Nicky is the executive director of the Carroll County Humane Society. Nicky lives right outside Carroll County and has loved animals her entire life.
SAM PIAZZA: Um, this is Sam Piazza interviewing, uh, Ms. Nicky Ratliff, the Executive Director of the Humane Society of Carroll County on April 17th, 2010. How are you today?
NICKY RATLIFF: I’m fine, thank you.
SAM PIAZZA: Where do you live?
NICKY RATLIFF: I live in Mount Airy.
SAM PIAZZA: And how long have you lived there?
NICKY RATLIFF: Oh, I’ve lived there’s since 1976.
SAM PIAZZA: What made you come to Carroll County– move to Carroll County?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, actually I don’t live in Howard– Carroll County. I live in Howard County, about half a mile from Carroll County.
SAM PIAZZA: Ah, OK.
NICKY RATLIFF: And I would live in Carroll County, but it cost too much to relocate. So at any rate, I feel like I live in Carroll County because that’s where I spend almost all of my time, and– and I came to the Carroll County Humane Society because there was a– an opportunity there that I just could not pass up.
SAM PIAZZA: Now, was your education– did you go get a degree– degree in– in a– a certain field that would make you want to go into animal, uh–
NICKY RATLIFF: No, it’s just from the time I hatched I loved animals, and, uh– and actually, I was a government contract administrator for an industrial textile for many years and, uh– and then, uh, started working with animals when, uh, I actually, uh, decided to change– just change jobs. And I’ve always wanted to work with animals, and I started doing that. And then I came to, uh, humane work sometime after that.
SAM PIAZZA: Now, when you say always worked with animals, did you volunteer at places before you became the executive director?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, I had hor– had a horse. I had several horses, but one in particular that I showed. I have my own animals, and so I just, uh, rescued my first animal when I was in the fourth grade. It was a chicken that escaped from a processing plant, and I snatched it and outran the workers and got the chicken home.
SAM PIAZZA: And– and then this job came up for the executive director, and you applied for it?
NICKY RATLIFF: I did. I did. I, uh, had been doing some work in Howard County, uh, with large animals, uh, with regards to, uh, doing, uh, uh, abuse investigations with those and met some people that were on the board at the Humane Society in Carroll County and just touched base with them a couple times a year just to see how things were going. And I touched base one day, and they were looking for somebody to be in charge of their facility and their organization. And, uh, I said, well, gee, can I apply? And I did, and I got the job, so it was great.
SAM PIAZZA: When was that?
NICKY RATLIFF: Uh, that was in, uh, 1982.
SAM PIAZZA: They said you were doing abuse investigations. Was that a– just a volunteer–
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, it had come to my attention and others that at that particular time, Howard County animal control was only doing dogs basically, and, uh, there was a lot of issues with, uh, other animals, and so I and an attorney friend of mine, uh, and someone else who had some means, we got together and, uh, formed the Howard County Large Animal Rescue. So we started up looking into those issues, and, uh, I just kind of operated out of my home for free.
I was working. I had another job, but this was just on the side. And, uh, the one with, uh, a little bit of money in the organization paid for my babysitting fees. So I– and then I had the telephone that was paid by the organization in my, uh, guest bedroom, so it was kind of a one-horse stop, so to speak, but did that for a couple years. And then I think Howard County Animal Patrol said, gee, you know, we really probably ought to start doing this, and they did. And the moment they started it, I backed right out.
SAM PIAZZA: OK.
NICKY RATLIFF: Yeah.
SAM PIAZZA: What is the responsibility of the executive director of the Humane Society?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, of course, you’re working for a board of directors, and, uh, your responsibility is to them, um, and, uh, your responsibility is to hire and fire everyone who works at the Humane Society, and I emphasize the hire and minimize the fire because hate that. I certainly will do it, if necessary, but I have not had to do I– I think that my claim to fame has been picking out good people through the years, and, uh, and, of course, the executive director gets all the accolades- oh, way to go. Such a great place, and you do such good work. Well, the bottom line is, I don’t do the work. I pick the people that can do the work, and they’re– they’re terrific people.
SAM PIAZZA: And what– what is the Humane Society? Because I– I’m sure that the public may not understand exactly what it is.
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, the humane societies historically, uh, were citizens– groups of citizens– that got together and then incorporated, uh, so they would not have to pay taxes on things that they would buy– dog food and supplies. And, uh, their whole mission was to make the lives of animals better, uh, to have a place to put animals when they didn’t have homes, uh, have [AUDIO OUT] they could come and find them, and have a place for people to come and find animals if they wanted to adopt them. And, uh, and then, of course, only aside, uh, a lot of humane organizations, especially in the older days, used to do cruelty investigations and neglect investigations and check into things like that.
Uh, we do that continually here at Carroll County because we have a memorandum of understanding with the county government to run their animal care and control program, so we do continue to investigate abuse situations. Whereas some little humane societies that don’t have that relationship anymore, they may choose not to from liability standpoint, insurance standpoints, and things have gotten so much more sophisticated than the old days when you would go out. So, you know, it’s better off now leaving it to people that have the means.
SAM PIAZZA: Now I– I want to get to those various purposes a minute. What is generally the mission of the Humane Society
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, the mission of the Humane Society is to educate the public on the– the needs of the– of the animals that they have, to educate the public on the reasons why they should have– animals should have shade, shelter protection with the weather, uh, to house the abused and abandoned, uh, to make their– just generally make the lives of animals better and to assist the citizens, uh, you know, with their issues with animals.
SAM PIAZZA: How are you funded?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, we have private donations, which come in, uh, everything from, um, $10 every week, to some people will give more, and some people will leave money in their estates occasionally. Uh, but the bulk of the money, uh, is through the county government, uh, because the bulk of what we do is, uh, the same thing they would do if they were running an animal care control facility themselves.
SAM PIAZZA: How big of a staff do you have?
NICKY RATLIFF: I have, uh– there are 12 of us that are full-time and two part-time. Um, and it’s a very small staff compared to other jurisdictions, uh, handling basically the same type of work.
SAM PIAZZA: Do you also have active volunteer staff?
NICKY RATLIFF: We have some, which– but, you know, it’s been my experience that while volunteers are absolutely wonderful, uh, they’re– they are absolutely the icing on the cake, uh, if you have your entire program, uh, especially for an animal care control program, where there are expectations that need to be met, you can’t rely on volunteers. So you have to have a staff that’s capable of handling the day-to-day, and then, uh, volunteers are just– help my staff immeasurably.
SAM PIAZZA: Where–
NICKY RATLIFF: And–
SAM PIAZZA: Where are you located?
NICKY RATLIFF: We’re uh, off of Littlestown Pike, about four miles outside of Westminster– uh, 2517 Littlestown Pike– uh, before you get to Union Mills after you pass the airport.
