What a wonderful thing it would be if every dog could curl up with a loyal human companion, or if every cat had a human caretaker who understood its many moods.

The world would be a better place.

Pets enrich the lives of many families in Harford County, providing companionship and unconditional love, not to mention the occasional nuzzle.

We care about those pets not only as a matter of personal responsibility, but also as a matter of public policy. You may not be able to run for the office of dog catcher in Harford County, but we certainly have an office of Animal Control whose job it is to remove stray dogs and cats from the dangers of the street.


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In some places, stray dogs and cats — and other creatures, great and small — end up at publicly owned pounds, but in Harford County the responsibility of running what amounts to the county animal shelter has long been shouldered by the Humane Society of Harford County.

For decades, that not-for-profit organization, with its strong contingent of volunteers, has run the animal shelter on Connolly Road in Fallston.

The arrangement, while peppered with rough spots, has been largely a good one for the people and pets of Harford County. In recent years, the rough spots have often related to issues involving the unfortunate reality of running an animal shelter or pound: more pets come in than do people to adopt them. More tragically, some of the animals that come in are, because of disease, infirmity, or cruel upbringing, unsuitable as companions.

For generations, as every child painfully comes to realize on the journey to adulthood, this has meant euthanasia for a sad and substantial number of cats and dogs.

Lately, an organization called HOPE, short for Humane Options to Prevent Euthanasia, has been undertaking a relatively aggressive effort to turn the Humane Society's animal shelter into a no-kill facility.

While this sounds like it might be a good idea provided there is sufficient financial support and public will, it's a proposal that is almost childlike in its naivete. The sad truth is too many would-be pets are the victim of the kind of neglect or mistreatment that turns them into something that's probably worse than wild. Such animals would be threats not only to potential adopting families, but also to any person or animal they might come into contact with at the shelter.

Other factors, such as sanitation and the need to control the spread of animal illnesses, further limit an animal shelter's ability to be the long-term home of last resort for some dogs and cats.

Running a no-kill animal shelter in Harford County, or anywhere else, would be an expensive proposition, but would probably be unrealistic even with unlimited financial resources.

These days, the animal shelter in Fallston appears to be striking a good balance and doing pretty good when it comes to placing pets for adoption. While it's nice to think about a world where dogs and cats never had to be put down, it just isn't realistic.

Fortunately, it appears we have something approaching the next best thing in Harford County.