By the time they reach the Baltimore Humane Society, many animals there are in need of expensive medical treatment, say officials of the private, nonprofit, no-kill shelter in Reisterstown.

Take for instance Cobbler, a 3-year-old pit bull mix, and Molly, an 8-year-old terrier mix. These dogs were “a hot mess” when surrendered by their owner in November, said Dr. Mary Zink, the BHS’s medical director.

“Both of them had terrible skin and allergies,” said Dr. Zink, a veterinarian. “Molly’s skin was so bad that we couldn’t do the surgery to get her spayed. We had to wait until we got her skin under control. Cobbler was obese, and after running bloodwork we found out she has diabetes and low thyroid [levels].”

Both dogs required several costly medications to put them on the road to recovery, and Cobbler likely will require insulin, thyroid medication and frequent bloodwork tests for the rest of her life.

“They were lucky that they landed with us,” said Dr. Zink. “We’re a no-kill shelter. Other shelters might not have been able to keep them alive because of funding and space.”

Founded in 1927, the BHS is committed to keeping the animals that arrive at its shelter alive regardless of the expense. But that cost can be steep, say BHS officials.

“The average dog is ready for adoption after we spend about $150, but these dogs cost a lot more,” said Dr. Zink, who noted that such costs are not built into the BHS’s budget. The shelter does not receive any federal or organizational funding, relying exclusively on private contributions and fundraising events such as the shelter’s annual “Black Tie & Tails Gala.”

Wendy Goldband, the organization’s director of development, marketing and public relations, said the BHS shelters between 100 to 150 animals at any given time.

“This year to date, we have taken in 1,342 animals and have adopted [out] 1,252,” she said. The BHS also has taken in 388 animals from other shelters, Goldband said. “The animals come from all over Maryland, up and down the [East] Coast, and from emergency rescues like hurricanes,” she said.

Situated on a 343-acre protected wildlife preserve at 1601 Nicodemus Road, the BHS compound also includes the Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park, a pet cemetery.

In addition to caring for animals’ medical needs, the shelter offers low-cost, subsidized spay/neuter procedures, vaccination clinics, a pet food bank and even pet bereavement support groups for grieving owners.

Dr. Zink said she strives to help adoptive families understand that shelter animals often come with “baggage,” and may need follow-up medical care.

“Sometimes, people get upset about the shape that an animal is in [when adopted],” she said. “Our goal is to get it into a loving family as soon as we can.”

Funding for medical care is not the only type of support the BHS needs. “We’re in desperate need of foster homes,” said Goldband, noting that long stays in the shelter are not ideal for the mental or physical health of animals. “We need people willing to take an animal into their homes and provide a loving environment where it can recover until it’s ready for adoption.”

In addition, Goldband said the BHS needs homes for middle-age and older dogs. “Sometimes they get overlooked and are not considered [for adoption],” she said.

Much to her delight, Dr. Zink said Cobbler and Molly continue to make progress.

“When Cobbler came in, she had very dull mentation,” Dr. Zink said. “Since starting the medicine, she’s much brighter, she wags her tail, she’s definitely improved. Molly was chewing her skin until it bled, and it was hard for her to get any sleep. Now, her skin is much calmer and she’s on her way to a good recovery.”

Dr. Zink said she is hopeful that the dogs might be adopted together. “They’re pretty co-dependent on each other,” she said. “But since they have costly medical needs, we may not be able to do that.”

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