More than 100 people gathered in the rain Monday evening outside the historic courthouse in Towson calling for improvements at the Baltimore County animal shelter.
With signs that read "We demand change" and "Reform BCAS," members of Reform Baltimore County Animal Services and other organizations said they want to bring attention to conditions at the Baldwin facility, which they describe as inadequate for the animals there.
"We need to see reform," said Lisa Radov, a board member of the group Maryland Votes for Animals.
Advocates want the county to partner with a nonprofit to handle adoption services, similar to how Baltimore City operates its shelter, Radov said.
Members of the newly formed Reform Baltimore County Animal Services group are critical of the shelter's euthanasia rate — more than 60 percent last year. Members say county officials don't do enough to encourage people to volunteer at the facility.
The county is planning to build a new $5 million shelter to replace the current one, though an opening date has not been set.
Officials also recently announced changes they say will improve the shelter in the short term. The county hired two full-time veterinarians, reduced adoption fees for cats, and expanded spaying and neutering services. Starting in late April, the shelter will offer more weekend and late-afternoon adoption hours designed to make it more convenient for residents to visit.
County resident Jody Rosoff said the county could improve operations without a new facility. Rosoff works to find homes for dogs in need and said she's concerned the shelter doesn't do enough to help reconnect lost pets with their owners or to care for sick and injured animals.
"They don't need to build a $5 million shelter to change," Rosoff said.
Last year, the county attempted to find a nonprofit partner to handle adoption services at the shelter, but officials received no responses to a request for proposals. At the time, critics said the request did not generate interest because it was poorly crafted.