SAM PIAZZA: And you have website, so–
NICKY RATLIFF: We do. We do have a website.
SAM PIAZZA: If you can– if you can give us your website.
NICKY RATLIFF: Oh, you’re really putting me on the spot here. Ha, uh, let’s see, it’s www.carr.– oh, you know, I’m not going to be able to give it to you because I– I’ve just never articulate the website. Isn’t that awful?
SAM PIAZZA: But all you have to do is put– put in historical–
NICKY RATLIFF: Humane Society of Carroll County, and you’ll get it.
SAM PIAZZA: You’ll get it.
NICKY RATLIFF: We’re on Facebook, and so you can always get it.
SAM PIAZZA: Let me try to break down– I– I– the three areas that, uh, and you can correct me, that are the main purposes of the Humane Society– adoption, education, and enforcement.
NICKY RATLIFF: Mm-hmm.
SAM PIAZZA: Does that sound– sound pretty much what you do?
NICKY RATLIFF: I think that’s probably pretty good.
SAM PIAZZA: So let’s talk about the adoption part of it. Uh, what types of animals do you take in?
NICKY RATLIFF: Everything that’s not human.
SAM PIAZZA: Everything that’s not–
NICKY RATLIFF: And if you have children you want to put off, I understand that. There was a point in time when I would’ve dropped mine off, too, but we won’t take them. Uh, everything from– we’ve had everything from scorpions to, um, um, cows and horses and goats and pigs, um, in terms of for adoption. Uh, if, uh, you’re talking about have– what have we had at the facility, uh, uh, the most exotic animal we had was a jaguar for a while. Uh, but that wasn’t for adoption.
SAM PIAZZA: But you actually went ahead took the jaguar?
NICKY RATLIFF: We did. Uh, the jaguar was being housed illegally. The state of Maryland and, uh, the Department of Natural Resources had gotten involved with it, and they asked if we could house it for them, and we did. Now, had that been a wild jaguar, uh, dog kennels would not have sufficed, but since it was a captive jaguar, it was fine in the kennel.
SAM PIAZZA: Well, someone wants it come into the– the Humane Society and wants to adopt– adopt and animal.
NICKY RATLIFF: Mm-hmm.
SAM PIAZZA: Walk me through the process of how that works.
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, you would come into the Humane Society, and– and we’re now, with the website, you would be able to go and see who was available for adoption, which is nice. And, uh, and then you would come into the Humane Society and ask to see the animal. We have a bulletin board that gives you the, uh, uh, parameters of– for adoption and the prices involved with adoption.
And, uh, then you go back and meet with the animal and come back out and talk with the staff. Because we want to make sure that you are sure of the animal that you’re adopting and what is best for you. Because if you’re a couch potato, you might not want a two– a– a– a six-month-old Jack Russell terrier, you know? So we want to make sure your expectations are going to be somewhat met.
Uh, if you’ve got really small children, um, then we’re probably going to discourage you from taking the three-year-old Rottweiler in the back. Just because we think he’s friendly; we think he’s nice, but we don’t have kids to test them on. And, uh– and children, uh, are not predictable the way they’re going to behave around animals, so you’re better off getting animals that are probably the best bets, so to speak.
And if we really and truly think that it’s not a good match, and it– it– it– for whatever reason, it isn’t gonna work out, certainly we have the right of refusal just because they’re our animals. But we don’t normally do that. Normally people are very appreciative when we try to guide them through the system. Once you’ve decided that you want the animal and if you own your own home, then the adoption process goes pretty quickly.
Uh, if you, uh, are renting, uh, we ask that you have a landlord’s approval. Uh, if you are living home with your mom and dad or someone else who owns the home, uh, we want to make sure whoever owns that residence is giving approval because the animals are required to be inside animals. So you can’t just take them and chain them up in the backyard. So we need to have landlord approval.
SAM PIAZZA: Yeah, are there ever concerns that someone might be, when they have dogs, for dog fighting purposes and that type of thing?
NICKY RATLIFF: No, because there’s so many free dogs out there for that. They probably wouldn’t come and try and adopt one from us. And it is, uh, a law in Carroll County that all animals adopted from the Humane Society have to be spayed and neutered. Um, failure to do so could result in fines up to $500 and 30 days in jail. So the idea, of course, is taxpayers don’t want to keep paying for more and more animals being housed, and people who love animals don’t want to see more and more homeless animals, and so it works really well. So if somebody wanted to fight dogs, they wouldn’t come in and adopt a dog from us.
SAM PIAZZA: How many animals do you adopt out every year?
NICKY RATLIFF: Last year we adopted out, uh, uh, 1,256, I think, and that also includes animals that have gone to, uh, specific rescue groups. Like, if we get in a ton of guinea pigs all of a sudden, well, a guinea pig rescue is right there to help us out or a rabbit rescue or lab rescue or German shepherd rescue. Uh, we do not call the rescues automatically because they are so full, uh, and we can adopt because of our web presence and because of the email we send out to all the county computers everyday alerting of the animals for adoption. They in turn send that out to their friends on their list.
So we adopt out pretty– pretty heavily and, uh– and are even able to help out the Adams County Humane Society on occasion with their dogs. Uh, Sometimes they’ll get so full, they have to euthanize for space. At the same time, maybe, all of a sudden, we’re down to like three or four dogs, and so we serve the community by having more dogs available for the community to adopt, you know, so they don’t have to travel, and, uh we help Adams County, and they’re real close, uh, so that they don’t have to kill animals because they don’t have the space. So we kind of work with them on that.
SAM PIAZZA: Another thing your website– you also have Critter Chat– Chatter– that you do on a weekly basis.
NICKY RATLIFF: We, well, we have a– a pet-of-the-week– or pet-of-the-week– pet, uh, best pals that we do on a weekly basis, and, uh, Critter Chatter was just to show that we had that was– it’s been discontinued now. Only because I’ve just ran out of things to have shows about after several, you know, three, four years, you– you tend to run out of topics.
SAM PIAZZA: Now, when– when you sit down and– and, uh, talk to, uh, potential adoptees of– of an animal, do you– I mean, do you counsel them as to the fact that this is not– you’re not adopting a toy. This is– you have a lifelong commitment type of thing, or what– what do you talk to them about?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, I, of course, don’t do that. My staff does.
SAM PIAZZA: Your staff, yes.
NICKY RATLIFF: And they, uh– they do discuss those things with them. Uh, they just discuss life in general, their– their lives, what’s– what’s going on, what their expectations are, and the animal that they’re adopting, you know, and, uh– and make sure that it’s a good match. So they do talk about those things.
