BY: JOAN ALLEN
Executive Director of the MD SPCA, Jim Peirce, has big plans for their 150th Anniversary.
“Historically, the MD SPCA has retained the focus of responding to the needs of the community and we’re still strong, still here, and still relevant,” says Peirce. “The MD SPCA was born out of a need. In 1869, our founder, attorney William Woodward, saw horses in the streets of Baltimore being mistreated and he was appalled. He recruited a group of 50 men to form the MD SPCA.”
According to Peirce, the SPCA’s mission today has evolved to improve the lives of pets and people. He says that in 2018 they helped over 16,000 pets and over 18,000 people. “We have a strategic plan and we know where we’re headed.” To address their current needs in a cost-effective way, last year Peirce and his team started a pilot initiative called the Community Partners program. “We identified two small nonprofits Charm City Companions and B-more Dog, run by passionate women doing great things in underserved neighborhoods in Baltimore City. They provide services for people living in these vet deserts, areas that have no access to food and supplies or medical care for their animals.
“Rather than reinvent the wheel, we asked the two nonprofits how we could help them and add value to what they’re doing. To help more animals and people in need, we teamed up with them, and 532 dogs were able to receive services, food, and vet care, including medical exams and flea and tick prevention. “We also handed out vouchers for free spade/neuter surgeries, which take place at our Spay/Neuter Clinic at 3300 Falls Road.
To celebrate their proud history and accomplishments, the MD SPCA is planning a homecoming in the fall, where they will be able to connect with former board members and all adopters, today numbers more than 3000 families a year. Their goal is to reengage with people and hear their stories.
Baltimore native, Mary Chico, tells a special story of how she came to fall in love with her four-year-old pure-bred Staffordshire terrier, Edgar Alan, at the MD SPCA when he was just a puppy Chico says, “It was a fluke. I had been fostering a dog for six months and he just wasn’t the right fit for me. After saying goodbye to the foster, I was driving down 83 sobbing. I stopped in the SPCA, a very special place for me, to remind myself why I foster, and realized I was ready for my forever dog.
“With a love for Edgar Alan Poe, inspired by her beloved high school English teacher, Chico named him after the poet. (She also adopted a cat she named Poe, prior to Edgar, whom she also got from the MD SPCA.) I was going to look around but had no intention of adopting that day. I had seen Edgar the week before and thought he was adorable. “I saw him one more time inside their shelter. I was sitting on the floor, and he crawled up in my lap. It sealed the deal. I adopted him and it was the best impulsive decision I’ve ever made.
Chico gushes, “He has not a mean bone in his body. He’s the life of the party. He’s a 49-pound goof ball. He’s a cutie pie and he dresses up a lot. He has a bigger wardrobe than me. His favorite outfit is a fleece that has hippos all over it, and he has a multi-colored poncho that he modeled for Baja Dog Ponchos; his picture is on their website.
He’s a super social guy and likes to say hello to other dogs. I bring him to a trainer at least once a week. At home he’s super laid back, but when he’s out and about he gets excited. Chico attributes Edgar’s training to giving him a fuller life. “We’re able to do more things and go more places. We go on at least one adventure a week. “I will do anything for Edgar; my life feels much fuller with him in it. To me he’s my child and I adore him.”
Peirce explains that last year the SPCA transported dogs from 20 shelters around the state to their facility. “This is how we help overcrowded shelters and we’re able to diversify our animal population, so it’s not only one breed of dog. We get mixes of different dogs.” He estimates their average length of stay at the MD SPCA is about two weeks, but some stay longer.
The exception was Alexis, who prior to finding her forever home, had led a life out of a Charles Dickens novel. To find a home for their beloved Alexis, the SPCA staff went far beyond the call of duty.
Peirce says, “Alexis is no stranger to shelter life. Arriving at the MD SPCA in September 2017, she spent nearly 18 months in our care. During that time, she was adopted twice but it didn’t take. She endured quarantine and ringworm treatment. When Alexis returned to us for the third heartbreaking time, our staff knew they had to do something to make this stay the most pleasant yet and get her noticed by the perfect family, and they went far beyond the call of duty.
Cue the HGTV extreme kennel makeover! “Our staff covered Alexis’s cement floors with dog beds, fleece blankets, pillows and stuffed animals – a room fit for a princess. Staff captured the renovation on time lapse video, including Alexis’s reaction as she jumped for joy and kissed her human friends.
“Our social media specialist put out a call to share the video far and wide to help Alexis find the perfect home. Two days and over 400 shares later, she left the shelter with her forever family as staff shed happy tears.”
Dundalk resident Danielle D’Achino, who is a college student, working mom, and wife, said she found Alexis on the MD SPCA Facebook page. “I saw Alexis on the HGTV room makeover. She just lit up, smiling, happy. All I could think is how could this princess of a dog be homeless. “Two days later, me, my husband, my mom, and six-year-old daughter, Jules, went to the SPCA to meet Alexis. We all fell in love with her.
“She loves dressing up and has to be touching someone at all times to be happy. She’s very affectionate. As soon as I come home from work I have to lay down with her until she calms down. She’s excited to see anyone. “She has to sleep between my husband and I. If we try to cuddle with each other, she will army crawl up the bed to try to get in between us.
“Alexis has really changed my life. I’m a student, studying psychology and minoring in criminal justice at Ashford University. After working eight hours a day, I’m doing school work for four hours. I’m really busy, I’m on my computer and it’s mentally draining because I’m doing assignments. Alexis is licking my face and everything is better. If I need some love from her she’s there to give it, and happy to do it. “You can see her smile clear as day. Both sides of her mouth are up. Everyday she’s grateful, and we’re grateful for who she is.”
Peirce encourages everyone to come visit, go to their website, and reconnect with the MD SPCA. “Come for a tour. Because we are so much more than a shelter.”
To learn more about the SPCA’s 150th Anniversary, how to get involved or ways to help, please go to www.mdspca.org, or call them at (410) 235-8826.