Allegany County is part of the Cumberland region in western Maryland. It is a hilly, rural area with a population of about 75,000 people.
The Allegany County Animal Shelter (ACAS) used to be high-kill, with a reported live release rate of about 15%. Late in 2010 a group of local volunteers, working with county management, reformed the shelter virtually overnight. Last year that turnaround culminated in the county contracting out operations to the Allegany County Animal Shelter Foundation, a private non-profit formed by the volunteers. ACAS will hit another milestone in four months, when construction starts on its much-needed new shelter building.
Peter Masloch was one of the people who was most instrumental in reforming the shelter, and he provided me with information about its policies. ACAS accepts owner surrenders from county residents, with a $25 surrender fee. Sometimes the shelter asks people if they can wait a few days to surrender an animal, but they take animals immediately if the owner cannot wait. Animal control does not pick up stray cats, since they are considered free-roaming in Allegany County. The shelter partners with Homeward Bound Cat Rescue to do TNR, and those cats are not counted in intake or disposition statistics. Three of ACAS’s rescue partners have been very helpful in the shelter’s high live release rate for domesticated cats: Last Chance Animal Rescue, Lost Paws of Lancaster, and Lost Paws of New Jersey.
The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in 2011 that pit bulls are inherently dangerous dogs. Allegany County officials initially ordered that the shelter cease adopting out pit bulls, but backed off that stance after the Maryland Attorney General issued an opinion on the effect of the law pending a motion to reconsider. Currently, pit bull advocates are hoping that a legislative fix can be passed soon. In the meantime ACAS is able to adopt out pit bull mixes, since only certain purebreds are affected by the court’s ruling.
In 2011, the first year of the shelter’s turnaround, ACAS did not keep precise statistics but its live release rate was approximately 90%. In 2012, the shelter’s live release rate was 96% for dogs and 93.5% for cats. Intake went up substantially in 2013 to a total of 2009 animals, but the shelter nevertheless maintained its high save rate with an overall live release rate of 95%. If animals who died in shelter care in 2013 are included with euthanasia, the live release rate was 92%. The shelter does not perform owner-requested euthanasia, and instead refers such requests to a veterinarian.
Allegany County, MD, is listed in the Running Totals as a 90%+ community.