7/18/2013 — After the Maryland Dog Federation sent a Maryland Public Information Act letter requesting information to help Harford county citizens find out where their hard earned animal care tax dollars go, county attorney Robert McCord has informed the federation that the shelter has prohibited him from releasing any animal intake and disposition numbers Humane Society of Harford County.
“…I will note that I have been advised by the attorney for the Humane Society that they have objected to the disclosure of any records…” Robert McCord, Harford County Attorney
Recently, the Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC), a private, 501(c)(3) organization contracted by county government to be THEIR shelter, killed an eighteen-year old, spayed, declawed cat only a few hours after it was brought into the shelter, seemingly ignoring a state and county law that required a 72-hour hold on stray cats to give owners some time to find their lost pets. Despite the fact the cat was placed in a carrier without incident and brought in by a neighbor who didn’t realize she belonged right next door, HSHC board president David Fang claimed the cat was “so feral” they needed to kill her for “safety concerns”. An animal is “feral” when it is born in and lives in the wild and does not accept direct human contact. While a feral cat might be spayed, feral cats are certainly NOT declawed, certainly not handleable enough for the neighbor to place it in a carrier, and are usually not eighteen years old! Basically, unaware of the difference between a feral cat and a frightened one, and ignoring the history that they DID have, the shelter killed a terrified, beloved lap cat within a few hours of its being brought in. It is their job to know the difference — it’s what the county pays them to do. Owner Bob Brooks, who was actively searching for his beloved pet Mistoffelees and unaware that his cat had already been killed by the shelter, is devastated and looking for real answers.
The Humane Society of Harford County — the shelter — acts as a government proxy, accepting all animals brought in to them from county animal control and from the public, disposes of the animals in accord with state and county laws (supposedly), accepts fines and penalties as determined by animal control and applicable laws, statutes, and regulations, takes ownership of stray and surrendered animals, and keeps revenue and fees associated with adoptions, surrenders, and animals returned to owner. In addition, Harford County pays HSHC a set amount annually through a Memorandum of Understanding to perform these animal sheltering services on behalf of the county. HSHC clearly acts in a quasi-government capacity in dealing with the county’s homeless pets. The citizens of Harford county surely expect and deserve to know how their county shelter handles animals, if it acts within the confines of the law, and how their tax dollars are spent.
Although the Maryland Dog Federation has received a refusal from the county to provide the information we’ve requested, we are still pursuing the data directly from the Harford County pound through letters emailed to Executive Director Mary Leavens and HSHC board member Charles Wellington and expect a response from HSHC within the time allowed by the Maryland Public Information Act. We can only guess why this organization, broadly funded by Harford county taxpayer dollars, would object to the county attorney releasing information and why county officials would not expect full and transparent disclosure from a publicly funded community partner.