The Humane Society of Harford County’s 2023 Year in Review

Intakes surged 28% but adoptions and other placements kept pace

For Immediate Release

Erin Long, Marketing & Development Manager | Humane Society of Harford County
410-836-1090, x106 | [email protected]


Emily Luhrs, a member of HSHC’s animal care team, spends time with Ox, a 2-year-old Shepherd mix who is available for adoption.

Fallston, MD (March 27, 2024) – Ask anyone at the Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC) for a word to sum up 2023 and it would most likely be: increase, more, or extra. From the number of animals sheltered, to the amount of food distributed from the pet food pantry, to the number of hours put in by volunteers, literally every aspect of the 77-year-old organization experienced more growth than usual.

“It was a year of celebration but also a year of challenges, not just for HSHC, but also for the animal welfare community as a whole,” said Bob Citrullo, executive director at HSHC. “We’re all struggling with the waves of animals coming into shelters faster than they’re leaving, so last year part of our plan shifted toward finding more ways to support pet owners so they can keep their pets at home and out of the shelter.”

In 2022 HSHC took in 2,576 animals, but last year intakes surged 28.1% to 3,300 animals or an average of nine new arrivals per day. The last time HSHC’s intake was over 3,000 animals was in 2017 when it took in 3,327 animals. HSHC cites post-pandemic inflation, the rising costs of veterinary care, and housing insecurities as major reasons for the increase.

Thankfully, adoptions were on the rise last year with 1,615 animals finding homes – a 27.4% increase over the year prior. HSHC streamlined its adoption application and expanded its Sunday hours – all in an effort to reduce barriers to adoption. There were plenty of increases in other areas of the shelter too: 12.2% more lost animals were returned to their families while 30.1% more animals were transferred into the care of our rescue partners.

More animals in the shelter equal more laundry and cleaning, more animals to transport, and more adoption events. A total of 125 volunteers gave 8,626 hours of service or a 67% increase in service hours over the previous year. According to Independent Sector, the value of these hours is $274,307. Additionally, the number of animals that went into foster care went up an astounding 140.8%.

“We spent most of last year just at or over capacity,” Citrullo added. “Having foster parents ready and able to take animals home helps alleviate the overcrowding and is a significant part of our lifesaving strategy.”

The number of surgical procedures HSHC did last year increased 81% and included not just spay and neuter surgeries, but also hernia repairs, mass removals, eye removals, and limb amputations. The shelter’s Phoenix Fund was established to give critically injured or ill animals a second chance. Donations to this special fund are set aside to pay for costly surgeries, life-saving medications and rehabilitation.

Thanks to generous gifts from supporters, HSHC purchased dental equipment last year. Dental procedures were performed on 84 animals to not only improve the quality of life for the animals, but also so adopters do not have to incur the extra expense. HSHC also acquired an x-ray machine and is now able to take its own x-rays, making it faster to diagnose illness and injury.

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As the Harford County community grows, so does the demand for HSHC’s programs and services. Visits to HSHC’s pet food pantry went up from just 290 visits in 2022 to a whopping 635 visits last year. HSHC gave out 449 bags of cat food and 701 bags of dog food to help keep these pets fed and in their homes where they belong.

Last year HSHC rolled out several new programs for the pets and people in our community, including affordable vaccination and microchip clinics. August 2023 marked HSHC’s very first public pet vaccination and microchip clinic at the Whiteford Fire Company, followed by another fall clinic in November in Edgewood at the Sheriff’s Office Southern Precinct. A total of 500 cats and dogs were served and the public welcomed HSHC with open arms. “This was a great opportunity,” one pet parent wrote on Facebook. “I’m so glad you had this so my dog could get his shots.” Another wrote: “Thank you for offering this service.”

To help make pet adoption more affordable for first responders, HSHC created its Hometown Heroes program in 2023. Pet adoption fees are waived for all active or veteran military personnel, police officers, firefighters, paramedics or EMTs. HSHC discounts adoption fees by 50% for animals still waiting for homes after four months at the shelter as part of its Lonely Hearts Club program.

HSHC attended dozens of community outreach events in Harford County and beyond, including a partnership with Subaru of America where HSHC brought adoptable dogs to the Maryland Auto Show at the Baltimore Convention Center. HSHC partnered with national organizations for reduced fee adoption events, including participating in NBC’s Clear the Shelters and Bissell Pet Foundation’s Empty the Shelters initiatives.

Providing humane education lessons to area school-aged children was a major focus as well, and between welcoming scouting groups to the shelter and visiting schools, an estimated 467 youth were reached.

HSHC held three signature fundraising events last year, drawing hundreds of animal lovers together for the animals. In June, 250 people descended on Bel Air’s Main Street for a fun-filled Pup Crawl, while in August, 325 people packed into Level Fire Hall for a basket bingo. September brought 140 golfers to Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace for the annual Putts Fore Paws golf tournament.

Early this year, HSHC was named 2023’s Harford’s Best Charity for the 11th straight year by the readers of Harford Magazine.

As HSHC ends the first quarter of 2024, there is an emergency tent set up outside the building to house the overflow of dogs and kitten season is about to begin. To make a difference, community members are urged to spay, neuter and microchip their pets; adopt from a shelter or rescue; become a foster parent; support a fundraiser; and donate funds or supplies.

About the Humane Society of Harford County
The Humane Society of Harford County, Inc., is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization dedicated to the welfare and well-being of the approximately 3,300 animals that come in each year. HSHC promotes the kind treatment of homeless, stray and abandoned animals by providing shelter, care, adoptions, and community education. HSHC is not a county agency nor is it affiliated with any national or regional organization. Tax-deductible donations, bequests, and proceeds from events are crucial to HSHC’s life-saving efforts on behalf of the animals in the community.