The Humane Society of Harford County’s 2021 Year in Review 


Adoptions increased by 22% while intake remained steady at 2,200 

If anything is certain in animal sheltering, it’s that change is inevitable and shelter professionals are a resilient bunch, prepared to meet their daily challenges head-on for the sake of the furry friends in their care. Despite an unusual 2021 that saw the Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC) open for adoptions by appointment only for most of the year, the shelter not only celebrated its 75th year of service, but also 1,048 animals were adopted into loving homes, which is 231 more adoptions than the prior year. With continued backing from the community and their commitment to pet adoption, the future for Harford County’s homeless animals is bright. 

“We took in 711 dogs, 1,091 cats and kittens, and 394 other animals last year,” said executive director, Jen Swanson. “That averages out to about 6 needy animals arriving here every day. On the flip side, cat adoptions were up 14% over last year with 750 cats and kittens getting adopted. Dog adoptions were also up 17%, while adoptions of all other animals like rabbits, reptiles and farm animals increased by a whopping 27%!” 

Fifty-five percent of the total number of animals entering the shelter came in as strays with few, if any, details about their backgrounds. Twenty-seven percent were turned over by their owners, while the other 18% were abandoned at the shelter, born at the shelter, seized by the Animal Control Services Division of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, or by other means. Cats were sheltered most often, representing 50% of the shelter’s total intake followed by dogs at 32% and all others at 18%.  

Finding placement for the animals – adopting them into loving homes, reuniting them with their owners, or releasing them into the care of rescue groups – is the shelter’s ultimate goal. In 2021, 340 lost animals were reclaimed by their families which was 5% more than the previous year. Implanting and keeping microchips updated as well as using ID tags are still vitally important tools to get animals home where they belong. Most of the reclaimed animals were microchipped by the shelter at no charge for their owners so if they go missing in the future, a quick scan of the chip will help the animal find its way home.  

Furthermore, HSHC partners with many partner shelters and rescue organizations to give animals another opportunity to find a loving home and open up kennel and cage space at the shelter for new daily arrivals. Working with other organizations increases the likelihood of a happy outcome for all the animals. In 2021, HSHC transferred 398 animals to these partners. 

Within the last 5 years, HSHC’s intake has decreased by 34% due to effective shelter intervention programs – such as our pet food pantry, free behavioral consultations, community outreach & education, low-cost training classes, etc. – which reduce the number of pets entering the shelter system.  

“Another factor that contributes to less animals entering the facility is spaying and neutering animals in the shelter prior to adoption,” Swanson added. “Last year our veterinarian spayed or neutered 841 cats and kittens, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, and even rats. They also performed other life-improving surgical procedures including hernia repairs, mass removals, tooth extractions, eye removals, and limb amputations.” 

With a paid staff of less than two dozen, the enormous task of operating the shelter is aided with the help of volunteers. Because of the pandemic, the shelter’s volunteer program continued to be on pause, and a core team of just 28 of its most seasoned volunteers helped walk and train dogs, visited with the cats and small critters, did laundry and other housekeeping chores, and staffed outreach events. This small group gave 4,019 hours of service! In addition, 37 families fostered 234 neonatal, sick or injured animals, most of which were kittens.  

At the conclusion of the year, 88.5% of the 2,196 homeless animals that came through the shelter found placement, and for that, HSHC is extremely grateful.  

February 5, 2021 marked 75 years of unwavering service to the Harford County community. On that date in 1946, HSHC officially began helping people and their pets and making an extraordinary impact for animals in need. To celebrate 75 years, and in keeping with the shelter’s mission to provide community education and information to help strengthen the human-animal bond, HSHC kicked off a series of free, virtual Lunch & Learn presentations that are offered on the last Wednesday of each month. Upcoming topics include helping wildlife, humane education for children, caring for exotic animals, and legislation and advocacy. More information can be found at

In February of this year, HSHC was named 2021’s Harford’s Best Charity for the 9th straight year by the readers of Harford Magazine. And in March, the shelter was named 2021’s Best Local Charity for the 6th year in a row by the fans and followers of lifestyle site, Harford County Living

To round out the impressive list of achievements in 2021, Charity Navigator, the world’s largest and most trusted nonprofit evaluator, gave HSHC a 100 rating (out of 100) in the area of Finance & Accountability! Under their new Encompass Rating System, a score of 75 or above indicates that a nonprofit is effective and transparent in this area, based on Charity Navigator’s criteria.  

As HSHC is ending the first quarter of 2022, it faces a new challenge: nearly all 65 of its dog kennels are full 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 2,500-3,000 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.  

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