BALTIMORE (WJZ) — An animal advocacy group is concerned by a proposal within the Baltimore Police Department’s staffing plan that calls for the elimination of the department’s animal abuse unit.
A report from Alexander Weiss Consulting released last month says the police department has a number of specialized units that may be redundant, including the animal abuse unit.
The report recommends closing the unit and reassigning its sole deputy to other needs as well as making other changes like combining the police department’s marine unit with the fire department’s, reducing SWAT team training time to increase the number of officers on the street and transferring the witness services unit into the homicide unit.
The Maryland SPCA opposes the change. The group said animal control gets 4,500 calls annually about abused animals and the unit is needed to keep saving lives.
“It’s very much a concern,” said Katie Flory with the SPCA.
In 2018, there were 108 animal abuse cases in the city and in 2019 there were 147, Flory said.
Cutting the unit could make the city less safe, she said.
“We know that there is a huge correlation between violence towards animals and violence towards people,” she said.
All calls about abused animals go through the police department, which can investigate cases and make arrests. Animal control and the SPCA can’t do that.
The unit has helped to give dogs like Layla, who was found in an alley in August suffering from severe neck injuries, a chance to survive.
“A lot of us think of our pets,” Flory said. “As family and as a community, we need to stand up and say, ‘Hey, we’re not okay with this; keep this animal abuse officer in place.'”
When asked about the plan on Sunday, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said it would be too soon to share his thoughts since the plan is still out for public comment.
The full plan is available here.
Click here to leave feedback; the public comment period ends Monday night.