BARCS' story begins a decade ago, in a little blue building nestled along the water's edge in Baltimore's historical Federal Hill. Prior to becoming a non-profit, the building housed was known as the Baltimore City Municipal Animal Shelter. Like many city agencies, the animal shelter had to compete with other agencies for the limited funding and resources Baltimore City could provide. This meant that the animal shelter was often placed as a last priority. As a result of these limitations, it was woefully underfunded and understaffed, which translated into poor husbandry practices, poor customer service, a poorly maintained building and astonishingly low adoption rates.
In 2005, in response to the need to improve the existing city shelter and make the conditions more humane, Baltimore City committed to dividing the animal shelter into two separate organizations. The Bureau of Animal Control, remained a public city agency and is responsible for operating a 24-hour, 7-days a week program that handles all animal issues outside of the shelter: brings strays into the animal shelter, impounds vicious animals, investigates rabid animal reports, handles enforcement of animal laws, and responds to animal cruelty complaints. The new organization, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS), was officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in July 2005. In 2006 the Board of Directors was formed, comprising of a small group of community members and government officials. Together they hired an Acting Executive Director to begin the shelter's transformation. In the spring of 2006, BARCS became the responsible organization for the oversight of all shelter operations and programs for the Baltimore City shelter.
BARCS now provides animal care and adoption services, spaying and neutering for animals in its adoption program, public education and outreach, tracks lost and found pets, and sponsors low-cost vaccination and microchip clinics. Through this new partnership, the animal shelter’s resources have been increased through enabling it to have the flexibility of a non-profit, but the backing of the city government through a grant for some of the basic operations.
The positive results of this reorganization show that the plan is working. In just over a year, BARCS significantly increased the number of lives saved from a total of 240 in 2004 (under Animal Control), to 738 in 2005, and more recently more than 8,000 in 2015. Additionally, BARCS hired all non-profit staff members, created and expanded its volunteer program, created a foster program, began offsite adoptions, created a fund to care for sick and injured homeless animals (The Franky Fund), established working relationships with other local animal shelters and animal rescue groups, and increased the community’s awareness of the shelter and the needs of its animals.
Our Incredible Story in the Media
- "Dog Tired But Thriving: How One Woman Drastically Reduced a Baltimore Shelter’s 98 Percent Euthanasia Rate" - PEOPLE Magazine
- "Underdog: A decade after BARCS went private, more animals are surviving and thriving." - Baltimore Magazine
Vision for the Future
Where do we go from here? BARCS's vision is to become a model open admission shelter, a shelter that does not turn away an animal that has no place to go, and a true resource for the people and animals of Baltimore. We envision an animal shelter where all animals in good health and temperament find new homes, where they are housed in a low-stress, comfortable environment, where spay/neuter surgeries are offered at low-cost to the Baltimore community, where residents can turn in times of personal crisis for help with their pet, where citizens are educated on the proper care of animals, and where abused and neglected animals can receive the love and care they need to recover.
We are proud of our accomplishments over the past few years, but with increased financial support, we can achieve much more. It is a critical time for BARCS – our resources are limited and much of our work is done by volunteers and a small dedicated staff.
Our goals are to build a new larger shelter to comfortably house the large volume of animals we receive and enable us to expand our programs and services, continue to raise awareness and community support in order to expand our life-saving programs, and create a more humane city for all of our animals.