Petition drive for animals grows

Advocates of shelter want bigger budget, longer hours restored

February 02, 2000|By Lisa Respers | Lisa Respers,SUN STAFF

In an effort to expand hours at the Howard County Animal Shelter, advocates are stepping up a petition drive to increase its budget.

Ann Selnick, a member of Animal Advocates of Howard County, a community group that volunteers at the shelter, said nearly 1,000 signatures have been collected and more are being solicited. Selnick said her group is willing to do whatever it takes to persuade officials to keep the shelter open longer.

"We want to be in there saving lives," Selnick said. "We don't want to be out there getting signatures. But we will step forward on this issue and stay there until it is resolved."

The shelter, which is run by the Howard County Police Department, has been the target of complaints since reducing its hours of operation in December as a result of a staff shortage. While police confirm that statistics indicate that adoptions in December were down 29 percent and euthanasia was up 30 percent from December 1998, Howard County Police Chief Wayne Livesay says the reduced hours have not caused an increase in euthanasia.

Livesay has said the statistics are a result of several factors, including a policy prohibiting adoptions during the holidays and the presence of dangerous animals that have been seized and not eligible for adoption.

But Selnick said the ineligibility can be traced to reducing the hours of operation by four a week.

"When Chief Livesay says that the adoption figures went down because of the Christmas policy that keeps animals from being adopted, well, that policy has been around for years and there has never been a problem like this," Selnick said. As for the dangerous animals, she said, "The longer the animals are kept in the cages, there is an increase in illness and behavior problems. And they are kept in the cages longer because they are not being adopted."

Concerned residents have been flooding County Council members with e-mail and phone calls urging longer shelter hours. Councilman C. Vernon Gray, a Democrat from Columbia, said yesterday officials need to closely examine the issue of increased funding.

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