Baltimore County Animal Services has received 101 animals that county officials seized from an Essex residence, leading to crowded conditions in the county’s only open-admission shelter.

The seized animals include rabbits, puppies, guinea pigs, hamsters, parakeets, cats, fish, and adult dogs. The seized animals are not available for adoption at this time, because the case is still under investigation. But Carrie McCloskey, chief of the Division of Animal Services, said the shelter needs adopters for the animals that are already on the premises to make room for the new ones as they evaluate the situation.

“While these new intake animals are not available for adoption, many animals that were already at the BCAS facility are available,” McCloskey said. “We need residents that are able to serve as fosters to come forth to house some of our animals. We are also encouraging anyone who is looking to add to their family through pet adoption to come in and see the animals we have available.”

The county shelter has capacity for 150 animals. It now has 280.

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Overcrowding at shelters, an issue nationwide, has been acute in both Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Both are offering various promotions to find adopters; the county shelter is offering low-cost spay and neuter services, gift card giveaways and waived adoption fees.

A large seizure like this one is unusual, but seems to be getting more common. In May, the city shelter, BARCS, took 83 dogs and one cat from a Baltimore row home. Almost all have been adopted.

The county’s last major seizure was in 2021, when authorities seized 92 dogs, many of them gravely ill, from an unlicensed kennel called Don’t Be A Bully. The owners, Rachel Evans and her boyfriend, Austin Duncan, were charged with 61 separate animal abuse counts. Those included allegations they abused the dogs by not getting treatment when they knew the dogs were ill. Numerous Facebook posts from families who adopted from Don’t Be A Bully recounted taking home sick animals that suffered and required expensive stays at hospitals. Some recounted trying to report the operation, to no avail.

As in the Don’t Be a Bully case, conditions inside the Essex home were deplorable, according to Abby Isaacs, spokeswoman for Baltimore County Animal Services. But unlike in that case, Isaacs said, there’s no evidence that the Essex operation was selling the animals. In the 2021 case, many of the dogs suffered from canine distemper — a highly contagious and deadly respiratory virus. A litter tested positive for parvovirus, and many of them died.

Typically, from the day of seizure, owners have 10 days to petition for a return of the animals. If they do not file one, the animals enter the custody of Baltimore County, which can prepare them for adoption. The deadline is approaching, but Isaacs would not say exactly when it would be.

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If the owners file to keep their animals, the shelter will hold and care for them as the case wends its way through the courts system; that can take anywhere from six months to two years.

In the meantime, Isaacs said, the shelter has been fielding calls from rescue groups that have been helping to take in the dogs, cats and rabbits already at the shelter.

The main need now is for more residents to do the same through short-term fosters while the county sorts out whether the animals will be staying at the shelter, and for how long.

“If anyone can offer a temporary home, even for just a week, it’s very helpful,” she said.

To foster an animal, write to; to volunteer, contact For more information about the animals available, visit the website or call 410-887-PAWS (7297).