The Humane Society of Harford County Celebrates 75 Years of Service

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Uniting Pets and People Since 1946 

The Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC) announced today the year-long celebration of its 75th anniversary. Officially launched at its present location in a modified farmhouse on Connolly Road in Fallston on February 5, 1946, the shelter opened its doors with a few dozen stray dogs and cats for adoption. Seven and a half decades later, the organization is a fixture in Harford County and has grown to be an award-winning, progressive adoption and community resource center. 

“The door of human kindness was thrown open recently when about 100 Harford Countians banded together for a common cause and organized the Harford County Humane Society, a group of animal lovers who have pledged themselves to care for pets which are ill or who have no home,” reported The Record of Havre de Grace in June, 1948. 

Under the watchful eye of its founder and benefactor, Elsa Horne Voss, the lives of hundreds of thousands of pets and people have been forever changed because of her forethought, leadership and compassion. 

Invest in the Future 

With an average of 6-7 new animals coming into the facility every single day of the year, HSHC has maintained a live release rate of 90% or more, since 2016. Furthermore, with the community’s financial support, HSHC is able to keep the animals fed and warm, keep the lights on, and save lives. All donations to HSHC are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. 

“We invite everyone to help us celebrate our birthday with a $75 donation to our animals,” says Jen Swanson, executive director. “And your $75 monthly recurring gift will help to sustain us and ensure that HSHC will be here for needy animals for years to come.”  

A Year of Festivities 

HSHC will be celebrating its birthday all year with virtual programming, including one-hour Lunch & Learns on the last Wednesday of each month starting on February 24, as well as quarterly educational lectures, and other one-off virtual programs. Topics are many, but will include: 

  • Deep dives into HSHC’s history, including interviews with people who worked and volunteered at HSHC in its early days 
  • The story of Elsa Horne Voss, HSHC’s founder, and the Voss family history, presented in partnership with the Harford County Historical Society 
  • Species-specific animal behavior, enrichment, and caretaking 
  • Pet health and safety 
  • Animal welfare laws, legislation, and advocacy 
  • Ways that anyone can help shelter pets, community pets, and animals all over the world  

HSHC will also be launching a revamped Humane Education program for grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12, which can be delivered in person or virtually. Programming will be tailored for each grade bracket and will include topics ranging from dog bite prevention, to discussions about animal abuse, to advocating for animals within local government. 

To stay informed on everything happening as well as future programming, subscribe to HSHC’s monthly e-newsletter at https://www.harfordshelter.org/news-events/subscribe-to-our-newsletter, or follow them on all major social networks including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

HSHC’s History 

Together with friends who shared her concern with a growing number of abandoned animals left to fend for themselves, Mrs. Elsa Horne Voss of Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton set up a makeshift shelter for stray dogs during World War II on the Albert Hughes farm, just outside of Jarrettsville. Her goal was to establish a permanent facility that would be dedicated to caring for and rehoming unwanted pets, so in 1946 Voss purchased a 26-acre farm in Fallston and on February 5, 1946, HSHC became the official home for the County’s homeless animals. 

Soon, pets began to pour in. According to a 1948 article in The Evening Sun, “animals came from every corner of the county. Some came from the deputy sheriff’s office, others through people who called up to tell of strays in their yards, still others from people who wanted to get rid of the animals they had in their houses.”  

A drop box was set up with one side for dogs and the other for cats. People who adopted were asked to donate $2 or $3 to help finance the organization and in doing so, became members. Voss appointed Sydney and Ruth Boniface as live-in caretakers of the facility.  

Once her shelter was established, Voss turned her attention to lobbying lawmakers in Washington, DC for stricter laws on such issues as animal researching and testing, rabies prevention and animal cruelty.  She wrote countless letters to local newspapers, advocating for proper animal vaccinations, spaying and neutering, banning puppy mills and more.  

Her little shelter continued to grow, and Voss witnessed countless advancements in the treatment of animals before her passing in 1982. In the spring of 2016, HSHC moved its operations into a brand new, state-of-the art, 19,000 square foot facility. In 2018 HSHC received the prestigious Harford Award from the Harford County Chamber of Commerce for Best Nonprofit, and early this year received Best Charity/Nonprofit for the 8th year in a row by the readers of Harford Magazine, and Favorite Local 501c3 for the fifth straight year by lifestyle website Harford County Living. Since 2016 HSHC has maintained a 90% or higher live release rate, while also reducing animal intake by 24% by employing shelter intervention programs. 

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 3,000 animals that come to us each year. We promote the kind treatment of homeless, stray and abandoned animals by providing shelter, care, adoptions, and community education.  We are not a county agency nor are we affiliated with any national or regional organization. Your tax-deductible donations, bequests, and proceeds from events are crucial to our life-saving efforts on behalf of the animals of our community. 

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