Baltimore County police to establish animal abuse unit

Baltimore County is forming an animal abuse unit within its police department to investigate allegations of animal cruelty.

The announcement Thursday by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz comes a day after two members of the Baltimore County Council said they would sponsor a bill requiring the police to handle animal abuse cases and setting clearer standards for when it is too hot or too cold to leave pets outside.

The bill was inspired by the case of Oscar, a dog that died this winter in Arbutus. Neighbors had said they reported to Baltimore County Animal Services several times that the dog was left outside in cold weather. The case remains under investigation.

“The Oscar situation grabbed the attention of a lot of people in Baltimore County,” said Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican who is sponsoring the bill with Councilman Tom Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat.

The councilmen’s bill will be introduced at Monday’s council meeting. It defines “adverse environmental conditions” that are unsafe for animals to include temperatures below 32 degrees or above 90 degrees, wind, rain, snow, ice, sleet, hail and exposure to direct sunlight or hot pavement.

Pets without suitable shelter would have to be brought indoors within 30 minutes of the onset of any of those conditions.

Marks said he and Quirk have been working on the bill for a few months, with the help of animal welfare activists. Even though Kamenetz is now implementing part of the bill by moving animal abuse investigations from Animal Services to the police department, Marks said they’ll still move forward with the bill.

The police department’s animal abuse unit will be in place by the end of the month and will include a police sergeant, a police officer and three civilian investigators, Kamenetz’s office said. Reports of animal abuse can be directed to the unit by calling 410-887-5901.

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