Uh, we give out adoption packet with each animal that has information, uh, about house breaking and training, and we give out– we give out actually a DVD video, uh, about interesting aspects of animals and how to work with them and problems to be solved. So they leave with a lot of information and a lot of things to be able to, uh– to make that adoption successful.
SAM PIAZZA: Are you available for follow-up phone calls from– from new adopters?
NICKY RATLIFF: Oh, yeah, if anybody needs to call us about anything, we’re always available for that.
SAM PIAZZA: Do you suspend adoption around the Christmas holidays?
NICKY RATLIFF: You know, they used to do that in the old days, and, uh– and– but people have evolved, citizens have evolved. Their awareness has evolved, and people pretty much now, uh, are pretty responsible when they come. So, you know, we don’t see animals being returned after Christmas. We kind of gradually went– we went– we went from not adopting anything two weeks before Christmas, uh, to not adopting anything under nine months before Christmas to now we just adopt.
So it– it– we found out that we– we don’t get returns any more than any other time, and we encourage people to return an animal to us if it doesn’t work out, because last thing we want is for not to have a happy situation. And– and when people– sometimes they might want to feel bad bringing it back, but they should never feel bad, because this is something– I would bring an animal back if it didn’t work out, if I’d given it my best shot. And everybody’s best shot is dependent on their time frame and their availability to that animal, and– and I understand that. But when somebody brings an animal back to us and fill– and fills out a questionnaire, we know so much more about the animal then than we did before, and that will help us re-home it in an even better situation.
SAM PIAZZA: So, well, let me– let me ask you this; they may be concerned that you won’t adopt an animal out to– to them in the future. Is that– is that–
NICKY RATLIFF: No.
SAM PIAZZA: That’s not–
NICKY RATLIFF: No–
SAM PIAZZA: The two have nothing to do with one another?
NICKY RATLIFF: –absolutely not. Not at all. Nothing at all.
SAM PIAZZA: Uh, now Easter just happened. Did you have, uh, a number of people turning in those ducklings to you after Easter?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, some of– some of the stores and places around, they sell these animals at Easter, and I wish they wouldn’t, and, yes, we do get them. You know, people decide, well, that wasn’t a real cool thing to do, and, uh– but we don’t get them in droves. You know, a lot of times we feel like we’re in the middle of a MasterCard commercial at work because we have all these rabbits, and, uh– and, of course, you know, uh, rabbits don’t make ideal pets. Uh, for certain people they do, uh, and that’s the whole deal with animals.
I mean, you know, you see things, like you see a cockatoo, and you see it talking to somebody, and you think, oh, my god, that’s a wonderful animal. Wouldn’t I love to have that. No, you probably really wouldn’t because they are– they’re extremely needy. They are flock animals, and so they want to be with you constantly, and- and I mean constantly. I don’t mean an hour a day. I mean in your face, everybody at your home. And if you [AUDIO OUT] then they start [AUDIO OUT] and pulling out their [AUDIO OUT] so you have a bird that looks like it’s ready for the oven. I mean, you know, it’s just ridiculous. And, uh– and then [AUDIO OUT] upset about it, and then nobody wants it ’cause it’s ugly, and now it’s into a– a habitual picking at its feathers and stuff. And so it’s– it’s a nightmare. Big birds should not be pets.
That being said, there are a few people around that– who are willing to dedicate their lives, my sister being one of them, uh, to a bird, and it’s got all its feathers, and it’s happy. But, you know, she is really restrained from things, and, uh, you know, it’s a– it’s not a– it’s not a great situation. So anyway, so people need to know what they’re getting into.
SAM PIAZZA: Are you– what– what are the laws of– about– about, uh, selling these little ducklings and that type of thing?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, if you sell the ducklings there, the law basically is that you can’t sell them as pets. You have to sell them–in– in–in groups, uh, that would– would lend– in other words, if you want a bunch of– if you want chickens to lay eggs, then you can certainly go and buy chickens to lay eggs. But anybody that wants chickens to lay eggs is not going to go and get one little peep. And so, uh, the law says you can’t color them anymore, which is wonderful, because who could resist a little red peep?
I mean, you know, and the law says you can’t sell them, uh, on an individual, uh, basis if they don’t have their pin feathers. And once they start getting their pin feathers in, they look like a chicken, and then, of course, all of a sudden, people may not want them just not as readily as they would little peeps. But, yeah, you can buy them.
SAM PIAZZA: Let’s talk about the education component, uh, of– of– of the Humane Society. Can you just go through what the education component of what you do?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, we don’t have a standing, uh, individual who goes out to schools and– and talks. Uh, we don’t have the funding for that. And you know it’s an amazing thing, I– we had some part time people that were doing it, but what happens was your part time person would have all these schools booked in, and then they would quit, and ta-da, that meant I had to make those appointments. And, uh– and that’s just about an impossible situation. Uh, it’s very difficult to have a– a full-time education component.
So we focus our– if you watch Pet of the Week, there’s usually something people are telling you at that point about the pets. Uh, we are there on telephone to talk and counsel to people. I do still go out and make appearances at clubs and neighborhood associations and things myself. But, you know, in terms of an ongoing situation, we really don’t have one. We just don’t. We just don’t have the funding for it.
And like I said, even if you’ve got a volunteer, that’s fine. But then you have all these expectations when they book all these different events, and then, for whatever reason, they get sick, or they quit or disappear, and there you, So it’s kind of– it’s kind of tough.
SAM PIAZZA: Well, the enforcement part of it, and that– and that’s– that probably the ties up a great deal of your time.
NICKY RATLIFF: It– well, it does. It does, and it– but the enforcement part of it is also the education part of it because I don’t expect my officers to go out and just go, gee, you don’t have this, this, and this. Here’s a citation, goodbye. They need to be able to talk to people, and most people are amenable to that. Uh, education is– is a first and foremost in our thought process. So when the officers get out there, and the animal doesn’t have the proper food, shelter, water, or whatever, then you want to talk to the individuals. You want to let them know about the law. You want to let them know why the law is in existence. You want to ask them to correct the situation– end of story.
Uh, they don’t want to do it. They will not do it. They do it again next year. Then the enforcement comes in. So that education is not only to the front office staff myself, but the officers are doing that too.
SAM PIAZZA: How many enforcement officers do you have?
NICKY RATLIFF: I have three that are in the field all the time, that’s if everybody’s well known and everybody’s here everybody’s employed. And so forth. And then I have a chief officer that’s in house most of the time Fielding questions from the public doing things and inside the organization, reading over the other officers reports correction and sending them back or not a check it it’s just there for a whole lot of reasons and then he’s also on special assignment for special cases and officers need help. Maybe they need more expertise; he’s there available to them, too.
SAM PIAZZA: So just walk me through what exactly do the enforcement officers do when the public– the public has a problem with your neighbor’s dog barking all the time. Is that something they call you about?
