County an­i­mal con­trol switch com­ing Fri­day

Shel­ters co­or­di­nate, seek last-minute adop­tions

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - IS­SUE By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— It’s been a fre­netic few months for the staff of A Buddy For Life, the con­tracted an­i­mal care and con­trol au­thor­ity for Ce­cil County.

When Ce­cil County Ex­ec­u­tive Tari Moore an­nounced March 14 that she

ELKTON

would be bring­ing those ser­vices under country con­trol at the start of the July 1 fis­cal year, the staff at A Buddy For Life wasn’t sure how they were go­ing to find place­ments for the dozens of an­i­mals in their care.

Jenn Cal­la­han, co-direc­tor for A Buddy For Life, said Fri­day that those wor­ries have slowly been al­le­vi­ated by an out­pour­ing of sup­port from the re­gional com­mu­nity.

“When the change was an­nounced in March, we had 80 dogs in our care,” she said. “By the be­gin­ning of June, we had only 12. That’s a huge tes­ta­ment to the res­cue groups and no-kill shel­ters who came to our aid to place dogs, but also the com­mu­nity who stepped up to find the right an­i­mal for their fam­ily.”

As of Fri­day af­ter­noon, A Buddy For Life had six dogs and five cats avail­able for adop­tion. Of those, two dogs were brought in to the shel­ter in the last few days, while the old­est ones had

been in the shel­ter for many months.

“We still have res­cues who are call­ing about them and we are reach­ing out to other groups we know about pos­si­ble place­ments,” Cal­la­han noted.

Mean­while, Cal­la­han said she has been meet­ing weekly with Abi­gail Light­ning-Bing­ham, who was re­cently hired to lead the county’s new an­i­mal ser­vices divi­sion. Among their top­ics of dis­cus­sion was what would hap­pen to any of the nearly dozen an­i­mals left in A Buddy For Life’s care af­ter June 30.

“We feel com­fort­able that if there are an­i­mals still here that they will be moved to the county fa­cil­ity,” Cal­la­han said. “Both of us strongly want to see them adopted or placed be­fore that hap­pens though. We don’t want to see an an­i­mal shuf­fled be­tween shel­ters when they would be bet­ter served in a home or a res­cue.”

Look­ing back, Cal­la­han is re­lieved that so many fam­i­lies came to her shel­ter to adopt an an­i­mal and re­duce the over­all num­ber still left.

“It would have bro­ken our hearts to have to eu­th­a­nize any an­i­mal,” she said.

When asked if she thought the threat of eu­thana­sia helped spur adop­tions, Cal­la­han said it prob­a­bly in­creased A Buddy For Life’s vis­i­bil­ity but didn’t nec­es­sar­ily af­fect who adopted the an­i­mals.

“The ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple who came down to save an an­i­mal from eu­thana­sia weren’t nec­es­sar­ily the Twitch, a spe­cial needs cat, is one of the few still avail­able for adop­tion be­fore the clo­sure of A Buddy For Life’s shel­ter.

ones who ended up be­ing those who adopted,” she said. “We were look­ing for the right fit and not just any­one to take an an­i­mal.”

Cal­la­han noted that peo­ple came from all over the re­gion, in­clud­ing Mary­land, Penn­syl­va­nia and Delaware, to ap­ply to adopt a res­cued an­i­mal af­ter word spread of the shel­ter’s clo­sure.

Mean­while, she said that A Buddy For Life has moved most of its equip­ment, fur­ni­ture and sup­plies out of the Hutton Road fa­cil­ity that they’ve leased for most of the past three years. While they of­fered those items to the county for its fa­cil­ity, Cal­la­han said most has been do­nated to other res­cues and shel­ters af­ter the county de­clined.

