RANGER, AN 8-MONTH-OLD German shepherd mix, was dropped o; at the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center in September because his owners had a new baby and the dog was too exuberant. He’s become a sta; favorite—he needs extra attention, so they spend lots of time with him—but he’s struggling in the kennels. “At this point, he’s best with only adults,” says Tom Koenig, the center’s director. “He can jump over 6 feet high and tends to muzzle-punch or nip the handler.” A few people have put in applications to adopt Ranger, but he doesn’t
do well with other animals. ;e sta; is looking to transfer him to a rescue organization with experience handling
high-energy dogs. ;e hope is that he’ll get trained there
and become more adoptable. “He’s a puppy, so this behavior can be worked with, but not as well in a shelter setting,”
Each year, about 6,000 animals come into the center,
which opened in Derwood in 2014. In addition to cats and
dogs, the center cares for rabbits, guinea pigs, reptiles, birds
and the occasional stray farm animal, usually a goat, pig
or sheep. On the adoption wing of the facility, which sta;
refer to as the “happy side,” retirees, young couples, and parents with children start showing up at noon most days with
hopes of finding the perfect—or near-perfect—pet. ;ey
walk through the facility in search of an animal they think
might be the right fit, sometimes having already spotted
one on the center’s website, and then meet with an adoption counselor. Some go home with a new pet the same day.
;e intake area—known as the “sad side” of the house—is
where animals come in after they’ve been picked up by animal control o;cers or surrendered by their owners. About
1,000 of the lost animals, generally dogs, that end up at the
facility are reunited with their owners; another 1,000 are
transferred to rescue organizations, shelters or sanctuaries.
Less than 10 percent are euthanized. ;e decision to eutha-nize isn’t an easy one, Koenig says, and it involves input from
on-site veterinarians and sta;. ;e focus isn’t on breed, age
or time spent in the shelter—some animals stay more than a
year—but on the animal’s medical condition and behavior.
Nearly 2,000 animals at the facility find new homes each
year. Visits and adoptions are up since the center moved
from Rockville to the $17 million facility four years ago,
Koenig says. “Many people want to go to a shelter to give
an animal a home that no longer has a home. It makes more
sense to them,” he says.
On the day of an adoption, it’s all smiles at the center. As
each animal leaves with its new owner, sta; members initiate a round of applause. ;ose waiting their turn in the
lobby join the celebration, wishing the family well as they
depart, often accompanied by wagging tails.
Bethesda Magazine spent a day at the county’s animal
services and adoption center in October.
Volunteer Zsuzsi Zetlin (left)
and visitor Chris Hinkel
spend time with Parker,
a 1-year-old cat who was
found on Parklawn Drive in
Rockville. “Shelter animals
come with a life experience,”
Zetlin says. “I normally work
with the underdogs—the
more dif;cult cats—to
make them feel more