Parked in front of Hampstead's Wal-Mart with orange cones setting a perimeter around it, the Carroll County Humane Center's Mobile Adoption Trailer was open for business on Nov. 8.
Hopes were high that the stars of the trailer's visit – 12 cats, two rabbits and a dog – all would be adopted. Yet there were other reasons, just as important, for the trailer's presence.
"It is not just about adoption, " said Nicky Ratliff, executive director of the Humane Society. "It's talking to citizens, answering questions. It's public education. Rolling down the road, it is a great advertisement. People pull in to see what it is."
Throughout the day, traffic slowed to try to see into the trailer. Many people stopped to visit the animals and to pick up literature available on tables.
"I think it is a great idea," said Kimberly Sauter, after stopping by. "It brings [the Humane Society] to people in the community. It's hard to pass by without stopping."
The trailer first went into use in July. It offers 14 spots for animals. One side of the trailer pops up like an awning, revealing a large window where people can view the animals. The trailer is heated and has air conditioning as well as water, and people are allowed to go inside to meet the animals one-on-one.
"I've always wanted one," Ratliff said of the trailer that a donor helped provide. "It is wonderful."
Completely run by volunteers, the trailer ventures out on most weekends around the county as well as festivals like the Mount Airy Fall Festival, according to Ratliff.
"We're still learning," said Ken Mays, the society's board president, of the best ways to use the trailer. "We're trying to get it out every weekend. We're finding Wal-marts are our best location."
While the staff and volunteers at the Humane Society decide which animals will be featured and get the necessary food and supplies ready, the trailer volunteers drive the vehicle and set it up. They also handle all on-site adoptions. When the event is through, they drive the trailer back to the center and thoroughly clean it.
"It does take a lot of time and effort before we come," said Debbie Maggitti, who organizes all the volunteers and duties involving the trailer. "This [the trailer] is the perfect solution for people like me who work Monday through Friday and want to help but don't have the time. This is done on weekends."
Due to the large number of cats and kittens the society receives, the trailer is another way to get the felines, as well as small animals like guinea pigs or rabbits, out into the public. On Saturday, a small dog traveled with the trailer for the first time. It was adopted quickly by the family of some volunteers.
"I fell in love with her," said Kim Schlauch, about the rat terrier dog she adopted. "She has a great personality."
"It's tough when people walk up and say they want to see the dogs and we don't have any," Maggitti admitted.
Individuals must be 18 or older to adopt an animal, and the volunteers have the right to turn down applications if they don't believe it is a good match, Ratliff said. Veterans and those in active duty have their adoption fees waived; otherwise it is $70 to adopt a dog; $50 for a cat and $10 for a rabbit. All the animals are current with vaccinations.
"The important thing is all are returnable," Mays stressed. "If it doesn't work out, return it to the society."
With colder weather in the forecast, the Human Society is trying to find new venues to take the trailer during the winter months. Buildings like fire houses or auto dealers that might be large enough for the trailer to pull in and set up shop would be ideal.
"Next year will be great," Mays said. "We're still learning the best locations."
As the incoming new executive director for the Humane Society, Charles Brown was getting his first look at the trailer with Mays' guidance on Nov. 8.
"The trailer is wonderful," Brown said. "I've been with organizations that had similar things but not as nice as this. This really is a class act."
By the end of the afternoon shift in Hampstead, two kittens and one dog had been adopted. The crew of volunteers was happy.