Fang believes "the public has plenty of opportunity to come in" and the shelter is "doing everything possible to ensure that as many adoptable animals as practical can get adopted and don't have to be put down for space [reasons]."

A few other heated topics debated between HOPE and humane society are the number of animals being spayed and neutered, as well as foster or rescue homes.

Dent said animals from the shelter would be put in foster homes for a period of time and eventually asked to be returned.

But fosters and rescues can be tricky, Leavens said.

"Like" exploreharford's Facebook page

When an animal is put in a foster home, the shelter still pays for the animal's food and medical costs. If a person wants to visit the animal for possible adoption that person has to go "off site" to the foster home, which doesn't happen very often, Leavens noted. "It's not a long term solution," she said.

As for rescues, the shelter calls them frequently but rarely gets a "yes" to bring in an animal.

Just in June, the shelter called various animal rescues more than 200 times. Shelter staff keep a call log of when they call which shelters and what their responses were. Of the calls made in that month, the vast majority of responses were "no," "no space," "too big" (referring to the animal) or declined because of a young child present.

"When you call a rescue, you don't know if they're hoarders," Leavens also brought up. She gave an example of residents of two homes in Whiteford that in 2006 were found hoarding 69 or 70 dogs and four cats. "They were a rescue," she said.

Fang believes the new shelter will help solve spay and neuter issues. Calling the shelter's current process "imperfect," he hopes "a surgical suite will fix this and help with overpopulation problem."

Where HOPE, as well as many no-kill advocacy groups, and humane society differ: HOPE believes pet overpopulation is a myth.

But what it all boils down to is HOPE wants the humane society to have a no-kill policy and, at least for the foreseeable future, the humane society doesn't see that happening.

"While euthanasia is going down, deaths in the shelter is going up and adopters go down," Leavens said of no-kill shelters. She went on to say that if the shelter adopted a no-kill policy, the number of sick animals spreading disease to others would go up, as well as the possibility of animals and staff members being bitten or severely injured – possibly killed – by aggressive animals that would, in a typical situation, be euthanized.

Tomarchio also believes turning humane society into a no-kill shelter isn't possible at the moment.

"A no-kill shelter is an admirable idea, but it requires resources and dollars and a facility [they can't provide]," he said.

HOPE isn't the only group that believes a shelter can go no-kill and be successful.

Several shelters around the country have stopped euthanizing animals or significantly decreased their kill rates.

On Sept. 2, HOPE's Facebook page cited Williamson County Regional Animal Shelter in Williamson County, Texas, an open admission shelter like the humane society, as having a 89 percent save rate for August, 93 percent for dogs. The statistics were also posted on Williamson County shelter's Facebook page.

But for every success story there's a tale of things going horribly awry.

Liberty Humane Society in Jersey City, N.J., failed three inspections by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2010 and was cited for keeping dogs in cages that were too small, as well as for not having a disease control program or supervising veterinarian at the shelter, according to The Jersey Journal. The newspaper went on to say the shelter's board of directors quit in July that year because of differences with the former executive director, who wanted Liberty Humane to go no-kill.

Leavens said the humane society is working with a man from Shelter Planners of America, and his belief is it would take a shelter 15 to 20 years, depending on where that shelter was, to properly adopt the policy.

In the meantime, the humane society is doing what it can to get animals adopted and HOPE continues to reach out to the public.

Over Labor Day weekend, the humane society held a "Be a Lifesaver" event in which the adoption fee for cats and kittens was reduced to $50 from $95, and the adoption fee for all dogs older than 1 year was $100, down from $160.

The shelter is also planning a promotion offering free microchips and dog toys with each dog adoption in October, which is National Adopt-a-Shelter Dog month.

In a perfect world, the humane society's save rate would be 100 percent and all animals brought in would find new, loving homes. In reality, there aren't enough resources and people able to adopt. But groups such as HOPE and others around the country continue to strive for that ideal.