By Raquel Alfaro
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer
The Petco Foundation gave to the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter a surprise donation of $250,000 the day before Valentine’s Day with the expectation that the gift will save lives far into the future.
“We see it as a lifesaving mission,” Susanne Kogurt, Petco Foundation president, said of the donation, “and we tend to invest in organizations where it’ll have the most significant impact.”
Unlike many city animal agencies, the Baltimore shelter’s intake of animals exceeds the available space. Officials said the shelter does not have enough cages, proper ventilation, drainage or quarantine space. Despite the shelter’s low budget, officials said money has been used to implement programs, and to provide medical resources, food and other necessities for the animals housed at the facility.
Prior to 2005, the shelter was run by Baltimore City so BARCS officials were forced to compete with local agencies for the limited funding and resource. The animal shelter often was a last priority with funding, which led to poor operating conditions. BARCS was taking in 12,000 animals and only 2 percent of the animals were saved because of a lack of lifesaving programs, officials said. Today, BARCS offers a variety of services such as adoption, volunteering, spay and neutering, pet licensing, lost and found programs and many other services to help animals.
Over the years, BARCS has partnered with Petco and received a few grants to help launch several programs to rescue animals. Last year, BARCS saved 90 percent of their animals, so in 15 years they reached a 15 percent increase, officials said. Through this partnership, the animal shelter’s resources have increased, so they can continue to save the lives of animals.
The Petco donation was more than a surprise, said Bailey Deacons, the shelter’s director of Communications.
“This was a humongous surprise and they wanted to show and support our staff,” said Deacons. “We were completely blown away.”
Deacons said a key responsibility for her is planning fundraisers and events to help publicize the shelter. Besides posting photos of animals on such social media sites as Facebook, Instagram, and their website, she was managing a Valentine’s Day promotion with BARCS asking adopters to help create the world’s largest Valentines of pets when the Petco donation was made.
“We look at the overall budget of the organization and what they are doing with the money and BARCS scores high on the metrics, so we are grateful to help them with the work they are doing,” said Kogurt, in explaining the donation process.
BARCS is the only open admission shelter in Baltimore City, said officials who explained the facility does not turn away any animal based on age, breed, health, behavior, or aggressive tendencies. The staff does not deny any pets that need shelter, Officials said. In 2018, staff took in 11,000 cats, dogs, and 1,000 exotic animals such as reptiles that owners could no longer take care of.
Kogurt said that BARCS uses its funds to maintain and hire staff trainers to make dogs and cats more adoptable. Workers provide an enrichment side to giving the animals mental and physical treatments.
“They’re saving lives despite the challenges and that is really incredible to us,” said Kogurt. “We have something special in BARCS and we would want the community to help. I want to see more people in Baltimore support them.”
Deacons added, “The goal is to keep expanding our programs and keep saving lives. We want to keep doing better every year.”