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Humane Society concerns heard by commissioners

January 17, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

People with concerns about how the local humane society does its job filled the seats in the Washington County Commissioners' meeting room Thursday night.

The issues ranged from the feasibility of a pit bull ordinance in the City of Hagerstown to the administration of the spay/neuter voucher system to control the pet population in Washington County.

Hagerstown City Councilwoman Penny Nigh spoke as a concerned citizen, an animal rescuer and the relative of a child attacked by a pit bull in Hagerstown 10 months ago.

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Nigh distributed a copy of a letter Washington County Humane Society Director Maria Procopio wrote to Hagerstown City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman Jan. 7 in which she said it would be at least April before she would be ready for a presentation to the city government on the pit bull ordinance issue.

"Please, somebody needs to do something to get this ordinance activated sooner," Nigh said.

Dana Moylan, current president of the Humane Society of Washington County's board of directors, said Procopio is exploring the costs of housing and testing the animals to make sure they are actually pit bulls.

"Breed-specific laws are very controversial nationwide," Moylan said.

Hagerstown Police Chief Art Smith said his department executed 80 search warrants in 2002 and it is the pit bulls that his officers are concerned about because of the propensity of that breed to do the most harm when biting.

"The Washington County Narcotics Task Force has asked that we try to nudge this ordinance forward," Smith said.

Ruth Rowe, president of KitCat and Critter Rescue Inc., told the four commissioners who attended the special meeting that while 70 percent of the humane society's money is taxpayer money, no information about meetings or even copies of the bylaws are forthcoming from the agency.

Rowe said she believes Washington County needs a more aggressive spay/neuter program that is available to everyone.

"I'm getting complaints from citizens who say they now have to come in to get the spay/neuter vouchers instead of having them mailed out or faxed as before," Rowe said.

Christine Clark, a former humane society board member, said she fears that the agency doesn't follow state guidelines.

"I have a canceled check from my membership renewal," Clark said. But she said there hasn't been a membership meeting for five years.

Mary Haines asked why the humane society doesn't spay or neuter animals before they are adopted from the shelter on Maugansville Road.

Angie Harsh, who used to operate Pet Hotline, reminded the commissioners that she started the spay/neuter program in Washington County years ago when it was funded solely through the sale of dog licenses.

"We really lowered the numbers (of strays) when that was the policy," Harsh said.

Commissioner William Wivell said all testimony would be reviewed and a response would be forthcoming.

Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook was unable to attend Thursday's meeting.

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