NICKY RATLIFF: Mm-hmm, oh, yeah, oh, yeah– and the law basically says that people can’t be deprived of their use and enjoyment of their properties. Uh, but that being said, there are– what would a reasonable person be expected to tolerated? I mean, nobody says you have to have bark-less dogs. Uh, so, uh, just because the dog barks for five minutes at 2 o’clock in the morning, that’s not going to really rise to the occasion of– of–of being a nuisance. Uh, if it barks at 5 o’clock and 3:15 and 12 o’clock, and it’s keeping you up all night, then that’s a whole other story.
Um and it doesn’t just say at night. The law applies this 24 hours a day. Because some people do work at night, and so they sleep during the day. Uh, some people are not well, or some people just don’t want to have to deal with dogs. So we get the– people call us, and then the front office staff are our dispatchers. They’re our front office staff. They field the call. If the people have never called before, we’ve never had complaints before, then they will initiate a letter out to the individual owners of the dog– see what you can do about it.
Uh, after that, if we get more complex, then that will be an officer will respond, and then he’ll go out and take appropriate action, talk to the individual. Well, a lot of times when the officer shows up, then the individual goes, oh, well, I guess this is a little more serious than I thought, you know. And then sometimes they’ll take corrective actions. But unfortunately, today, people are not always good neighbors.
I mean, if somebody comes to you and me, I’m assuming you, and I know me, and they say, I’m disturbing or I’m bothering, I’m like, oh, jeez, I mean, I’m sorry. What could I do to mitigate this, you know? Um, and– but that’s not the way everybody feels today. Uh, there are a lot of, make me’s out there– make me do it. How are you gonna [AUDIO OUT] you know.
SAM PIAZZA: [AUDIO OUT] dog bark even more after you do that.
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, you know, so we ask to people to keep, uh, dates and times. Uh, this date, times and duration so that we can make an assessment. Because, let’s face it, the courts and the State’s Attorney’s Offices, they’re busy. They don’t want to have a barking dog in there if it’s just a barking dog. So we– we can– we issue– we can issue a citation. Uh, each day is a different violation. The citations escalate.
You can pay it if you want to because it’s a citation. If you choose not to pay it, then in Carroll County any infraction of the animal the code is then a statement of charges is issued, and that barking dogs civil citation turns into a full-blown criminal case. So if– if your barking dog, uh, is so important to you that you want to have a criminal record, uh, as– as– as opposed to taking care of the situation, well, wow, you know. I can’t believe that. But there– that’s the avenue for a barking dog.
SAM PIAZZA: Explain the lease laws.
NICKY RATLIFF: There are no leash laws. I can explain that real quick. There’s no leash laws in Carroll County. Uh, the law in Carroll County says that your dog has to be under restraint at all times. And if your dog is in your yard, it is not coming outside of your yard, and if you’ve chosen to have a margarita in Tijuana, and you’re not even the state, as long as your dog is in your yard, it’s under restraint.
Now, when the dog leaves your property, it had better go with you, because it has to be under the control of a responsible person and obedient to that person’s commands. So it has to be under effective control. So if you’re walking your dog on a flexi-leash, and the dog races out on it’s 16-foot leash and knocks somebody down or knocks them off their bicycle or jumps up on them, it’s on a leash, and it is not under effective control.
Uh, if your dog is out there walking with you off leash, and somebody’s coming on skateboard past you, and your dog’s away from you, and you say, come here, heel. That dog comes back and heels. It is under effective control. So the leash law, but you have to have it under effective control.
SAM PIAZZA: And I’m sure you get a lot of complaints about dogs defecating in other people’s property.
NICKY RATLIFF: Yep, and that’s illegal after an individual has asked them to pick it up. Prior to that, it is not. So you have to say to somebody, you know, Joe, I really like your dog. But I”m really tired of stepping in his poo in my yard. And if at that point he doesn’t pick it up, uh, then he’s in violation of the law.
By the same token, Joe’s got a big dog– big poo in your yard. You always see Joe’s dog running lose, but you didn’t see him deposit the poo you in your yard. Then we’re not doing DNA tests on the stuff, so you’re going to have to know if that was the dog. You can’t just complain.
Now that’s the problem with cats. Mrs. Smith’s cat’s always lose. Well, was Mrs. Smith’s cat really the one in your flower bed? You know, that type of thing. So, uh, people have to be able to– this is serious when you have laws against things, uh, and people– and we– we always ask people to practice the good neighbor policy– speak to your neighbors before you call us.
Now, yeah, they’re going to be mad when you call us, but they’re going to madder if you call us and didn’t ask them to do something first.
SAM PIAZZA: And you do– you do accept anonymous phone calls.
NICKY RATLIFF: We do on a cruelty, absolutely, but on dogs running lose, no. I’m not going to take an anonymous phone call, because that’s just too easy to do that, you know, unaccountable, just make a complaint on your neighbor. You– and he was out there last night working on his car til late, so I’ll just get him, you know. We’re not going to do that. And– and those are– and the names of the people complaining are available. Upon written request to my office, you can find out who complained on you. It’s not an anonymous situation.
SAM PIAZZA: What animals have to be licensed?
NICKY RATLIFF: Dogs.
SAM PIAZZA: Only dogs?
NICKY RATLIFF: Only dogs. Now, uh, dogs have be licensed, and in order to be licensed, they have to have a current rabies shot. Uh, dogs, cats, and ferrets have to have a current rabies shot under state law. And then the state law says dogs must be licensed, and it has each county enforcing that portion of the state law.
SAM PIAZZA: So you enforce that in Carroll County?
NICKY RATLIFF: That’s right, mm-hmm.
SAM PIAZZA: And they have to be licensed on an annual basis?
NICKY RATLIFF: That’s correct, mm-hmm.
SAM PIAZZA: Uh, and do you– do you sell the licenses, or, uh–
NICKY RATLIFF: We are responsible for the licensing program as part of our MOU with the county. Uh, we have a licensing outlet in like 30 places in the county. You don’t have to drive any distance at all to get a license. Every town office sells them. Almost– almost– every veterinary hospital sells them. Uh, several small stores sell them, like Equal Jewelers in Mount Airy. Although, I understand he’s going out of business, so we’ll have to find somebody else.
But, uh, we have different stores, so the idea was to make it really accessible to the public so that they didn’t have to go too far. And some places are open in the evening, so, yeah. So we distribute the licensings and of the applications, and we pick them come up, and we do the money counting, and we turn all that money back into the county government.
