The second page of the mayor's Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission's 2012 Annual Report features a photo of Molly, a pitbull mix whose left eye has been torn out. It gets worse from there.
"City Hall told me they would not endorse the report and would not put it on the website," says Caroline Griffin, the commission's former chair. "I resigned."
Animal abuse is a problem in Baltimore. Dogs and cats are abandoned every day, dog fighting rings operate unchecked. Last week, somebody evicerated a puppy, according to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS). Just how bad the problem is is hard to say. People on the commission say they don't have statistics. They say to ask the police. Baltimore police have one officer assigned to animal abuse cases.
"It's a problem of resources," says City Councilman Robert Curran (D-3rd District), the commission's godfather and chair of the council's health committee. He says he will call City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot (who the report says did not go to a commission meeting for 18 months after her appointment to the post), and other stakeholders to a hearing next month. Curran says the mayor has been supportive of the commission's efforts all along.
"Simply because of the good work of the commission, there has been an upswing of reporting of animal abuse," Curran says. "It's tough fighting for non-human needs versus human needs. But folks that abuse animals are most likely the ones who are abusing our citizenry."
Just last week, the folks at BARCS, in a press release, described all of the following happening in the previous seven days: A 1-year-old dog witnessed being thrown from a car at Clifton Park came to BARCS covered in infected bite wounds and a deep laceration on his neck; a 1- or 2-year-old female pitbull was taken from a basement after being starved to the brink of death, her organs started shutting down from the huge open sores on her body created by being confined in a small area; Animal Control was called to the 3800 block of Pall Mall Road and found an eviscerated 3-month-old puppy with seven fatal knife lacerations covering his entire body.
The 64-page commission report, which was released after media outlets demanded it, makes heartbreaking reading. "After witnessing more than two years of genuine reform and progress, the [commission] has faced numerous obstacles over the past year, which have stymied our efforts. . . ."
Police are not taking animal abuse seriously since Batts' appointment last summer, the report says. "The commission is demoralized," Griffin wrote, with many members resigning or just not bothering to show up for meetings. "We know we will run the risk of alienating some agencies by demanding accountability," the report's introduction says. "Nevertheless, it is a risk we are willing to bear."