Humane Society works to halt bear hunt

Balto. County shelter also planning fund-raiser

October 11, 2004|By Kevin T. McVey | Kevin T. McVey,SUN STAFF

The Humane Society of Baltimore County has a full agenda this fall that includes trying to stop a state bear hunt meant to control the bear population and stem complaints from residents in Western Maryland.

The group is also working to eliminate dog fighting and is continuing its efforts to have dogs and cats spayed and neutered.

Two animal groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, have sued to stop the six-day bear hunt, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 25. A court hearing is scheduled for Oct. 18.

While the Humane Society of the United States has taken the main role in attempting to stop the bear hunt, the county society is contributing by making sure society members know about the situation. The society has a list of 148 activists who have pledged to write to the Department of Natural Resources on the issue.

"More than half the complaints of bears in Maryland come from people who see that a bear has knocked over a trash can or a bird feeder or from someone who saw one outside their house and was scared," said Frank Branchini, executive director of the Humane Society of Baltimore County.

"Now if there was a case that someone's sheep were attacked by bears, then that would be a problem, but that's not nearly the case," Branchini said. "The issue is about people from the city moving out into bear territory, and if you don't want to have wildlife there, you should go live in the city."

Last year's figures from DNR show that Maryland had between 266 and 437 wild bears. The hunt this month will be limited to 30 bears. If fewer than 30 are killed, another hunting period will be held in December.

On another front, the society also is trying to limit the cat and dog population with its spaying and neutering program. Although the number of strays has decreased over the past 10 years, much work remains, Branchini said.

The society also has become a vocal opponent of dog fighting in Baltimore County. With help from Baltimore County Animal Control and the Snyder Foundation for Animals, the organization will offer a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction for dog fighting.

It has also pushed for legislation on issues involving animals. One legislative move backed by the society was an animal cruelty law that includes dog fighting and provides for a penalty of three years in jail or a $5,000 fine.

Branchini said the society's stance on dog fighting is strong because it is a core issue with many members of the organization.

The society is hoping to raise $100,000 this year for its efforts to combat dog fighting and to protect unwanted pets at its shelter in Reisterstown, Branchini said.

Over the course of a year the shelter handles about 1,000 animals. A home is found for about 600 animals each year. The society's annual income is about $1 million.

The shelter includes a dog shelter, cat shelter, rabbit shelter, a spaying and neutering center and a pet cemetery. The shelter has about 25 staff members and 250 volunteers.

The organization's main fund-raising event, Paws on Parade, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Reisterstown campus.

The walk for pets and their owners will cover 1.6 miles on the society's 365-acre property at 1601 Nicodemus Road. Last year, about 500 people attended the walk.

This is the fifth annual walk, but several events are new this year. A nondenominational blessing of the animals will mark the beginning of the walk. During the walk there will be a dog agility demonstration at 12:15 p.m., live music by Laura Lea at 12:30 p.m. and a costume contest at 1:30 p.m.

Branchini said pet dogs, cats, rabbits and even donkeys and llamas are expected.

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