Being the largest dog shelter in a state comes with its benefits, but also requires a lot of donations, hard workers and extraordinary volunteers. That’s exactly what we found when we visited the Maryland SPCA, “MD SPCA”, located in Baltimore, Maryland. The MD SPCA currently adopts out an average of 3,500 dogs and cats per year throughout the Maryland region and likes to be referred to as an adoption center, as opposed to a shelter. With this being a no-kill adoption center, you can imagine the amount of love, time and effort that is put in by all.
Like most rescue organizations, the MD SPCA relies solely on the donations it receives throughout the year to keep their doors open and running for the dogs and cats throughout Maryland. Director of Communications and Media Relations, Tina Regester, says that all to often, people assume that since the MD SPCA contains the word “Maryland” in their name, that they receive governmental grants and/or funding. In fact, the MD SPCA is a private, non-profit organization and receives no government funding or grants. Another misconception of the MD SPCA is that they are tied to the ASPCA and the infamous “Sarah McLachlan commercials”. While the ASPCA is another great organization for animals, they are based out of New York and have no connection with the MD SPCA. The MD SPCA receives no money from the ASPCA.
When asked if there was any certain breed of dogs the staff at the MD SPCA sees most often, Nichole Miller, Director of Operations, says that they mostly rescue and adopt out dogs whom they call “Baltimore Big Dogs”, which are larger breeds, usually pitbulls or pit bull mixes. During our visit, we were lucky enough to meet a “Baltimore big dog” named Duke. Despite Duke’s loving and fun personality, he is one of MD SPCA’s longest residing residents having been at the shelter since January.
The MD SPCA isn’t your average adoption center. Here, on their premises, the MD SPCA is also home to a Wellness Clinic. This Wellness Clinic completes on average about 7,000 spay and neuter surgeries a year, making it the state leader in spay and neuters. The MD SPCA provides this crucial service to not only the pets it rescues and adopts out, but also to other rescue organizations around the region, low income pet parents and feral cats within the community. And, if performing thousands of surgeries a year wasn’t enough, the MD SPCA Wellness Clinic also opens its doors to the community providing affordable routine wellness exams, vaccinations, microchipping and dental procedures.
The rescue and adoption center itself takes in over 1,000 dogs and cats a year from various nearby shelters in addition to the owner surrenders that are brought into the shelter. At any given time, the MD SPCA can have up to 200 dogs and cats in their care and they wouldn’t be able to house all these homeless pets without the housing and support of their foster care home network.
According to Nichole, Director of Operations, the MD SPCA wouldn’t be able to do what it does if it were not for all the foster homes within the community. Approximately, 1,000 dogs and cats are placed within the MD SPCA foster care program throughout the year. Foster parents are the backbone of the MD SPCA, as they are responsible for some of the hardest cases that require the most attention. Foster parents provide temporary care for kittens and puppies under 8 weeks of age, very sick or injured pets, and/or pets that require additional training or socialization. Foster homes provide a quieter and stress-free “shelter” option for pets looking for their forever home.
Once a individual or family has applied and been approved to foster, the MD SPCA provides training, supplies, and 24-hour support for foster families. A foster families only expense is their time. The MD SPCA strives to make it as easy and stress-free for foster families as possible.
Like many other shelters and rescues, the MD SPCA heavily relies on the kindness of their volunteers time and energy to help with the daily caretaking of the dogs and cats in need. Volunteering at the MD SPCA goes above and beyond cleaning crates and runs for the pets. Volunteers are trained how to properly handle dogs and cats at all levels.
Along with meeting the pitbull rescue, Duke, another highlight of our visit to the MD SPCA was meeting volunteer, Evan. When Evan came into the room to meet us, he immediately pulled out a can of treats that he carries around in his pocket before he sat down. That right there is a sign of a dedicated volunteer. Evan explained that while he has a Master’s Degree and had a career job at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, he wasn’t enjoying the 9-5 corporate life. After doing some self reflection, Evan decided to leave his job to pursue veterinary school. Last April, Evan began volunteering at the MD SPCA. Since the MD SPCA has a busy spay and neuter clinic and Evan wanted to attend veterinary school, he thought starting his volunteer services there would be the perfect fit and started as an exam room helper.
After a while, Evan decided to make the transition to becoming a dog walker volunteer after seeing the lack of tier 3 dog walkers that were available. If there are not many qualified tier 3 dog walkers, the tier 3 dogs do not get nearly as many walks, which was disheartening to Evan.
At the MD SPCA, dog walkers are identified by 3 tiers. Each tier is achieved after hours of training, which includes behavioral training, leash walking and safety procedures. Tier 1 is your entry level dog walker and while you still receive training, the tier 1 dog walkers will walk the calmest dogs that have a working knowledge of leash walking etiquette. After 12 hours of work and training, a dog walker can be promoted to a tier 2 dog walker. As a dog walker goes higher in tiers so does the “aggressiveness” of the dog they are walking. Currently, Evan is 1 of only a few tier 3 dog walkers, as tier 3 dog walkers are required to have 70 hours of training and are responsible for walking the most difficult dogs in the adoption center. Evan’s theory is that he looks to turn every moment for a level 3 dog into a teachable moment. Any shelter would be lucky to have Evan on their volunteer roster!
Ways YOU Can Help Too!
Like most non-profits, the MD SPCA’s most requested item is monetary donations! The MD SPCA relies on individual and corporate donations of all amounts. No donation is “too small”. All donations can be made directly through the MD SPCA website. There, you can make a one-time donation or recurring monthly donations in any denomination amount. The MD SPCA also has a Amazon Wish List to make giving easy and accessible for all.
If you live within the Baltimore/Washington D.C. or neighboring region, please consider attending the MD SPCA Festival for the Animals on May 5, 2018. This is by far the MD SPCA’s biggest fundraiser and they depend on every dollar raised to help them continue their rescue efforts throughout the year. You can register as an individual or form a pack with family and friends. This festival is different than years past in that this year it is a day long festival packed with contests, food trucks, beer gardens, live music, vendors and more.
And, of course, adopting your next best friend from the MD SPCA is always welcomed and appreciated! You can find a list of adoptable dogs and cats on their website or through their Petfinder page. And be sure to follow the MD SPCA’s Instagram and Facebook accounts to learn more about their adoptable dogs as they become available for adoption. You can also see all the wonderful dogs that find their forever homes!