Anne Arundel County Celebrates Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week – Capital Gazette

Anne Arundel Animal Care and Control is a place of many noises – dogs yelp, rabbits suck ferociously on water dispensers, cats meow. But the volunteers there don’t care. They are just happy to hang out with the furry residents of Anne Arundel in need.

“They just need love and attention and us to let them know it’s okay,” said volunteer Kristi Ellefson, who works to socialize anxious cats.

The agency is commonly known as the one that catches dangerous animals in the county, but it has many other functions.

At Anne Arundel County Animal Care and Control in Millersville, staff take in animals that are voluntarily abandoned and those that neighbors have raised concerns about. Staff give the animals treatments, medications, sterilize them, and ultimately try to groom them for adoption right out of the center, which also serves as a shelter.

As the county celebrates National Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week, agency staff want to dispel misconceptions about the entity.

“We’re not the bad guy,” said Yvonne Hall, a kennel supervisor at the agency. “We try to do what is best for the public. We try to do what is best for the animals in our care.

Hall said the negative perception of the agency comes from those who are upset by decisions made by animal control and don’t always understand the rationale behind them.

“If we show up at your door, it’s because someone called us and filed a complaint. We don’t randomly go out to harass people,” Hall said. “The animals that come here, we try to give them every chance. We try to find a place for them and if we have to make the decision that they don’t leave for whatever reason, it’s not done lightly. It’s painful. There’s a lot of thought in there.

If an animal is found to be vicious, it should be euthanized. In 2020, 11 county dogs were euthanized; in 2021, only one dog has been euthanized, and so far in 2022, two dogs have been euthanized, Anne Arundel County Police Department spokesman Marc Limansky said.

But Hall said that in the nearly 27 years she has worked in animal control, the policies for how animal control agencies should operate have changed significantly.

“Back when I started, an animal was held for five days and after that it was euthanized,” Hall said. “Now we will hold one for as long as we can. The goal is to find a rescue and placement.

The agency can now also quarantine animals with an injury of unknown origin, which was once grounds for euthanasia, for four months and then reassess them to see if they can be safely released.

Hall attributes the policy changes to updated research.

“As time changes, technology changes, more information becomes available and I think based on scientific evidence, they [the health department] determine that it only takes four months to rule out rabies [for example]”Hall said.

Animal Control has 30 staff and 68 volunteers and the current year’s budget is $3.5 million, according to Limansky.

The agency also housed exotic animals. Hall said she saw monkeys, wallabies, tarantulas, iguanas, peacocks, emus and alligators jumping, walking and slithering around the facility. About a decade ago, the Department of Natural Resources began dealing with exotic animals to streamline the process of introducing these animals to wildlife sanctuaries, Hall said. This lifted a huge burden on animal control.

Hall said policies on how to operate the facility are set by the state and county health department.

When COVID-19 hit the state in March 2020, the agency had to completely rethink how things worked. They could no longer freely bring residents and volunteers into the center to spend time with the animals.

Hall said staff members would rotate shifts to care for the animals, and slowly the agency brought in more volunteers.

She said things were pretty much back to normal by September 2020 and the pandemic had even brought some good changes. Hall said lone residents who hadn’t been frequent adopters or foster parents of animals before 2020 are now bringing animals into their homes.

The agency also started making Facebook Live videos, which brought some much-needed attention to their work.

“We wanted a way for people to see if their pet got in here,” Hall said. “[We would] walk across and say, “That’s all the dogs we got. These are all the cats we have. Do you recognize your pet? Email us. Call us.

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Even though the agency is back to hosting in-person tours, it still does daily Facebook Lives because “we now have an audience,” Hall said.

“I think we’ve hired people who otherwise wouldn’t have been hired or really realized we’re even here,” she said, adding that the agency is now getting emails. emails from around the world from people who watch the daily Facebook Lives.

The animal population of the refuge changes from season to season. Hall said the facility is caring for a lot of dogs right now, 37 as of Tuesday. At the moment, the shelter is also home to 59 cats, six rabbits and two rats, Limansky said.

Ellefson, who estimates she has been a volunteer at the center for seven years, has four cats, three of which she adopted from animal control.

“We like to learn the personality of cats because, like Match.com, when someone comes in, we try to match the perfect cat with the person so it’s a successful adoption,” Ellefson said.

After retiring from his job in the military, Ellefson said it had been a rewarding way to spend his time.

“When you have a life of service, that’s what you do. It’s nice to be able to help, especially animals that need attention,” she said.

Benjamin M. Yerger