Cal­la­han said that A Buddy For Life will re­main true to its roots and re­turn to be­ing an ac­tive res­cue group,

which will take in an­i­mals who are in need of a new home. She said that they will once again be­come more ac­tive in Delaware, where the group of vol­un­teers be­gan in 2006, but will also re­main com­mit­ted to help Ce­cil County. To prove that, Cal­la­han’s or­ga­ni­za­tion has ap­plied for a spay-neuter grant from the Mary­land Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture in or­der to help de­fray those costs to pet own­ers.

“We have sev­eral groups do­ing that work for feral cat pop­u­la­tions, but we also know that there are a lot of peo­ple who want to do what’s right for their pets but sim­ply can­not af­ford the of­ten costly pro­ce­dures,” she said.

Some of A Buddy For Life’s staff will con­tinue full-time in the res­cue ef­forts, while oth­ers have found new jobs or plan to

go back to school, Cal­la­han said. She added that of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s staff and vol­un­teers have ex­pressed in­ter­est in stay­ing in­volved with A Buddy For Life’s res­cue ef­forts.

“Our vol­un­teers have been en­cour­aged to help an­i­mals in gen­eral, whether it’s with us or the new shel­ter, or both,” she noted.

A Buddy For Life’s in­volve­ment with Ce­cil County was born out of the 2012 rewrit­ing of the county’s an­i­mal con­trol or­di­nance fol­low­ing con­tro­versy over the county’s for­mer con­tracted op­er­a­tor, the SPCA of Ce­cil County.

A Buddy For Life took over the county’s an­i­mal care and con­trol op­er­a­tions on Jan. 1, 2013, af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial 3-2 vote on the last day of ser­vice for the then-Ce­cil County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers, which gave the or­ga­ni­za­tion a three-year con­tract. The SPCA filed for a re­strain­ing or­der in the case, but a judge ruled against them. The only dis­sent­ing votes on their con­tract were Robert Hodge, who has served as pres­i­dent of the Ce­cil County Coun­cil dur­ing A Buddy For Life’s full ten­ure, and Moore, who be­came county ex­ec­u­tive.

Over the past three years, their ser­vice to the county has been met with some crit­i­cism from watch­dogs and sup­port­ers of the for­mer SPCA. Mean­while, Moore chose to dis­band the An­i­mal Care and Con­trol Over­sight Com­mit­tee in May 2015 af­ter fur­ther scan­dal in­volv­ing Girl Scouts erupted fol­low­ing a meet­ing. At the same time, A Buddy For Life has been able to di­rectly place 843 dogs and 360 cats in adopted homes while trans­fer­ring 478 dogs and 327 cats to other res­cues.

When A Buddy For Life’s con­tract ex­pired in De­cem­ber, Moore chose to re­new it for six months as she re­viewed bids from other con­trac­tors. Ul­ti­mately, how- ever, she de­cided the best course of ac­tion for greater over­sight was to make the oper­a­tion county-con­trolled. Since then, the non­profit has been pre­par­ing for the ser­vice switchover and re­flect­ing on its legacy.

“I think it was very mem­o­rable. I would do it again in a heartbeat,” Cal­la­han said. “It was re­ward­ing and heart­break­ing, but there are so many an­i­mals that we know we served and were able to give won­der­ful homes too.”

“It’s bit­ter­sweet right now, but we’re proud of our work here,” she added. “We’ve had our share of crit­ics, but the ma­jor­ity of our com­mu­nity stepped up to help us with do­na­tions, vol­un­teer­ing and adop­tions. We’ll be for­ever grate­ful to them.”

When asked if she or A Buddy For Life would ever con­sider run­ning an­other shel­ter oper­a­tion, Cal­la­han said it wasn’t some­thing she was seek­ing, but wouldn’t rule it out.

“We learned a lot from this jour­ney, but ul­ti­mately it would de­pend on the cir­cum­stances,” she said.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY CARL HAMIL­TON

Ce­cil­ton res­i­dent Nick Han­i­fee sprints through the fin­ish line.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Dal­ton is one of the few dogs still avail­able for adop­tion be­fore the clo­sure of A Buddy For Life’s shel­ter.

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