My Grim Experience with the Howard County Animal Shelter

These events all happened late last century.

We were living in Columbia, Maryland. It was the middle of a cold winter; snow was all around, and the streets were partly cleared, partly snow and ice. I had finally gotten home from a frustrating commute, and was relaxing inside the kitchen, when there was a knock on the door. When I answered it, there standing before me was young boy, struggling to hold a large cat.

“Is this your cat, Mister?”, he asked me.

“No it’s not,” I replied.

“Do you happen to know who it belongs to?”

I shook my head. He went on to explain that this cat had repeatedly tried to get into his house. It was lost, cold, and hungry, and needed a home. I informed him again that it wasn’t ours, and he left.

I told my ex-wife about our visitor, and the “lost” cat, and she reminded me that the rental agreement for our townhouse specified no pets. And that was that.

Until about an hour later, when there was another knock on the door. This time we both answered it; standing before us once more was the boy, still holding the cat. He told us he had checked with all our neighbors, and this cat apparently belonged to none of them. He asked us if we would consider taking it, because his Mom wouldn’t let him keep it.

With great reluctance, (and more than a little stupidity), we agreed. The cat now had a home.

I won’t relate here the chaos that ensued for the next several weeks, as we had a crash course in caring for a semi-domesticated cat. But with the kindness and patience of several of our cat owning friends, we muddled through, with minimal damage to our home and ourselves.

But all good things must come to an end someday. Somehow the owners of the townhouse we were renting found out about our newest family member, and so in late spring we received a letter that the cat must go, or we must vacate the premises immediately.

My ex-wife was attached to the cat now. She wanted to move, but I, in my “wisdom”, prevailed upon her to try to see if we could get the cat adopted first. We took it to the Howard County Animal Shelter for “storage”, where we were informed that if it was not adopted within three weeks, it would be put down. So we had just a bit more than two weeks to find an new owner, else we would have to rescue the cat ourselves, and deal with the consequences.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that we were unable to find a new owner. Time was running out, so one day when I was at work my ex-wife went to the Animal Shelter to retrieve the cat. And guess what? They wouldn’t let her have it! It appears that to adopt an animal in Howard County, you either had to have proof of home ownership, or approval of your landlord.

When my ex-wife told me this, I called the Howard County Animal Shelter, and had my first unpleasant conversation with the “head warden”. I explained that we had put the cat there, and simply wanted it back. She countered that “rules were rules”, and would not budge. Grrr!!

Like I said, the cats remaining days on this planet were running short, at least according to the Animal Shelter, so we frantically called our friends, asking if they could help us save the cat’s life. One of our dear friends agreed to adopt the cat for us. She would spring him from jail, keep him for a day or two, then give him back to us. Hooray! Problem solved.

So imagine my anger and disgust when, a few days later at work, my ex-wife called me to say that when our friend, (who had to take time off from her job and travel a considerable distance to do this), arrived at the Animal Shelter, it was closed for some obscure local government holiday!

At this point, the cat was almost out of time. First thing the next morning, I called the Howard County Animal Shelter, and had an even more unpleasant conversation than the first time. I said some things that in these less enlightened times would probably cause a police officer to come knocking at our door, but eventually we came to an agreement: the Animal Shelter would refrain from executing our cat for a few more days, until our friend could arrange to take time off from work again and go rescue him.

This story has a happy ending: the cat was rescued, and came to live with us. We then did in fact quickly move to a cat friendly townhouse, (my co-workers were incredulous that we were moving for the sake of a cat!), where we shared several years full of pleasant memories with our new family member, such as the time he and another tomcat decided to fight in a sewer drainage, and the time he discovered the squirrel hiding in our fireplace. But I must admit, it left me with a dislike for Animal Shelters, and the people who work there.

Which is why you may want to read this article on working in an Animal Shelter, for a glimpse of what it is like dealing with the problem of unwanted pets from the “opposite side”. And which is why all of us should do our best to ensure that any pets we may help bring into the world will be lovingly cared for, so that maybe, one day, the problem of unwanted pets will cease to exist. (Along with at least one Animal Shelter, or so we can hope!)


This article was originally posted on FullofKnowledge.