adopted.

A group called Reform Baltimore County Animal Services has staged demonstrations and started a petition asking for an overhaul in the way the shelter is run. The petition calling for the shelter's reform has gained more than 3,500 signatures on Change.org. The Maryland SPCA has reportedly offered its assistance to the shelter, which has not accepted.

"What they're saying is absolutely not correct," Branch told WJZ in an interview following a demonstration animal advocates held in Towson last month. "Our euthanasia rates have gone down."

The group Reform Baltimore County Animal Services painted a different picture of the facility, which it says kills animals before rescue groups can take them and does not maintain sanitary conditions for the animals.

"It's disgusting," Turner told WBAL, after she showed shelter personnel a photo of Shayla, and was told the dog wasn't there. Turner went back just to take a look for herself and found her girl, who had a placard on her cage stating she was four days from being put down, the TV station reported.

Reformists said understaffing and limited adoption hours were part of the shelter's challenges. In April, Baltimore County added a second veterinarian to its staff and expanded its hours. It also approved $5 million for a new facility, which it will build in the same location in Baldwin by 2015.

At the end of a jarring YouTube video about the shelter, Reform Baltimore County Animal Services said a new facility was not enough: "The fix is in the philosophy."

For any owners out there with missing pets, Turner urged them to be persistent and immediate in their actions, telling WBAL: "You can't just wait."

Donna Gardner May 31, 2014 at 12:59 PM
Not being able to scan for a microchip...that's complete bullshit. The Baltimore County animal shelter euthanized my cat in 2002, even though she was microchipped. My vet said it was basically impossible for them not to find the chip if they had scanned her twice like they claim to do. While I was there receiving the news about my cat, I heard one animal control person whispering to another, "They didn't scan her cat." I see things have not changed at all. It's a damn shame. RIP Buttercup :(
R.U.Kidding May 31, 2014 at 03:13 PM
Total incompetence!!! The staff needs a training session on how to properly scan an animal for starters. So Branch is saying the animal is scanned in the field then again when it's seen by the vet. Obviously some of the ACO's aren't scanning, and it could be a week or longer before the animal is seen by the vet!!! The shelter's new in charge person, admitted that they do not have universal scanners and have ordered them. There is no excuse why these scanners are not in the shelter NOW! It's one excuse after another to divert the failure of BCAS.
Mantis Toboggan May 31, 2014 at 06:48 PM
Believe it or not it's even illegal in Baltimore county to not drop off a found animal. We had a starving cat with an aural hematoma come to our back door about a year ago. Several hundred in surgery later he is the best cat I have ever met. Likely a barn cat from one of the nearby farms (sagamore farm I'm looking at u feed your damn barn cats). Come and get him Baltimore county. Send your tactical team we are breaking the law!
MG42 May 31, 2014 at 07:20 PM
Let's put the government in charge of healthcare
R.U.Kidding June 15, 2014 at 10:33 PM
This is only one of the recent animals not scanned at the shelter. A cat sat there for over a month before it was discovered it had a microchip. Understanding this is only the tip of the iceberg as to what's really going on at Baltimore County Animal Shelter. It's time for a total reform of this place, let's start by getting it out of the county's hands and in more compassionate experienced hands. They refuse to release any statistics from 2013 but say the euthanasia rate is going down! Then why don't they release this information if it is true? The last records released were from 2012, which showed a kill rate of over 63% - this is unacceptable - approximately only 4 out of every 10 animals leave this place alive. What a disgrace to the county's tax payers who fund this shelter.

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