Two opposing organizations with the same objective: help Harford County's animals. Where they differ is when the decision comes to either put the animal up for adoption or to have it euthanized.
And while the two groups have had little, if any, back and forth communication, that is expected to change Wednesday, when representatives of the Humane Society of Harford County are scheduled to meet with members of HOPE, Humane Options to Prevent Euthanasia.
The Humane Society of Harford County, whose shelter serves as the Harford County pound, took in 4,246 dogs and cats, and more than a dozen other types of animals, in 2010, according to the humane society's website, harfordshelter.org; 2,896 were cats and 1,350 were dogs. Of those 1,350 dogs, 350 (almost 26 percent ) were euthanized for various reasons, including medical issues, the owner's request, temperament and lack of adopters. Of the 2,896 cats taken in, 1,829 of them (a little more than 63 percent ) were put down for the same reasons, as well as being feral (wild).
Humane Options to Prevent Euthanasia (HOPE), a group formed in the spring by former humane society volunteers, believes those numbers are too high and the humane society should adopt a no-kill policy.
"You start to see these animals that are killed and you wish that you could do more," Abingdon attorney Sue Dent, a volunteer for HOPE, said.
Dent, 41, had been a volunteer with the shelter since 2008, but left along with several other volunteers after they formed HOPE.
Dent said she had a desire "to go up and spend time with the animals and give them some love before they got adopted." At the shelter, she walked dogs and cuddled cats, "as they call it."
But Dent wanted to do more and take on a more active role as a volunteer. She began to foster animals and got her whole family involved in the process.
Over time, however, Dent said, volunteers "felt like there was some sort of wall between the shelter and volunteers," adding "they weren't exactly happy to have us help."
Dent says numerous people "tried to work with the management to put programs in place." But, she says, none were and volunteers began to feel frustrated.
"We're not paid. We're there out of the goodness of our hearts," she said. Soon, HOPE was created. Their objective was to work with the shelter.
"[We're] not trying to do anything negative, but they weren't willing to talk to us," Dent said. "We wanted to raise public awareness — what are the issues, what are the challenges and what can be done."
The newly formed group thought it would be a good time to put new practices into place since the humane society is in the process of designing a new facility for the field behind their shelter in Fallston.
"The very first step we took was writing a letter to the [humane society] board, but we got no response," Dent said. The group also sent a letter to the Harford County Council, and got no response. A Facebook page, facebook.com/hopeinharfordcounty, was then created "to inform taxpayers" of their mission and "create a public awareness forum for posting information" about their group and the humane society.
A petition was also started in hopes to see changes made before ground was broken for the new shelter, Dent said. The petition had 904 signatures and HOPE's Facebook page had 506 "likes," as of Tuesday afternoon.
The humane society's story is slightly different.
"They have never presented specific plans as to what they would like changed," David Fang, board president of the Humane Society of Harford County, said. "It's not a group that has constructively approached us."
Fang used a July 1 post by HOPE on its Facebook page as an example, saying "they [HOPE] said we're working on some programs to do this and do that, [but] we've yet to see specific programs come from them."
In an email, Fang said "We will be meeting with some of the HOPE people [the beginning of September]." A Tuesday morning post on HOPE's Facebook page says the meeting will take place today (Wednesday).
As far as HOPE's page, Fang feels the group's members have attacked the humane society.