Just one day after Council Members David Marks and Tom Quirk announced that they were introducing legislation to tighten the county’s animal welfare statute, officials announced on Thursday that Baltimore County would be creating a dedicated animal abuse unit within the Baltimore County Police Department.
“In response to community input, I asked Police Chief Sheridan and Animal Services Director Dr. Melissa Jones to review County procedures regarding the referral and priority handling of animal cruelty cases,” stated County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. “That review recommended that Baltimore County establish a specialized unit in the Baltimore County Police Department dedicated to animal abuse cases, and this unit will be up and running by the end of the month.”
The new Animal Abuse Investigative Team will be comprised of a police sergeant, a police officer, and three civilian investigators. Animal Services has seen an increase in the number of suspected animal abuse cases since a new state law went into effect last October, compelling veterinary practitioners to report suspicions of animal cruelty or fighting to local animal control or law enforcement agencies.
Baltimore County’s review indicated that, presently, individuals are able call a variety of numbers to report animal abuse cases. Calls are made to the local police precinct, 911, Animal Services, or even the State’s Attorney’s office.
Under the new procedure, all callers will be directed to call 410-887-5901 to reach the Animal Abuse Investigative Team.
If the Animal Abuse Investigative Team is unable to respond, callers will be instructed to call 911 immediately, and 911 operators will then refer the caller to the local police precinct. The precinct will investigate and refer the case to the Animal Abuse Investigative Team for follow-up.
“Establishing a dedicated police unit to handle suspected cases of animal abuse will be a more effective way to handle what are often very challenging cases,” said Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan.
“The creation of this unit creates a much clearer line of communication for the public and for our employees at Animal Services,” said Melissa Jones, V.M.D., Director of Baltimore County Animal Services. “I’m very pleased to have the resources of the Police Department to investigate and fight animal cruelty in our communities.”
“I encouraged the County Executive to review all of the procedures in animal cruelty cases, and I am very pleased that he followed up,” said 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk. “This should be a much improved process.”
“The creation of a specialized unit in the Police Department to handle animal abuse will significantly improve communications between my office and the county,” said State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
“I am glad the the County Executive is following our lead,” added 5th District Councilman David Marks.