Hello everyone, It’s Ginny Crane, President of the Board for the Humane Society of Charles County (HSCC) sending out warm holiday greetings to all of you.  As I look back on 2017 the first thing that comes over me is realizing what an honor it is to lead an organization that has so many dedicated employees, volunteers and supporters.  Our mission is “to provide shelter and care for homeless, injured and neglected animals through adoption, fostering, community partnerships, education and affordable spay-neuter and vaccine services.” It all boils down to caring for the animals and helping them find homes.  It is such a simple statement of work, but yet the time, effort and money it takes to care for the over three thousand animals that come through our doors each year is a gargantuan undertaking in love, perseverance and passion. There are so many loving stories and happy outcomes as well as those that rip your heart out and make you want to quit trying, but when you pick up a kitten to cuddle and hear that little purr motor roaring at full speed or look into the eyes of a dog that just wants a neck scratch and a friend, we all know that it’s the only place we want to be.  The employees of the HSCC all deserve the utmost respect and gratitude for the work they do and the love they show in caring for the animals that come through our doors.  Not everything goes smoothly, not all animals make it and we make mistakes, but what we do know is that we try, we care and we keep getting better and better at making sure the animals get a chance.

This year we formally instituted an intake process where we ask people surrendering their animals to make a counseling appointment.  Not everyone can or will make an appointment, so we take those surrenders right away, but those 80% that do give us the opportunity to determine if we can help them find another solution to the problem are grateful to discuss what can be done so they won’t have to surrender their pet and keep them instead.  It sometimes boils down to help with discipline/training, finding affordable care, offering low-no cost spay/neutering or vaccinations, assistance with food and many other problems that can be resolved with just talking and figuring out another way besides surrendering.  We weren’t sure if this program would work and we had to work out the implementation kinks, but it now seems to be paying off with approximately 50% – 60% of all intake counseling sessions resulting in the owner not surrendering their pet.  We will keep tweaking and adjusting so we can get those numbers up.

A big highlight this year was the completion of our free roaming cat room.  Wow, do the kitties enjoy running and playing in the cat room. They don’t have to stay cooped up in their cages until they are adopted. Instead, about 10-12 at a time get to roam free in the cat room and climb on shelves, watch bird videos, lounge in the cat towers, look out the window and just relax and be a cat.  Our potential adopters like it too because they get to interact with the cats as well as just visit and be around the kitties.

I am always amazed at the small but ever so mighty HSCC Humane Education Department.  A handful of highly skilled educators teach over 17,000 elementary and middle school students various hands on topics such as bats, farm animals, worms, domestic pets and a whole lot more so the students can learn firsthand about responsibility, respect, compassion, kindness and fairness for all life in an effort to make our world a nicer place to live in for all. In addition to teaching all those students, our educators put on birthday parties, have PAWS clubs for children from as young as 3 to as old as 15, and hold other education sessions throughout the year. Their efforts to help students learn to be good stewards of life though kindness and compassion for animals is simply amazing and transformational.

One of the truly phenomenal HSCC undertakings this year was providing free spay/neuter and vaccines to over 1000 community (feral) cats. It is beyond remarkable that our Community Cat Outreach Coordinator single handedly trapped the community cats, transported them to our clinic for their spay/neuters and vaccines, then transported them back to their colony for release (TNR – trap, neuter, return).  Our work in this area afforded us two extremely large grants to be able to perform these services for free, but the truly amazing piece is that our Community Cat Outreach Coordinator donated her own time, resources and energy to do the TNR work. We are forever grateful to her commitment and contribution to significantly reducing the feral cat population in our county.  I simply do not have any words that can express my gratitude to making this program such a huge success.

Another stand out, stellar volunteer effort this year was the opening of the multi-acre HSCC Bark Park with leadership and project management provided by our Board vice-president. Working with dedicated volunteers week after week, they cleaned up and cleared a heavily wooded, trash filled area behind the shelter and turned it into a magnificent park with dog walking trails, benches to take in the grandeur of the wooded park, a bridge to span the creek, multiple signage providing information on local wildlife, and in 2018 plans for areas to hold education sessions and gatherings for HSCC friends and family.

Our volunteers are an amazing group of dedicated souls that look after our shelter and our animals. They come together to help care for and find homes for all the critters that come through our door.

This year’s Panleukopenia outbreaks were beyond heartbreaking. Once we seemed to get ahead of an outbreak, another one occurred. It seemed as though we would never come off of quarantine to get our kittens and cats into forever homes.  We lost so many to the virus and it took its toll on everyone.  Fosters came to the rescue to keep the kittens out of the shelter and help them from contracting the disease which is typically fatal.  We thank each and every foster from the bottom of our hearts in helping us get through those awful quarantines and save as many kittens as we could. We can only hope that this year’s winter is enough to make the virus dormant in 2018 so we don’t have to go through Panleukopenia outbreaks next year.

I can’t say enough to everyone who donates their hard-earned money to keep our shelter operating and helping us find animals new, forever homes.  It is always extremely tough to keep enough money in the bank to help every animal that comes through our door.   But with each dollar or bag of food that you donate we can help that much more. Thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you again for being there for us, for the animals and for showing the love to help The HSCC help the helpless animals that find their way through our doors.

In gratitude,