Ever since Angel, her mixed-breed lapdog, died unexpectedly a few months ago, Cynthia Odom had been checking the Baltimore County Animal Services website to see about a new dog.

She spotted Nugget, a look-alike mixed-breed, on the lost pets page, and knew after a certain time he’d be available for adoption. Tuesday, she showed up at the Baldwin shelter as soon as the office opened to fill out the paperwork and take him home.

“I hope he loves me,” said Odom, a special education teacher from Overlea with a smile. “He has to love me like I love him already.”

BCAS Volunteers Dave Dougherty and Sue Glaeser pet Bruno, the American Staffordshire Terrier Dougherty adopted last week. "Everybody loves Bruno," Glaeser said.
BCAS Volunteers Dave Dougherty and Sue Glaeser pet Bruno, the American Staffordshire Terrier Dougherty adopted last week. "Everybody loves Bruno," Glaeser said. (Rona Kobell/Rona Kobell)

Tuesday was Adopt a Shelter Pet Day at Baltimore County Animal Services. The Baldwin shelter, which takes in all pets regardless of space, is waiving adoption fees until May 5 and also throwing in some discounted and free pet perks. A list of available animals is here. Adopters will also receive $20 PetSmart gift cards for all dogs and cats while supplies last.

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The shelter is inviting all families who previously adopted one of its dogs or cats to nominate their pet for “Spokesdog” and “Spokescat,” which the shelter will feature on social media posts and advertisements to increase awareness of pets needing homes.

For the first time in history, the shelter took in more dogs than cats in the first three months of 2024, officials said. That would be 665 dogs and 614 cats; the shelter took in 20 dogs in one day. The shelter takes in strays that were once in homes: cats, dogs, snakes, rabbits, or guinea pigs.

The weeklong promotion is to increase adopters but also to introduce more county residents to the facility. Potential adopters often confuse the county operation with BARCS, its counterpart in the city.

BARCS has already announced waived fees because it, too, is running out of space for the animals it’s taken in.

Carrie McCloskey, chief of the Baltimore County shelter’s division of animal services, said most surrenders come from dog owners whose living situation has changed and who can no longer afford to care for their pet anymore or don’t have room to do so.

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While the post-pandemic year resulted in many people returning pets after they went back to work and no longer had time to devote to them, McCloskey said the recent surge is much more economic.

“We’re seeing lots of purebred dogs. Dogs we haven’t seen before are starting to come in,” she said. “A lot of people are surrendering because they can’t afford their animals anymore.”

To help with that, the county offers $10 microchip appointments and $20 spay/neuter appointments. Additionally, at its spring and fall rabies clinics, pet owners can pay $9 for a rabies vaccine, microchip service and Baltimore County license (if applicable).

County Executive Johnny Olszewski snuggled with a puppy as he urged a small audience of reporters and a couple potential adopters to consider a shelter pet. He’s also considering one; his chow border collie mix, Indy, died six months ago, and he thinks his family is almost ready to adopt another dog. When he does, he says, it will most likely be a rescue like Indy.

Dave Dougherty, a retired English professor at Loyola University, highly recommends the experience. After a year of volunteering at the shelter, he adopted Bruno last weekend. The American Staffordshire terrier is two years old; Dougherty said they bonded quickly. He’d been at the shelter for three months, an eternity in dog years.

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“Every day, he finds a new way to let us know how happy he is,” Dougherty said.

Bruno demonstrated some of his agility moves on the grass outside, showing off for the television cameras as a van with adoptable pets displayed cats and dogs in the window. Inside, a chorus of barks inside chain-link cages alerted visitors to how many dogs need homes.

As other volunteers and visitors stopped by to pet Bruno, Dougherty said he knew it was likely when he began volunteering that he would bring a dog home one day.

“When you work here, you’re going to fall in love with some of the dogs,” he said. “Actually, you fall in love with a lot of the dogs.”