SAM PIAZZA: Uh, an animal gets, uh, killed on the road– wild– let’s take a wild animal over a domestic animal. Is that something that the Humane Society–
NICKY RATLIFF: Road Deparment– Humane Society has nothing to do with wild– uh, dead animals. If they’re dead, they don’t need controlling. So we’re animal care and control. So the Roads Department, if it’s county roads, it’s County Roads. State roads is State Roads, and those people, uh, for certain the ones in the county, I think in the state as well, if they have any kind of identification of the collar or anything, they let us know.
SAM PIAZZA: So you can form the owners of the animal?
NICKY RATLIFF: Yeah, it’s nice to have closure. You know, it’s nice to have closure. I can’t guarantee that they’re all doing that, but I think they are. I think they’re pretty good about that.
SAM PIAZZA: Is– is there problem in– in Carroll County of dog– of dog fighting, or cock fighting, that type of thing?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, in the old days, when I first came here, there was some cock fighting. I don’t– haven’t heard anything about that recently. People are just generally so enlightened, uh, today that if there’s something like that going on, you hear about it pretty quick, uh, and we will take that anonymously.
Um the, uh, dog fighting, I don’t think there’s– I don’t think– of course, I don’t think there are any organized dog fighting rings in Carroll County. Are their young men, and hopefully not women– I hope they’ve got better sense that what– but are there young men with, uh, pit bulls that face off periodically? Uh, probably, but not any major dog fighting rings.
SAM PIAZZA: But that would be something that your officers would enforce?
NICKY RATLIFF: Absolutely, that’s a felony statute in the state of Maryland, dog fighting. Being, uh– even being at a dog fight, having anything to do with the dog fight, you’ll get tied up in the legal system real quick.
SAM PIAZZA: And do your officers have, uh, well, they can- can they arrest individuals?
NICKY RATLIFF: Technically they can, but we don’t. Uh, technically they can, but we don’t. If we need– if we need somebody arrested, we would contact local police. Um, but the state law gives us the authority to arrest. We just don’t exercise that.
SAM PIAZZA: I’m assuming your officers do testify in court?
NICKY RATLIFF: They do.
SAM PIAZZA: Uh, and there have been situations, I believe, in Carroll County where, uh– there were– I thought there was a somewhat famous situation with a pig on someone’s property. It was getting out and bother other people, that type of thing. Your officers would go out on that?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, any enforcement for any laws about, uh, uh– about, uh, uh, animal restraint– uh, pigs, horses, cows– the county law requires that, uh, animals that are fenced, like livestock, that the fencing be appropriate to the animal that is fenced– uh, what is normally considered appropriate– and that it be well maintained. So, yes, any animal, uh, that’s loose, off the owner’s property is an enforcement issue for our officers, with the exception of cats. There is no law about cats go– wandering and being loose. If cats are destroying property, attacking people, things like that, there are laws. But in terms of just scrolling across your lawn, no, there’s no laws.
SAM PIAZZA: Well, and there’s a major problem with feral cats.
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, there is a major problem depending on who you’re talking to. Some people don’t think it’s a major problem at all, and some people do. Uh, so, uh, they do, uh– they do congregate. There is a trap, neuter, release ideology that’s out there now. I tend to sort of agree with it. Uh, it’s kind of like, uh, if you trap out anything– wild animals or feral cats, which are semi wild– they will fill back the niche. It’s not like you’re going to get rid of it altogether.
Uh, but there are only so many that a particular area will support. And so if you trap, neuter, release them, they’ve got the area filled. If you trap and just take them away, the area gets refilled. They keep bringing in intact animals that keep reproducing. So from a– a solving a situation, the trap, neuter, release seems to really resolve a– a– a lot of, uh, that turnover. The fighting of the animals, the yelling and screaming at night of the animals, and certainly the reproduction can be a problem.
SAM PIAZZA: What is the Human Society’s involvement in feral cat issues?
NICKY RATLIFF: Uh, we have no involvement in feral cat issues. Um, you know, if people, uh, trap cats and bring them to us and they’re, uh– and they have a– a– a– an ear tip, which they used– they used to notch the ears, which I guess was really cool. But you like you can’t ask the cat, how’d that ear get a notch, bud? Was that just a tough night on the town, or did somebody do that particularly? Uh, and now what they do is they do a flat top on the ear, and that makes it really nice because that’s very identifiable and let’s you know that’s a– a neutered animal from a colony. And we know basically the people that are doing the– have the colonies, so we can contact them.
And a lot of times people will, uh– will trap those cats not so much because they’re doing any damage, but because they just are worried about them. They just see them. They haven’t seen them before, uh, and so they’ll trap them. So, uh, and if they are doing damage, if there is an issue then usually people that have done the– had the colonies working, they can talk to the people and see what’s going on. And if it really is a problem, well, then maybe that’s not the place a– a– a colony should be located.
SAM PIAZZA: Is– is there a danger– do they endanger the domestic cats? I mean, there’s cat leukemia and that type of thing out there.
NICKY RATLIFF: You know, you and I could get struck by lightning while we’re having this conversation. Uh, you know, so could they possibly ever in any circumstances? Of course they could, you know. But the raccoons out there can give your– raccoons have dog and cat distemper, you know, so they’re endangering your animals more than anything else, and we certainly don’t want to eliminate all the raccoons.
Uh, all of your neighbor’s unvaccinated pets are endangering your animals more than probably the feral cats are. Uh– uh, feral cats don’t usually get near people, so they’re not apt to bite or scratch your kids. Anybody’s unvaccinated cat can get rabies, and, uh– and that’s– you know, cats are probably the most dangerous thing for rabies because cats routinely scratch people and routinely bite kids because kids never pick up a cat all at one time. I mean, you know, they don’t know how to act around them.
So if you’ve a cat in the neighborhood that is– everybody knows that cat bites kids, and today he bit Joe. And everybody goes, Joe, what did you touch the cat for? You know the cat bites kids. And then 10 minutes later the cat gets hit by a car and gets squished. And then the parents go out, and they bury the cat. But this time, that unvaccinated cat bit Joe because that cat had rabies, and everybody just thinks it’s the same old cat. And then little Joe, not getting any treatments, and guess what? So, you know, people’s domestic cats that are very friendly that are unvaccinated, which is probably half the cats out there, that’s the danger, not the feral cat.
SAM PIAZZA: Does the Humane Society get involved in wild animals at all?
NICKY RATLIFF: We do. If, uh, you’re eating dinner and a raccoon falls down the chimney, it gets in your living room, and disturbs you a little bit, you can call us. Uh, if you wake up in the middle the night with a bat in your bedroom, we’ll be there. Uh, we’ll contact you first, talk to you about the bat– uh, how you feel about that bat and if you feel like you might want to release it, uh, if you think it has been in the house while everybody’s been sleeping, if you think there is any chance in this world that rat– that bat could have been with a sleeping person or a little toddler or small child, then it needs to be tested for rabies because you cannot see a bat bit.
