Maryland SPCA's dogged promotions pay off in adoptions

Michelle Lors, of Federal Hill, gives her dog Lollipop at treat while attending the Maryland SPCA's Wine and Wag event.
Michelle Lors, of Federal Hill, gives her dog Lollipop at treat while attending the Maryland SPCA's Wine and Wag event.(Photo by Karen Jackson)

Two different stories unfolded outside and inside the Maryland SPCA.

Outside, on the bucolic grounds above Falls Road in Hampden, adopted dogs made pawprint paintings and bobbed for hot dogs in a pool while their owners socialized at a Wine and Wag happy hour.


Inside, in the SPCA kennels, dogs and cats that were up for adoption huddled in their temporary homes, barking or mewing as potential owners passed by. Some were kittens and puppies. Others were older and there for reasons ranging from feline HIV and AIDS to untenable home lives with owners who were too old or busy to keep them.

"Take me, take me," translated SPCA director of development Sarah Walton as Bella, a 2-year-old German shepherd barked madly and jumped against the glass in her kennel.

The Wine and Wag was a way not only to promote the SPCA, but to get people inside as the nonprofit organization did its toughest job — finding homes for adoptable animals.

Patrick Horner, of Charles Village, said he wished he could adopt another animal, "but someone won't let me," he said, jerking a thump at his wife, Keri Kiewra. They adopted Herman, a now-4-year-old schnauzer mix, in 2011.

"One is enough," Kiewra said. Any more, she added, would be "too much to handle."

Dog days of summer

July and August are especially challenging for the SPCA, which has a $4 million budget from private donors, corporations and foundation grants and tries to find homes for 3,000 animals a year, in addition to performing 9,000 spays and neuters a year. Its biggest annual fundraiser is March for the Animals, which will celebrate its 20th year in 2015.

The organization also runs programs such as Dog Days Out — like a field trip for canines — and is currently renovating its 11-acre grounds off Interstate 83. It recently bought an X-ray machine and has three veterinarians on its 65-member staff.


"It's the dog days of summer," said spokeswoman Tina Regester. "Everyone wants a kitten. Everyone wants a puppy. But there are some larger dogs and cats that need homes too."

Tax attorney Elizabeth Drigodas, of Roland Park, president of the SPCA's board of directors, noted that the organization usually ends up with a lot of kittens as summer begins, because "kitten season" is typically in June.

"This year, kitten season is a little late," Drigodas said.

The SPCA is doing even more promotions than usual this summer, waiving its $100 adoption fees for older and larger animals.

"We can find more homes for pets by waiving the adoption fee," Regester said.

The organization has started the Lifesavers Club, a effort to get people to designate ongoing monthly donations to offset the $400-$500 average cost of caring for animals until they are adopted.


"We're at 40 (Lifesavers) now," Regester said. "We're aiming to have 100."

And although Wine and Wags are not new, the one on July 18 raised the ante by featuring live music and an oyster shucker.

The efforts are paying off in good will.

"Awesome dog," said webpage designer Uli Roberson, of Reisterstown, walking adopted 6-year-old Eva, a boxer, during the Wine and Wag. She said she tries to make it to all of the Wine and Wag events.

"Eva likes it," Roberson said. "She always goes straight for the hot dogs."