www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-county/north-county/bs-md-co-shelter-update-20130621,0,3277399.story

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Baltimore County gets no bids for animal shelter

County had planned to partner with non-profit to improve facility

By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

6:15 PM EDT, June 21, 2013

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After announcing plans early this year to partner with a nonprofit to improve the Baltimore County animal shelter, county officials say they have not found a group willing to do so.

No one responded to a request for proposals issued by the county in February that sought groups to take over the care of animals and adoption services at the shelter, located in Baldwin in the northern part of the county. Proposals were due last month.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz had said a nonprofit partnership would let county workers concentrate on public health and safety issues, such as dealing with dangerous dogs, while a private group could focus on taking care of animals and finding adoptive homes.

Some animal advocacy groups had complained about issues at the shelter, including its euthanasia rate of more than 63 percent and the fact that the facility offers few volunteer opportunities.

Donna Bernstein, a county resident involved in animal advocacy, said the county's request for proposals seemed "set up to fail." She believes the county only announced the plan for a private-public partnership to get citizens who complained about the shelter "off their back."

A partnership with a nonprofit that has expertise in adoption services and caring for animals could not only improve conditions for the pets, but free up county resources because a nonprofit could raise private funds for the shelter, Bernstein said.

"Even if you don't care about the animals so much, it saves taxpayers so much money," she said.

County spokeswoman Lauren Byrd said officials "remain hopeful that we will find a partner."

"We're still going to try to negotiate with any organization or nonprofit that comes forward," she said. "We're still going to encourage groups to come forward and contact us if they're interested in a partnership."

Cynde Frankel, director of Pet Rescue of Maryland, said residents need to do their part to help animals by getting their pets spayed or neutered and carefully taking into account a pet's temperament and exercise needs before adopting it. Many pets end up homeless because their owners didn't realize how much care the animals would require, she said.

Although some groups have complained that the county shelter doesn't work well with rescue organizations and volunteers, Frankel said that her group has "had really great experiences" and described the shelter staff as hardworking and dedicated.

"Their job is very difficult," she said.

Even without a formal partnership, the county could get help from private groups, said Aileen Gabbey, executive director of the Maryland SPCA. The county shelter once belonged to the Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance — which includes the SPCA, the Baltimore Humane Society and the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter — but left within the last five years, she said.

The SPCA could help the county with spaying and neutering services, transporting animals and advice on running the volunteer program, she said.

"We're more than happy to talk to the county," Gabbey said. "There are a lot of ways we could help."

alisonk@baltsun.com

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