You would be very hard pressed to ever noticed that you’ve been bitten by a bat, and they do carry rabies, uh, less than one half of one percent of them in this area at any given time have rabies. It’s not like the vampire bat out West, which is a real problem. We don’t have a huge problem. But if you’ve been bitten, there’s an issue. So we want to ascertain the situation.
If you say no, it’s no way in this world it was with me. This is– it wasn’t here last night, and it’s in the kitchen right now, and you want to turn off the lights in the kitchen and turn on the outside lights and open the door, let him follow the draft and the lights out, then he’ll go out. But some people don’t want to, so we will respond for bats in the house.
SAM PIAZZA: In the house, because it’s just– well, there’s general knowledge that bats are protected by federal law.
NICKY RATLIFF: They are.
SAM PIAZZA: So you’re not supposed– if– if they get in your attic, for example, you just can’t go ahead and kill them.
NICKY RATLIFF: No, you– and you can’t exclude them. You can’t– there’s only a couple of months in the year, and I can’t tell you right now what those months are, but other than that, if you have more than 10 bats in your attic, you can’t exclude them without permission from the Department of Natural Resources.
SAM PIAZZA: If have to let them remain in your attic?
NICKY RATLIFF: Until the proper month, yeah you do if there’s more than 10. If there’s one, no, you know. But if there’s more than 10 there– because they are endangered, uh, and, they are so beneficial. The average bat eats 5,000 insects a night– wow. Can you imagine?
It’s kind of like I head something one time that said if every spider in the world disappeared tomorrow, mankind would last for about three weeks. That’s how many insects they eat, which would eat all our food if they weren’t out there. And if it’s not our food, it would be the food that the animals we eat eat, so it just filters down. So everybody thinks, oh, well, it’s no big deal. It’s just this. There are over 1,000 spiders in an uncultivated acre of ground. Makes you want to go for a walk in the woods, doesn’ it?
SAM PIAZZA: Or just get friendly with a lot of bats.
NICKY RATLIFF: Yeah.
SAM PIAZZA: But if someone had a skunk in their backyard, you wouldn’t come out to get rid of it.
NICKY RATLIFF: No, no–of they had a skunk stumbling around the backyard we would.
SAM PIAZZA: Because it may be rabid.
NICKY RATLIFF: It may be rabid. But just a skunk walking around– people say, oh, I just saw a raccoon in my backyard in the middle the day. There must be something bad, and they get that information from a lot of strange places. You get it from people that should know better.
Every Walt Disney film you’ve ever watched in your life has a raccoon in it, and it was not shot at midnight. Uh, they do come out. I watch foxes, raccoons out at the Humane Society out in the fields all the time. Being out’s not issue. Being out and stumbling around, being out and approaching you, being out and, uh, chasing your dog– those are things that are an issue. Now, uh, than we would need a phone call.
SAM PIAZZA: Because most animals will avoid human beings.
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, yeah, yeah, although they’ve gotten pretty used to us because we feed them in the backyard, uh, because they raid our trash cans now that all smell– it you used to be if you wanted to catch a fox, you had to– you had to dip the trap. You had to where things on your boots so they wouldn’t smell your feet. You had to have special gloves and then no could smell any people.
Now you take a box trap out. You get it from the Humane Society. It’s had 18 cats in it before that time. You throw in a piece of Kentucky Fried chicken, and you catch a fox, because they’re used to us. So are they as afraid as they used to be? No, but do they come up and say, hi? They shouldn’t.
SAM PIAZZA: Over the last couple years there’s been all– all these instances of bear and that type of animal coming into areas they’ve never been into before.
NICKY RATLIFF: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah–
SAM PIAZZA: Do we have that problem in Carroll County?
NICKY RATLIFF: We do. We have bears in Carroll County almost every year, uh, Challedon Golf Course couple years had one that was visiting there for awhile. Uh– uh– the, uh– we had one down on Littlestown Pike for awhile. Uh, we get them every year. Usually they’re males. Usually they’re, uh, probably two years old. Uh, they generally would weigh 250 pounds or so, uh, and mom has kicked them out. They’re like, well, where should I go now? And they just follow the streams and the berries and come down, and they go back, uh, and they generally are not a threat to anybody. Uh, you– it’s against the law to shoot them, um, and, um–
SAM PIAZZA: These are black bears
NICKY RATLIFF: They’re black, oh, yes. We have no grizzlies. We have black bears, and black bears, you know, uh, they’re generally pretty– pretty cool. They’re not generally gonna bother you, you know.
SAM PIAZZA: How about lynxes or that jaguar, in a family of bobcats?
NICKY RATLIFF: We have bobcats, and they’re protected also. You can’t shoot bobcats. Uh, that being said, any wild animal that’s attacking you, uh, that’s another story but. Just because– because they’re there, you can’t. And any mountain lion, if you will, uh, that is that brownish-gray in color, you can’t shoot that either. Now if you have a black one or one with big stripes, it’s normally called a tiger. I don’t know. But yet occasionally–
Well, you know, I had a lady come in one time to the Humane Society. She’s called me. She said, I have a picture of an animal, and I don’t know what it was. We saw it on the side of the road. Can you tell me what it is? I said, well, I don’t know, but I’d love to see your picture. She comes in. She gives me the picture. I’m like, oh, my god. I said, when did you take the picture? She said, last fall. I said, and you waited till now to bring this in because? She wanted to finish the roll. You know how people are. I’m like, oh, but jeez.
She said, well, what is it? I said, it’s an orangutan. And I’m like, not only was it an orangutan, it was a pretty big orangutan. And, uh– and, uh, we didn’t get any calls on it. I don’t know why it was where it was. It was over in New Windsor on a dirt road. While they were just driving around, they saw it.
So whether it fell off of a little truck or something that had something to do with a circus, or whether somebody had one illegally, I don’t know whatever happened to it We never got a call on it, but that’s exactly what it was, and there was no mistaking it.
SAM PIAZZA: Well, that leads me to ask the question about this whole idea about, uh, people, uh, uh, having exotic animals for pets as if they’re trophies. Now what is your opinion about that?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well,you know, we all have an ego, every one of us– uh, the clothes we wear, uh– don’t I look like an egomaniac? The clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the houses we live in, uh, the people we hang out with, you know, we all are out there trying to put on a big show for people to one extreme or what extent to another. And, uh, exotic animals are just another avenue of that.
Uh, I’ve got a tiger in the kitchen. How’d you like to see that? Wow, you’ve got a tiger in the kitchen? All of a sudden, you’re a real big deal. Um, and you might also like tigers, but it’s still that whole big-deal-I’ve-got-a-tiger routine. And then after all your friends and all your relatives and all the neighbors have seen the tiger, then you just have a tiger. And, uh– and then all that newness and all that stuff wears away, and then the tiger grows up.
