The organization which calls itself People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—a misleading title if I ever heard one—recently charged that Baltimore’s municipal animal shelter neglected a seriously injured cat and housed its shelter animals in inhumane fashion.
While PeTA made these charges, it offered nothing from its vast network or its $30 million annual budget to give the financially strapped Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) a hand. PeTA, like many fringe organizations, is free with advice and chintzy with budget and time.
Neither of PeTA’s charges is true—the cat, which had been brought into the shelter early in the morning after an attack by a dog, was paralyzed in its hindquarters but was neither in pain nor in shock, said BARCS director Jennifer Mead-Brause. The cat was humanely euthanized when the vet arrived later that morning because its injuries would prevent a decent life. It would not be able to move its hind legs, and it would be incontinent for life. But it did not suffer while waiting.
The facilities at BARCS are not deluxe, but inhumane? No, as I found out in a tour right after PeTA made its charges. Cages are not stacked floor-to-ceiling, as PeTA charged in its florid press release. The air conditioning is working just fine. The cages are clean. The shelter is crowded but manageable. The staff and volunteers are pressed for time, but more than 90 dogs get their walks twice a day.
Here’s a statistic for you: According to statistics filed by PeTA with the Commonwealth of Virginia, where the organization is headquartered, it took 2,366 animals into its Norfolk shelter in 2009. It adopted out eight of them. It transferred 31 to other shelters. It euthanized 2,301 of them.
Contrast that performance with BARCS, which took in more than 12,000 animals and managed to get a little more than 8,000 of them adopted or transferred to rescue organizations for adoption.
Baltimore’s not the best place for a pet to find himself on the street, but it beats Norfolk by a long chalk. An animal who finds himself at BARCS has a little better than two-out-of-three chance of surviving the experience. An animal who finds himself in the “care” of PeTA has less than a one-in-ten chance of survival.
Ask yourself, where would a pet rather be?
Over the years PeTA, with its $30 million annual budget, has offered no help to Baltimore shelters. No help with housing, no help with trap-neuter-release of feral cat colonies, no help with neutering services for house pets. It has, however, bought a walk-in freezer for its Norfolk facility to store corpses of euthanized animals for disposal.
PeTA has come up with a decent idea—it wants the City of Baltimore to require that all house cats—whether purebred or mixed-breed, neutered. Catteries would be outlawed in the city.
It’s definitely something for the city to consider.
In the meantime, BARCS needs volunteers. Mead-Brause says that the shelter has “hundreds” of volunteers, but the core of volunteers who appear regularly to perform the shelter’s critical work—cleaning, feeding, walking—is in the tens. To volunteer call 410-396-4695 and ask for Frank Branchini, or email Frank directly, firstname.lastname@example.org.
BARCS needs pellet cat litter—the stuff that looks like rabbit food but it’s grey, and made of recycled newspaper. It also needs towels, any size, and disposable litter pans—the low boxes that hold cases of beer cans at the liquor store work best. They go through a couple of hundred of those a day. Take them over to BARCS at 301 Stockholm St., behind M&T Bank Stadium, Monday-Friday 2-6 p.m. or Saturday and Sunday, 11-4 p.m.
We at the Baltimore Guide are continuing to accept donations of toys, cans of food, unopened bags of kibble and towels. We will take those down to BARCS for you. Sorry, we can’t accept the beer boxes. But we will help in any other way we can.
Volunteering and donating is how we can improve conditions at our animal shelter. As for PeTA, free advice is worth the price.
Strut your mutt to raise funds
BARCStoberfest, the big fall event put on by the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, is held on Saturday, Oct. 23 in Patterson Park. In addition to the popular costume contest, the fund-raising walk, Strut Your Mutt, will be held, with prizes for the person with the highest fund raising total. Winner gets a Caribbean cruise for two.Info: www.baltimoreanimalshelter.org.
by JACQUELINE WATTS