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Rescue dog death at local shelter raises concern in Prince George's County

An animal welfare organization fears the Animal Services Division facility is suffering from short staff and a disease outbreak. Prince George's County responds.

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — Authorities in Prince George’s County say an investigation has been launched after allegations that Animal Services workers there euthanized a dog before contacting the rescue organization that would have taken responsibility for him.

'George' was a 6-year-old adopted hound that should not have been killed, according to animal welfare advocates.

Facebook posts documenting George's saga, authored by a rescuer who asked WUSA9 not to publish their name, say George's owner had to give him up after the owner became ill.

The rescuer found George in a foster home, but the dog escaped and was eventually surrendered to Prince George’s County Animal Services on June 21, the 'George the Amazing Hound' Facebook page reported. 

According to rescuers, George had a microchip under his skin identifying him. However, they claim that rather than contacting rescuers for pickup during a 5-day hold period, Prince George's County Animal Services workers euthanized him after the time period expired.

“GEORGE was KILLED at PG Animal shelter in Maryland although he had a microchip. This was shared with the rescue by the shelter workers.”, the Facebook page reported.

In an email exchange, a spokesperson for Prince George’s County’s Department of Environment, which oversees Animal Services, confirmed an incident involving George. “I am unable to provide any information on this since there is an ongoing investigation," the spokesperson wrote.

A county intake document posted by rescuers said George was surrendered because he was aggressive.

Tamela Terry, Executive Director of the Prince George’s County SPCA, a volunteer animal welfare organization, said the episode highlights her concerns that the Animal Services Division in Prince George's is falling short of its obligations.

"He had a microchip and he had somebody who was looking out for him and who would have taken him and given him a home and instead he was put down," Terry said.

Terry believes Prince George’s Animal Services has become overwhelmed by a pandemic-related crisis including a staff shortage, the reassignment of long-time director Rodney Taylor, and an influx of pets adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic now being surrendered as owners go back to work. 

Terry is concerned about an outbreak of a viral animal illness called Parvo that has caused quarantines and made even more animals unadoptable.

"I think they're being euthanized for lack of space for sure,” Terry claimed.

In written exchanges by email, Prince George’s County Animal Services authorities reported there are 337 animals at the shelter and approximately 16-18 at a satellite location. 

The agency noted that 22 animals were seized from a kennel that was not caring for them last week.

The agency confirmed the Parvo outbreak saying two dogs and one kitten were infected.

Quarantines affecting about a dozen animals are in effect until July 11, according to officials.

The agency reported new staff is being hired as quickly as possible.

Best Friends, a non-profit animal welfare organization has been invited in to review operations at the shelter and consult on reforms that might be instituted before the end of the year, according to Andrea Crooms, Director of the Prince George's County Department of Environment who oversees Animal Services.

A search is underway for a new director for Animals Services to replace Taylor, Crooms said.

Crooms added that the rate of euthanizations at the shelter remains below the rate before the COVID-19 crisis disrupted operations.

Shelters throughout the region are facing similar challenges, according to Cindy Sharpley, Executive Director of Last Chance Animal Rescue, which operates spay and neuter clinics in Prince George's County.

"There's just too many animals," Sharpley said. "The shelters are doing what they can do. This is a community problem."

"So many dogs are being returned from their adoptions during COVID. They are not easily adoptable. It's a huge problem," Sharpley said.

She added that staff shortages are widespread in the animal care and welfare industry in the wake of the pandemic.

Sharpley also pointed out that spaying and neutering operations were suspended during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis because PPE and other supplies were needed to care for humans.

The result has been a boom in puppies and kittens needing adoption, Sharpley said.

Prince George's authorities are appealing to animal owners to get them vaccinated to prevent the spread of illnesses like Parvo in the community and in shelters.

Prince George's County Animal Services and the SPCA offer vaccination and microchip clinics on the first Sunday of each month at 8210 D'Arcy Road in Forrestville from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to Crooms.

The next clinic will be on July 1, Crooms added.

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