Calvert moves forward with new animal shelter
St. Mary’s may follow, leaving Charles sole supporter of overwhelmed Tri-County
Important decisions regarding the Charles County animal shelter are coming fast.
With the Calvert County Board of Commissioners fully committing themselves to building a new animal shelter for just their jurisdiction and St. Mary’s County leaning toward doing the same, Charles County finds itself in the spotlight.
Charles County has $50,000 committed in its budget for a feasibility study for an independent shelter, but there has been no guarantee of a new shelter for the county.
Charles County Commissioners’ President Peter Murphy (D) said St. Mary’s County has allocated money in its budget for a feasibility study for a shelter as well.
Both counties are looking at their options right now, Murphy said.
“We have a couple of different options. One is, do we partner together to remodel the current facility, do we partner together to build a new facility or do we go our separate ways,” Murphy said. “If that were to happen, then of course we’d have to make the decision independently if we would stay where we are but remodel or build a new facility.”
Both county’s processes are running parallel, so a joint decision is in play for the animal shelter one way or another Murphy said.
Murphy said he does not know what decision he would lean toward at this point, but said the county still remains committed to improving the Tri-County Animal Shelter in the meantime.
While Murphy said he does not know what action is the right action to take at this point, Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said he is fully committed to moving forward with a new, independent shelter.
“I always thought, early on, that the population increase over the last 50 years has really made the Tri-County Animal Shelter obsolete,” Robinson said. “All three jurisdictions should be running
their own shelter.”
And Calvert County will do just that. The Calvert County shelter will be between 8,000 and 14,000 square feet and employ up to 10 full-time positions, including a volunteer coordinator and manager, the release states. The new facility will also house the Calvert County Animal Control officers who report to the sheriff’s office.
Marrick Properties will lease the new facility to the county, with an option for purchase at a later date. Cost projections do not impact the fiscal 2017 budget, and the shelter is expected to be in ser vice during fiscal 2018.
Calvert moving on from the Tri-County Animal Shelter is “no surprise,” Robinson said. Calvert officials alerted both Charles and St. Mary’s counties this move was likely coming “a while ago,” he said.
“I applaud them for moving forward,” Robinson said. “I think it is really probably the impetus we needed to jump start the creation of our own Charles County only shelter.”
Murphy said the county has not had solid conversations about when the build out on its own animal shelter would start or how it would be paid for. He anticipates, he said, Charles County will remain committed to keeping the shelter up and running until fiscal year 2017.
Charles County committed four new attendant positions in its freshly approved budget for the shelter. The commissioners committed just more than $950,000 to the animal shelter in their operating budget.
Robinson said the shelter still needs to be maintained and all three counties should be committed to making improvements until new facilities are ready to be launched.
A new Charles County facility would not launch until, at least, Robinson said, two years down the road.
But Calvert County officials have said they decided to break from their current Tri-County Animal Shelter funding collaboration with Charles and St. Mary’s counties, as improvements to staffing and renovations are needed at the existing Hughesville shelter.
The decision comes after several meetings with regional leadership and project planners revealed an upgrade and expansion of the current facility would require Calvert to fund 25 percent at about $200,000 annually to the Hughesville shelter’s operations.
Despite the media announcement Tuesday, many of the details on the new public-private venture to give Calvert County its own animal shelter are still unknown.
The exact square footage, operating expense, facility design and facility management are all unknown. Calvert Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) acknowledged during the Tuesday press conference that many of the details regarding the county’s first animal shelter and adoption center are yet to be determined.
“Given [that] we are still working on details, some of the answers may be to be decided or we’re working on it,” said Slaughenhoupt. “Be assured we will be keeping the community involved as we move forward.”
What is known is the exact location — 5055 Hallowing Point Road in Prince Frederick. The fenced-in vacant lot sits nearly half the length of a football field off Route 231. Its perimeter is lined by mature trees and is occupied by a half-dozen or so portable toilets.
Michelle Quigley, a Charles County veterinarian, said she is not impressed by Calvert County moving into a new facility. That will not change the policies the current animal shelter is operating under, she said, and if their policies are not progressive in the new shelter it will not matter what building they’re in.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the answer to the issues at Tri-County, but I think there’s a possibility the counties reform the shelters and they do it correctly, then they can make better shelters,” Quigley said. “It all depends on how they run the shelters. If they run them the exact same way, then they’ll have the exact same thing.”
There needs to be foster programs and no-kill protocols in each of the shelters should the counties all choose to move their separate ways, Quigley said, just like there should have been at the tri-county shelter. The staffing numbers also need to be appropriate with veterinarians included.
It’s more about policy than how new the building is, Quigley said. “It’s about how they run them,” she said. “If they have a new building and they euthanize them left and right, that wouldn’t change anything.”
According to a press release from the Calvert County Board of Commissioners, the shelter will save all healthy and treatable animals, even when the shelter is full, and only terminally ill animals or those considered dangerous to public safety will be euthanized. Staff will be required to work with veterinarians to make this determination.
Quigley said she has not heard anything concrete as far as policy from any county officials in Calvert. But she does hope they finally move to implementing no-kill policies and make sure animals can find homes.
Robinson said if Charles County moves forward with its own shelter, they would have “progressive policies” in place for the animals and no-kill would be a priority.
Quigley said she hopes that is true.
“Everybody wants to do these new things, but you’re going to have to run it the right way,” Quigley said. “Tri-County would have been fine if they just made those changes, but everybody likes new buildings.”
5055 Hallowing Point Road in Prince Frederick, future home of Calvert County’s first animal shelter and adoption center. Currently, it’s a contractor storage yard for portable toilets.
The Calvert County commissioners stand with Rick Bailey of Marrick Properties on Tuesday at a press conference announcing the publicprivate partnership for a Calvert County animal shelter. From left are Commissioner Steve Weems, Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl, Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt, Bailey and commissioners Pat Nutter and Mike Hart.