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Caring for our best friends

May 20, 2007|By JULIE E. GREENE

Sheltering pets as they await reunions with their owners or hope for new homes is about more than cleaning cages and filling food bowls.

The Humane Society of Washington County also has a spay and neutering program for dogs and cats, a clinic to treat injured animals and provide preventative treatments such as vaccines, and a pet food bank that serves rescue groups, financially qualified individuals and other animal shelters, officials said.

The nonprofit agency has an animal control officer who responds to calls for neglect, cruelty and animals at large, said Debbie Porterfield, manager of animal care customer service.

About 100 volunteers a month help the shelter by assisting with paperwork, grooming, cleaning and assisting at events; exercising and socializing with the animals - whether it's walking or playing; and fostering pets at their homes, said Porterfield and Katherine Cooker, manager of development and community relations.

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Dogs which are brought to the humane society are given a behavioral assessment to help match them with potential adopters. Their reaction to different stimuli - such as strangers, being handled and whether they guard their food and/or toys - are checked to identify behavioral traits.

In a recent nine-month period, from July 1, 2006, to April 30, 2007, 740 animals were adopted, 316 were returned to their owners, and 2,680 were euthanized at the shelter due to health, behavioral problems or lack of space, Porterfield said.

In addition to being home for dozens of animals at a time, the humane society hosts an Explorers Post for youths ages 14 to 21. The youths, who are interested in animal-related careers, went on field trips such as visits to Dr. Jerry Harness' veterinary office in Greencastle, Pa., and to a dairy farm with Harness, said Margaret Becker, whose jobs include managing the society's volunteer program.

For more information, call 301-733-2060 or go to members.petfinder.org/~MD101/washco.html.

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