Baltimore’s homeless and abused animals need help. Over 11,000 unwanted, abused and stray animals enter the doors of the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) each year…kittens, puppies, pure breeds and mixed animals. BARCS accepts all types of animals, including wildlife and exotic animals.
Many of the animals BARCS cares for were abandoned on the street or left alone and locked in an abandoned house. Often animals are dropped off directly at the shelter for reasons such as the owner moving and can’t take their pet with them. Pure breeds come through our doors as unwanted purchases. Too many animals come to the shelter as victims of abuse or hit and run accidents.
BARCS is working very hard to rescue and help improve the lives of Baltimore’s homeless animals. Since being recognized as a non-profit in July 2005, BARCS has hired new staff, created new programs and changed the shelters standard operations. These changes have helped to significantly increase the live release rate. We’ve done all of this on a shoestring budget. With greater resources and financial support, we can do even more.
How Far We’ve Come
Prior to becoming a non-profit, the animal shelter 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 and as a result, it was woefully underfunded and understaffed. This translated into poor husbandry practices, poor customer service, a poorly maintained building, and astonishingly low adoption rates.
In response to need to improve the shelter and make the conditions more humane, Baltimore City reorganized the animal shelter into two divisions. The first, 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 and responds to animal cruelty complaints. The second, The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS), where the shelter itself was officially recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in July 2005 and oversees all animal care for animals housed at the shelter and animal programs. 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, sponsors low-cost vaccination and microchip clinics, and provides low cost dog training classes. 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 adoptions from a total of 90 in 2004 (under Animal Control), to 738 in 2005, and more recently over 3,200 in 2010. 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.
Vision for the Future
BARCS is aiming to become a model animal rescue facility 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, where cruelty to animals is a felony, 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. With the support of the Baltimore community, we can find homes for even more animals, improve our operations and the facility to meet the needs of the animals better, and work to prevent animal abuse and abandonment.