The cat named Angel sticks a calico-colored paw through the slats in the cage, a gentle purr vibrating within her, as the door slides open. The hands that lift her are gentle, and as she is embraced, she feels a jolt of anticipation, the joy of a permanent home, a fresh start, a new life.
This holiday season, animal lovers can adopt a pet from one of Southern Maryland’s animal rescue leagues or shelters, and give a dog, puppy, cat, or kitten a second chance.
Adopting a pet is not free, nor is it instantaneous, but adoption has many benefits. Shelters and rescue leagues make every effort to ensure that an adopter will take home a healthy pet. For example, the website of the Calvert Animal Welfare League (CAWL) in Prince Frederick states that “all dogs are current on shots, wormed, have been heartworm tested, on heartworm preventative, are microchipped, spayed or neutered.” Cats and kittens have also tested negative for FELV/FIV, a feline immunodeficiency virus. An adoption fee, along with donations, helps defray costs for an animal’s medical care.
One-time adoption fees tend to be modest: at St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) of Leonardtown, the cost for a dog is $150 and a cat is $125. At CAWL, a dog under age six is $200, dogs six years and older are $175, puppies less than six months old are $225, and cats and kittens are $130. The prices are listed on each group’s website; readers are advised to check online, as adoption fees could change. Each website contains information on these fees, as well as adorable photographs of pets available for adoption.
In addition to paying a fee, potential adopters must fill out an adoption contract. A contract generally states that the person adopting an animal will fulfill certain responsibilities as caregiver to that animal. Some organizations might require a home visit, where a staff member or volunteer visits a home to ensure that the surroundings are suitable for the animal being adopted. These home visits also give an animal the opportunity to interact with the whole family for the first time. Again, check the websites for further information, as policies and requirements could vary.
The holidays typically generate interest in adopting pets. However, local shelter employees emphasize the importance of realizing that owning and caring for an animal requires a significant amount of time, resources, and commitment. A dog or cat is a member of the family and should not be considered a mere “gift” that can be returned to the store.
Before adopting a pet, consider the financial responsibilities involved. “They require a lot of time, attention, and there is the expense of food, treats, toys, and medical bills,” says Barbara Scanlan, canine manager at CAWL. Scanlan reports that some animals are given up for adoption due to the high costs of caring for them.
Kelly St. Marie, acting president of the Humane Society of Calvert County, advises against adopting pets as holiday gifts without careful thought and discussion. The adoption process at the Humane Society involves the entire family visiting the shelter to find out if the animal is a good fit for them. The goal is to ensure that the family has made the right choice in adopting a pet.
“We can make arrangements for the recipient to receive a gift certificate so they can choose their own pet after the chaos of the holidays has passed,” says Kate Werner, president of SMAWL. She adds, “The holiday season can be a very stressful time and may not necessarily be the best time to bring a new pet into the home.”
If the decision is made not to adopt a pet, there are still many ways to help shelter animals during the holiday season and year-round. Volunteer opportunities are plentiful. They include walking and playing with dogs, playing with cats, performing clerical and administrative duties during business hours, donating food and supplies, helping out at special events, and providing foster homes for cats and dogs.
Check out the sidebar for more information on Southern Maryland’s animal rescue leagues and shelters. The animals need your love and support!
Southern Maryland Rescue Leagues & Shelters
Southern Maryland has many animal rescue leagues and shelters. Listed below are just some of them. Visit the websites to see animals available for adoption.
Calvert Animal Welfare League
1040 Prince Frederick Blvd., Prince Frederick
Golden Retriever Rescue of Southern Maryland
P.O. Box 6, Great Mills
Greyt Expectations Greyhound Rescue
P.O. Box 1606, Prince Frederick
Humane Society of Calvert County
2210 Dalrymple Rd., Sunderland, 410-257-4908
Humane Society of Charles County
71 Industrial Park Dr., Waldorf, 301-645-8181
Lucky Ones, Inc.
30450 Potomac Way, Charlotte Hall, 301-884-2850
Second Hope Rescue
P.O. Box 2012, Leonardtown, 240-925-0628
Southern Maryland Spay & Neuter, Inc.
4860 St. Leonard Rd., St. Leonard, 410-562-6516
St. Mary’s Animal Welfare League
P.O. Box 1232, Leonardtown, 301-373-5659
Tri-County Animal Shelter
6707 Animal Shelter Rd., Hughesville, 800-903-1992