From “Dog Pound” to Pet Resource Center: Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter is Leading the Way

by the City of Baltimore, MD for the TLG 2019 Innovation Showcase program

Dec 19, 2018

Theme: Extensive Internal Collaboration

As recently as the 1980s, an estimated 17 million dogs and cats were being euthanized annually; today, that figure is about 1.5 million, thanks largely to the “no-kill movement.” It isn’t exactly news that we are a nation of animal lovers. After all, 68 percent of U.S. households own at least one pet and it’s estimated that Americans will spend more than $72 billion on our pets this year alone. Still, the best reflection of our deep affection for these companion animals is seen not in commercial transactions but in the profound transformation of U.S. animal sheltering that’s taken place over the past 50 years—and Baltimore is at the forefront of the movement.

As recently as 2004, only 2 percent of animals entering Baltimore’s municipal shelter made it out alive. Today, though, the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS), the nonprofit that contracts with the city for its animal sheltering services, boasts a “save rate” of 91 percent. This is even more impressive when one considers BARCS’ intake numbers (10,475 dogs and cats in 2017 alone) and many challenges faced by its community (e.g., more than 23 percent of Baltimore’s residents are living in poverty, nearly twice the national figure).

Critical to BARCS’ success was the organization’s innovative approach to animal sheltering. Recognizing that the traditional “dog pound” model was inadequate to serve the animals in their care or the residents of Baltimore, BARCS turned this outdated model on its head, striving instead to become a resource center for people and their pets. Not surprisingly, this radical shift attracted others committed to lifesaving: partnerships with government agencies and animal welfare nonprofits, for example, as well as support from residents interested in volunteering. As a result, BARCS has become model for the rest of the country.

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