Most wild animals are friendly to the extent that they would be with their mothers. When they get to the age that they would leave their moms– some that’s a year, some that’s two years, some it might be five or six. When they would leave their moms, they don’t have any use for you anymore, and they become wild animals. Uh, uh, I don’t care– people like, well, Sigfried and Roy, spent all their available moments with those big cats, and one of them almost killed him. Now, he went quite a while before that happened, but it’s the inevitable. It is gonna happen. You get eaten by a wild animal, or– or you get attacked or killed.
Uh, so in Maryland it is against the law to own big cats. It’s against the law to own big dangerous animals. Uh, some of these hybrid cats, uh, like, the– um, I can’t even think of the names. There’s several different names of the ones they’ve got out there now. As long as it ain’t no more than 20 pounds, I think 30, maybe 30 pounds, uh, they’re legal in the state. I wouldn’t suggest anybody get them because there’s just– they jump up on mantle pieces. I mean, they– there’s nothing sacred in your house if you get those animals. They spend– they like to be a high rather than low. So, uh, they jusj– they’re just destructive. Uh, they don’t make great pets for the most part.
SAM PIAZZA: How about monkeys and snakes?
NICKY RATLIFF: A poisonous snakes are illegal in the state of Maryland. Uh, I don’t know why anybody thinks they need a reticulated python. If you need a 23-foot snake, I mean, I don’t know why–
SAM PIAZZA: But that’s not illegal, right?
NICKY RATLIFF: It’s not illegal. Unfortunately, people are not– well, fortunately for people and not so fortunately for the snakes– they don’t have the, uh, the ability to keep them alive long enough to get as big as they could get. But there’s no place to put them once you get those big snakes and, uh, and same thing with iguanas. I mean, you know, an iguana is a– it’s a cool little animal. But pretty soon, he needs his own room. You know, so if you don’t have a room for the iguana, you know– if you’ve ever seen an iguana poo, it’s a pool of poo about this big, you know. It’s, uh, it’s not–
All these animals have issues. You know, even the big parrots, they’ll– all your– all your um, molding around your doors and your windows are going to be gone pretty soon. They’ll chew– just one– one bite, they get rid of those. So, uh, but big, dangerous exotics illegal in the state of Maryland, and monkeys of all types are illegal the state of Maryland.
SAM PIAZZA: Although, people still have monkeys.
NICKY RATLIFF: Uh, they’ll bring them in from outside the state until the authorities find out about it. Then they’ll have to do something else with them.
SAM PIAZZA: Now, uh, the Humane Society is not a no-kill facility.
NICKY RATLIFF: We are an open admission facility, and when you are an open admission facility, it’s pretty much impossible, unless you’re in a community that has gotten so serious about no kill, that everything– in other words, unless county government has started to fund trap, neuter, release, making sure all the cats are spayed and neutered. Some communities, they’re doing that, and they are getting rid of a huge animal population problems. But as long as people continue to breed and continue to, uh, get puppies and not treat them– or not treat them, not train them so they bring us the juvenile delinquents, so to speak.
Uh, I love the people that bring the dog in that’s, you know, a year old, and I’m thinking to myself, man, you’re on the downhill slide. You know, you’ve weathered this puppy, and now you’ve got this adult you’re bringing me to go get another puppy? Uh, duh, you know. So nonetheless, uh, no kill, those are facilities that are– we call them– we don’t like to call them no kill because they’re still a part of the problem. I mean, you know, when they turn their backs on people that come to them with the, uh, unruly, uh, dog with, uh, medical problems, uh, they inadvertently send them to us, all right. They’re taking in 300, 400 animals a year, maybe only 100 animals a year, maybe only 60 animals a year. We’re taking in over a 5,000. Uh, they can find homes for their few. We can’t find homes for our masses.
Uh, I will– that being said, right now, we are fortunately being able to place every well-socialized, friendly dog that we get into the shelter, uh, unless it’s got like medical problems that’s going to cost people hundreds of dollars a month. The citizens, generally speaking, don’t want that. Anybody that ever sees this, if they do, call. We’ll put you on the list. But every friendly nice dog that comes into our shelter finds a home.
SAM PIAZZA: So what is your policy about euthanizing?
NICKY RATLIFF: If it’s not a friendly, nice dog, uh, that you would want to live, or I would want to live next door to, it gets euthanized.
SAM PIAZZA: So it’s not– it’s not just a matter of you have too many dogs or too many cats?
NICKY RATLIFF: Not any more. It used to be. When I first came there, we would, uh– and I don’t mean that I solved this problem. I didn’t. The community solved this problem, but helped them. But, uh, when I first came there in 1982, yeah, you– there wasn’t– there wasn’t a week that went by that you didn’t have– because an animal shelter has to have room for the dogs that are lost or, uh, that you’re trying to find the owners for. So the adoptions are secondary to an animal control program. So we would go back and have to decide which dogs we’re going to have to euthanize to make space for the ones that were coming in the front door.
We do not have to do that anymore. Uh, we had to do that almost about eight months ago, and everybody looked at each other. My staff was like, whoa. But they hadn’t been there. They haven’t seen what I’ve seen. And I’m like, all right, we’ll find out how we can– we can manage this because we’re only talking about a couple here, so, uh, we can do it. So we don’t have that problem.
Cats, on the other hand, yeah, we still have to euthanize for space. And cats have so many upper respiratory diseases, and even the shots that they get only protect them from about a third of them. And so when you bring in cats from unknown origins together all the time, the upper respiratory is just, ugh– it’s just awful. We’ve gotten much better. We’ve got– were battling it right this moment at the shelter. But we’ve got much better in our– the procedures that we use, uh, because we were using procedures that you would use for individual animals–
And there’s a veterinarian by the doctor– by the name of Dr. Kate Hurley that’s at UC Davis in California. that is the guru for shelters now. She is the go-to person. She has a website for shelters. And she said, all these well-meaning veterinarians, of which we had had many come, and they said to us, we don’t know what you could do because you’re just doing everything we can imagine. What we found out was those veterinarians don’t deal with herd medicine, and when you’re dealing with cats in a shelter, you’re talking herd medicine. So it’s a whole different field, and we’ve been able to do better. But– but still, you get one that comes in that’s got something that everybody else gets, and then you just, oh, it’s awful. It’s the worst thing in the world.
SAM PIAZZA: Do people drop their animals off a lot times because they’re older and they don’t want– they don’t want to go through, I guess, the pain or whatever actually euthanizing themselves?
