BALTIMORE — The familiar sound of dogs barking echoes through the kennels at BARCS' new facility in the Cherry Hill neighborhood of South Baltimore.
That sound has grown louder over the last six months. Communications Director Bailey Deacon said at the start of the pandemic, they saw a big dip in the number of animals coming to the shelter. But as the city's animal control resumes full operations, the number of homeless pets they are bringing in is going back up. And another crucial number for the shelter is going back down.
"The amount of people who came to us in the beginning that wanted to foster is not the same as it is now, however, we have more animals now so the balance has shifted a little bit here," she said.
Deacon said foster families are vital to freeing up kennel space at BARCS, which is an open admission shelter and takes any animal that comes through its doors. Fosters can provide a more comfortable, at-home environment for pets while they wait to be adopted.
One of their dedicated fosters is Michelle Green, who estimates she has fostered around 500 animals in the last nine years.
"I can’t keep 500 animals but I can save 500 animals by fostering and continuing to foster."
When BARCS had a lull in intakes, Deacon said they decided to use the empty cages and their surplus of foster families to start a new program called "Home Away from Home." It provides emergency boarding services to pet owners who are going through financial, housing or medical struggles.
"What we want to do is get animals that are loved and well taken care of back to their families, not adopt them out to somebody else. We’re trying to preserve families here," she said.
The program has seen great success, with many pets happily reunited with their owners. But Deacon said the future of this program, and its heart-warming reunions, is in serious jeopardy.
"Without more fosters taking pets from us when our numbers are back up, and this eviction moratorium is happening, we’re not going to be able to continue that program."
BARCS is now putting out a call for help, urging anyone with a little bit of time and a lot of love to consider bringing a foster pet into their home. Green said knowing that you're giving an animal, and possibly its owner, a second chance makes it all worthwhile.
"So if we can be that bridge and foster while the owners are finding new housing that allows dogs or cats or finding a new job or whatever the case may be, that’s so rewarding just in itself to be able to help that."
To learn more about becoming a BARCS pet foster, click here. You can also watch the bonus video above for answers to the most frequently asked questions/concerns about being a pet foster.