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Cruelty complaints about animal shelter go to hearing board


Former employees and volunteers from the Defenders of Animal Rights shelter took their complaints about the shelter to the Baltimore County Animal Hearing Board yesterday, repeating charges of animal cruelty and mismanagement.

Eleven people, including a woman who has filed a civil suit against the Phoenix shelter and its manager, James Kovic, told board members the shelter put animals to death unnecessarily and often deceived its customers.

"I was told to tell the public that we never put animals to sleep unless they were nasty or bite cases," said Ellen Boyle, who worked at the shelter for four years. "The lies that were made up there were unbelievable."

Mr. Kovic and his ex-wife, Mary Jo Kovic, who is president of the shelter, did not attend yesterday's hearing, but sent attorney John Gontrum to represent them.

Mr. Gontrum, who did not make a statement on behalf of the Kovics, said he attended the meeting to familiarize himself with the complaints. He said he planned to file a written statement with the board.

Board Chairman George Price said the board would review the information presented at yesterday's hearing, but he did not know how long it would take for the board to make a decision.

The board could make recommendations to the shelter or refer the case to the state's attorney's office.

Nearly all of those who spoke before the board said animals, especially dogs, are killed for exhibiting stress-related problems. Dogs that express fear, are timid or suffer from diarrhea are killed, they said.

Mr. Kovic "doesn't even give them a chance to recuperate," said Sheila Akehurst. "He won't give them adequate time to adjust."

Former volunteers said animals killed at the shelter often suffer unnecessarily because of the incompetence of Mr. Kovic. Stray animals that are brought in are sometimes killed immediately, making it impossible for owners to locate their pets.

"My God, if any of you people have a heart in you, please do something about this," former employee Don Miller told the board.

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