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Briggs Animal Adoption Center helps 'a few animals'

In 2009, the shelter adopted out more than 500 animals

In 2009, the shelter adopted out more than 500 animals

December 30, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. -- "But we can help a few animals, you and I."

That is the mantra of Anna C. Briggs who, since she was 14, has championed the cause of stray and lost cats and dogs.

Earlier this month, Briggs reached her 100th birthday. Her legacy, when it comes, will live on in her life's work and that of her late husband, James P. Briggs, in the National Humane Education Society and the Briggs Animal Adoption Center. Both are housed in an 8-year-old, 18,000-square-foot, Cape Cod-style building on U.S. 340 south of Charles Town. It also is home to Jefferson County Spay Today.

Briggs' grandson, Jim Taylor, 51, manages the private, nonprofit animal shelter and is president of the education society.

The shelter, which has an annual operating budget of $1.1 million, and the society depend largely on donations, private grants and bequests for their existence.

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The National Humane Education Society, the parent organization of Briggs, has 400,000 supporters in the U.S.

"We don't get government money -- state, local or federal, Taylor said. "People drive by and look at our building and think we have a lot of money, but we have a mortgage and expenses like everyone."

The shelter, education society and Spay Today together have 29 full- and part-time employees, plus a cadre of about 35 dedicated volunteers, Taylor said.

It can hold 80 dogs and up to 125 cats. The cattery, a large, rather elegant room/playpen is where cats roam free, enjoy the room's amenities, and socialize with each other and with potential adoptive humans.

The shelter strictly adheres to its rule of not accepting animals when it is filled to capacity.

"We are a no-kill shelter," Taylor said. "Some dogs stay here for years before they're adopted."

In 2008, the shelter adopted out more than 400 animals. This year, Taylor said, the number will be closer to 500, including 350 dogs and 150 cats.

An adoption staff of experienced employees makes prospective adoptees pass muster before they can have an animal. The rules require from one to three visits to the pet they've chosen, especially if it's a family with small children.

Dogs are delivered to their new owners.

"I've delivered dogs as far away as Florida and New Hampshire," Taylor said. "We want people to think about whether they want a dog to be part of their family and to consider the financial and time commitments. We don't adopt out dogs to be chained up or abused. As humans, we have a responsibility to the animals we have and we won't adopt to people who don't understand that."

Taylor said the shelter spends an average of $400 on each animal it takes in before it's ready for adoption. The adoption or "administration fee" is $100 for dogs and $80 for cats.

When dogs come in, they are leash-trained by the shelter's master trainer, are spayed or neutered, and checked by a staff veterinarian.

The majority of dogs are mixed breed. Many come through Potomac Highlands Animal Rescue, which covers the eight-county Eastern Panhandle region. Some come in from owners who can't or won't keep them, but they have to call first. Occasionally, a shelter staffer will find a dog chained to the front gate when they arrive at work in the morning.

Last year, the shelter, through Spay Today's network of 14 veterinarians, spayed or neutered nearly 5,000 dogs and cats in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia.

"That's the answer," Taylor said. "Each year, nearly 4 million dogs and cats are killed in shelters. That's more than 10,000 a day. It makes no sense and it's because of irresponsible pet ownership."

Speaking of his grandmother, Taylor said Anna C. Briggs has spent her life on behalf of animal welfare.

"She has been making great sacrifices since the early 1920s," he said. Her husband, too, whom she met and married when she was 18 and he was 50. They were together for 25 years when James Briggs died at age 75.

"She never married again, that the love she shared with her husband was enough to see her through the end of her days," Taylor said.

Anna Briggs, who lives in Lovettsville, Va., still comes to the shelter occasionally and always for special occasions.

Briggs' Web site is www.baacs.org.

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