Dog Rescue Programs: Getty Images
As recently as 2005, the Baltimore City Bureau of Animal Control would pick up abandoned dogs throughout the city and euthanize them.
It took a group of vocal animal advocates—and a report on the plight of Baltimore's abandoned animals by the U.S. Humane Society—for the city to change its dog rescue policies. In 2005, BARCS, which works directly with the bureau, was formed. And the change in the lives of Baltimore's homeless and abandoned dogs has been phenomenal.
"Before BARCS came on board, the euthanasia rate was something like 98%," says Jennifer Mead, the nonprofit's executive director. Today, the rate has been halved. "We see almost 12,000 abandoned, sick, and abused animals each year," she notes. "We also take in the pets of elderly owners who can no longer care for them as well as the pets of people who have been evicted."
The dog rescue center has a part-time veterinarian on staff and employs veterinarian technicians who are always on call. And it maintains a sick and injured fund that guarantees that all animals receive the best veterinary care.
The dog rescue organization's adoption program has also had phenomenal success. "Our adoption rate has doubled since we first opened our doors," says Mead-Brause.
She credits the success of BARCS to the support of organizations like the Maryland SPCA and the Baltimore Humane Society. "For example, if we have an abused pet that needs to be rehabilitated, we send him to one of our partners."
Mead-Brause is regularly on the phone with Aileen Gabbey, the executive director of the Maryland SPCA. On a day to day basis, the SPCA provides spaying and neutering, but it also serves as a shelter and a refuge for animals that have been abused and abandoned. "We have a behavior manager on staff," says Gabbey, "and we also do enrichment with the animals." She says that dogs that have been neglected are often timid and antisocial and games and toys distract them from their suffering.
"We had one really sad case," recalls Gabbey. "She was an Australian Shepherd puppy who just hid in the back of her cage. She was skinny and terrified and afraid to come out." Gabbey offered to foster her and took her home for a week. "The change in her behavior was miraculous," she marvels. "In less than a week, she was talking walks with me and my dog. When I brought her back, she was cute and friendly and sat with her paws hanging out of her cage. She was adopted the same day."
Although BARCS and the Maryland SPCA place and care for thousands of dogs each year, there is more work to be done. "Every day is like Hurricane Katrina here," says Mead-Brause. "We see animals that have been brutalized, shot, and starved to death."
BARCS, which also sponsors a dog rescue lost and found program, a rabies clinic, and a dog training program, holds regular fundraisers to keep its sick and injured fund strong. And both organizations rely on volunteers who provide much-needed love to the wounded animals in their care.