Council tours new county animal shelter
Director to offer changes to county ordinance
— As three members of the county council toured the new Cecil County Animal Services shelter Tuesday morning, it was obvious that they are all animal lovers.
Council members Robert Hodge, George Patchell and Joyce Bowlsbey took time between coos and pettings to inspect the Route 213 facility, formerly the SPCA of Cecil County headquarters, that was opened to the public July 1.
New county animal services director Abigail Lightning-Bingham told the officials that even though the shelter’s signage has not gone up yet and more promotional work is yet to be done, her staff has seen numerous cases already. On Monday, two stray animals that were picked up by animal control officers were
reunited with their families. So far, about 30 animals have been adopted or taken by rescue efforts out of the county shelter. Aiding that effort are lowered adoption costs of $65 per dog and $40 per cat — though free cat adoptions are being offered through the end of July.
As of Tuesday morning, five dogs and about a dozen cats were available for adoption.
“Our goal is to reduce an animal’s length of stay, whether that is moving them to a rescue or through an adoption, but we want to move them out of here as quick as possible so they’re not sitting in a shelter,” she said. “We always want to send out more than we’re taking in.”
In response to questions about some of the harder to enforce provisions of the county’s animal care and control ordinance, Lightning-Bingham told officials that she was reviewing the current legislation for changes to make it more common sense and easier to enforce.
“I’ve spoken and met with our county attorney, Jason Allison, a couple times and we’ll continue to meet to make sure that everything is defined properly, is easier for the public to understand and is easier for our officers to enforce,” she said, noting she did not have a timeline for suggested amendments. “We’re literally going lineby-line because one word can make a difference about how something is enforced or interpreted.”
Hodge commented that he didn’t think there’s a hurry but “we need to get it right.”
Any amendments to the county ordinance would still have to be approved by the county council.
The new facility contains an examination room, operating room, cat socialization room, dog kennels, outdoor dog space, grooming area, quarantine space and administrative offices.
While the facility has been rejuvenated with some renovations, new utility lines including heat- ing and air conditioning and hardwired smoke detectors, a new paint job and some repairs, the work is not fully complete at the facility or its operation, Lightning- Bingham said.
Since CCAS does not yet have a Drug Enforcement Agency certification, it is requiring adoptive families to return following adoptions for a scheduled spaying or neutering of their new pet. Lightning- Bingham expects to get DEA clearance in the next week or so, allowing permanent storage of the controlled dangerous substances necessary for the procedures.
The director is also still seeking to fill an outreach coordinator position, who will organize volunteers, coordinate foster and adoption resources and help plan any departmental events.
“We are excited to get that person hired as soon as possible,” she said.
So far, 10 people have been trained to be CCAS volunteers at the shelter and another orientation on Saturday will train another batch, Lightning-Bingham said.
While earlier plans had animal control officers reporting to the Cecil County Department of Emergency Services, they have since been reassigned to the CCAS, Lightning-Bingham said.
“They report to me directly,” she said. “We’re all in- house now. We think that makes more sense because for the officers there was a bit of disconnect. They would bring in an animal but then they wouldn’t hear what would happen to them. Did they get adopted or rescued? What was the ultimate disposition? So I think it’s wonderful that we’re under one roof now.”
The shelter, located at 3280 Augustine Herman Highway, is open noon to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, noon to 7 p.m. Wednesdays, noon to 5: 30 p. m. Thursdays, noon to 5: 30 p. m. Fridays, 10 a. m. to 4 p. m. Saturdays and noon to 3 p. m. Sundays. It is closed on Mondays. For more information or for animal control assistance, call 410- 441- 2040.
New county animal service director Abigail Lightning-Bingham (center) talks with Cecil County councilmen George Patchell (left) and Robert Hodge in the facility’s kennel Tuesday during their tour.