Baltimore City Paper

City Creates Animal Abuse Task Force

Not sure how many people out there followed the story of Phoenix the pit bull, a dog that was set on fire by a couple of teenagers in southwest Baltimore in May. Baltimore police officer Syreeta Teel saw the poor dog burning on the street while onlookers watched. Teel doused the flames with her sweatshirt and put the fire out. The dog was taken for veterinary care, but after a brief battle to save her, vets euthanized her.

In June, two teenagers were arrested and charged with setting the dog on fire.

Shortly after that, a cat was found tied to a utility pole in the city. Firecrackers had been lit under its head.

Today, the city held a press conference announcing that Mayor Sheila Dixon is appointing an Animal Abuse Task Force to come up with a plan to prevent and prosecute animal abuse in the city. The task force will examine animal-abuse prevention programs that are working in other cities, says Ian Brennan, spokesman for the mayor. It will have one year to come up with recommendations to present to the city.

"In 2007 we created a task force with the Health Department and the Police Department to create a task force to better identify and eliminate dog fighting," Brennan says. "This is another thing, sort of an extension of the mayor's quest to find best practices [to combat animal abuse]." Brennan says the new task force will come up with recommendations to combat dog fighting, as well as other forms of abuse.

The task force will include: Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter executive director Jennifer Mead; MDSPCA executive director Aileen Gabbey; director of Baltimore City Animal Control Robert Anderson; Sheryl Goldstein, director of the Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice; the city Health Commissioner (at the moment, the position is held by interim commissioner Olivia Farrow); City Councilman Edward Reisinger (D-10th District); Zoe Michael from the mayor's office; a representative of the ASPCA; a representative from the city State's Attorney's Office; Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld; and two as-yet-unnamed city residents.