PETA alleges inhumane treatment, 'unhealthy' conditions at city animal shelter

BARCS denies claim that mortally injured cat suffered for hours before euthanization

September 01, 2010|By Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun

The animal activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals alleges that the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter allowed a mortally injured cat to sit for up to seven hours before euthanizing it — a charge the shelter denies.

In letters to BARCS leaders and to city officials, PETA also describes conditions at the shelter as "overcrowded and unhealthy."

The situation regarding the cat stems from a complaint made by a Hamilton man who witnessed a dog maul a cat Aug. 8. Joe Lombardo called animal control to pick up the cat, which was not his, and an officer told him to call BARCS the next morning to follow up.

"When he followed up the next day, he was told that the severely injured cat was left without treatment or euthanasia for more than 7 hours, and was not put out of his or her misery until 8:30 am," wrote Teresa Chagrin, a specialist with PETA's cruelty investigations department, in a letter to the director of BARCS. "If this is true, we believe that BARCS is in violation of [a state code] which states that a person may not, 'unnecessarily fail to provide … necessary veterinary care …' to any animal in his or her charge or custody."

BARCS officials said Tuesday that the cat was immediately euthanized.

"That's completely wrong," said Debbie Rahl, the shelter's rescue coordinator. "There was no delay."

In a July letter to Olivia D. Farrow, Baltimore's interim health commissioner, Chagrin described conditions at the shelter — some she witnessed, others she received complaints about from visitors to the South Baltimore facility.

"Visitors to the city facility report that several rooms lined with cages from floor to ceiling contain cats housed in high temperatures while small box fans, apparently meant to cool the rooms, simply blow hot air around the floors," Chagrin wrote. "I visited the facility on June 13, 2010, and verified the complaints. During my visit, many cats showed signs of overheating — the majority of cats were lying on their sides with their eyes closed and were breathing very rapidly. They had no interest in visitors and appeared extremely lethargic."

Chagrin said Wednesday she'd received no response from the city.

Lombardo, who made the original complaint about the cat, insisted that when he called BARCS, they told him the time the animal was put down.

"This was an animal control officer that told me this, and she said it goes on constantly," he said. "It's troubling. But I guess, honestly, it doesn't surprise me. Nothing really does surprise me about Baltimore City government. I guess there's no way to prove it."

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