NICKY RATLIFF: Mm-hmm, they do. Well, they bring them in specifically for euthanasia, and, uh– and it’s cheaper to bring them to us than to take them to the veterinarian. Um, and, uh, and so that’s OK. You know, as long as people don’t let their animals suffer, I don’t care exactly why it is they’re bringing them different places. But, uh, yeah, we’ll accommodate them if we can.
SAM PIAZZA: How’s the economy affected the, uh, number of animals dropped off at your facility?
NICKY RATLIFF: We are getting a few more. It’s not humongous. Uh, it’s not overwhelming, uh, but we are getting a few more. And, uh, and it does not seem to have affected our adoption rate at this point, but we are in a fairly affluent community, in a fairly stable community, which is– that’s one of the reasons I think we’re not seeing the repercussions.
SAM PIAZZA: Uh, what are the biggest challenges that you have and at the Humane Society has running this, uh, facility on a day-to-day basis?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, I think the challenge is just to do the job that the public expects you, uh, to be able to, um, explain to the public why you do some of the things that you do, because why should they know? They’re not involved in the volume and the numbers, uh, of that we get. Uh, basically, one of the hardest things is negotiating or solving neighborhood problems, individual disputes.
Uh, Mr Smith’s dogs running loose. Uh, he’s getting ready to get a citation because he’s run loose before. Mrs. Jones has a rose garden, and the dog’s been digging them up. She’s got prize roses, and she loves them, and now she knows that you’re going to give Mr. Smith a $50 fine. Hmm, she’s real unhappy because she thinks this dog is just a nuisance, and $50? What the heck is that? And Mr. Smith’s really ticked off because, you know, goodness, they’re just roses, for heavens sake, so I’ll buy her bush, you know, maybe.
So you have two people now that are mad at us because we’re not servicing either one the way they think they need to be serviced so trying to walk that line. And then, god forbid, one or both of them calls county commissioners and is angry. Well, they’re politicians. Now they’re upset because they’ve got constituents that are upset about a service that they’re funding. So you’ve got all three of them now to balance.
SAM PIAZZA: Then you’ve got homeowners associations as well.
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, you–it’s just– it’s just everything. It’s just everything. And– and people don’t talk to each other anymore. Uh, people aren’t willing to work out their own problems. Uh, the state’s attorney’s office has– uh, has allowed us, uh, to use their negotiators, their mediators, and we try and ask people to do that. Some will do it, some won’t.
Sometimes it’s just a question of talking to your neighbor. I had a dog that kept tearing up my trash. And I prepared– and he was there every week. But I didn’t fuss at him and yell at him because I didn’t really want to make him where he wouldn’t come to me. And he was a nice dog– sure did tear up the trash. So I went down with my note one day and my stapler, and I, hi, there, how are you, whatever your name is. Come here, come here. He came over, and I took my note, and I wrapped it around his collar, and I stapled it, and I sent him home with it.
Took note back to his owner. I don’t know who you are, but this dog’s tearing up my trash, and I really wish you’d keep him home. And if next Wednesday he’s not at home, you might want to Howard County Animal Control. And I never saw the dog again. I sent him home with a note to his parents, and they responded. Would that so many people do that, be that nice. They were very responsible.
They probably didn’t have an idea what he was doing. They took care of it. Uh, I hope they didn’t give him away. I hope he’s not chained up in the backyard and– with, you know, not having a decent life. I don’t know where he is, but he’s not in my trash. So we ask people to do that type of thing. So just– it’s just that balancing act.
Uh, you get– you get 10 calls at– at the end of the day. I don’t have the funding to pay you overtime, and unless it’s a vicious animal getting ready to attack somebody, I’m not– I’m not spending it. Or if the animal is injured that owners unknown on the highway, something that we’ve really got to take care of. We’re on call 24-hour days for emergencies. Uh, your emergency might not rise to the level of an emergency that I’m going to pay time– double time or time and a half for people to come out.
Uh, if the county wants to find me for shift work, uh, I have– I have no problem with having shifts of animal control officers. But my people are asleep at night. And when you call with that bat in your bedroom, they’re sleeping, and they’ve got to come to work the next day. But they will come to your house and help you out, or they will certainly call you on the phone and talk to you.
Now are they going to call everybody that calls us in the middle of the night? No. Are they going to call everybody that calls on Sunday when we’re closed? They certainly are not. We have an answering service that does that. Uh, will people be totally satisfied with the answering service? Maybe not. They’re not my employees. They do change hands. They do have basic policies. But Carroll County government is not prepared to give the citizens a full-service 24-day animal control response team. And, in my opinion, Carroll County citizens don’t need it, and I see no reason for spending money, taxpayer’s moneys on things that are not needed.
SAM PIAZZA: With the continual growth of the population in Carroll County, how– what do you see the future of the Humane Society being?
NICKY RATLIFF: Well, I think the Humane Society will continue to, uh, grow along with the county. Uh, and that’s, like I said, dependent on what they want us to do. Uh, if they’re satisfied with what we’re doing, uh, for the money that they’re paying us, then we will– we might need more officers. Because as the community grows– you know, as people realize, they say, whoa, you guys don’t handle that many calls. Well, we do. But if you look at the paperwork that’s involved, it’s not like we’re going to write a ticket and then hand ticket it off to somebody and that’s the end of what we do.
We’ve got to follow up on the ticket. We’ve got to call the citizen. We’ve got to see what their intent is. We got to fill out a statement of charges. Then we have to, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Uh, there’s a lot involved. An officer comes in the morning, just to go to the officers, comes in in the morning. He has phone calls of people who’ve called. They’re on his machines. He’s got to call those people back. Of course, they’re not always where they’re supposed to be when we need them, and then we’ve got to call them back some more.
And then he has to, uh, he has to look at the calls that he’s got. He’s got to write the reports that he has. He has to go out in his truck, and he answers the calls for the day. He may have an animal that needs to get to a hospital or needs get back in the shelter. Then he’s got to still go back out to where he was, come back in. He’s got to fill out his reports. He’s got to check in the animals. He’s got to watch out his vehicle. And then he’s got answer his phone calls.
So you can’t handle a ton of calls during the day. So, um, when we have more calls, then we may have to have more officers, you know. It’s– it’s– it’s a– I have some of the best people, and they do work hard, you know. And I don’t ask for funding from the county if I don’t need it, uh, and I think busy employees are happy employees. I don’t think stressed employees are happy, but I think busy is good. And I was just getting ready to ask for additional person, and this economy– you know what it did. And, of course, people are watching this 20 years from now, believe me, 2010 was a bad year. But, uh, you just do what you can do, and you try your best.
SAM PIAZZA: Thank you for your time today. I appreciate you coming here.
NICKY RATLIFF: Yeah, absolutely, it’s fun to talk to you.
SAM PIAZZA: Thank you.