Frequently Asked Questions

What is BARCS' mission?

The Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS) is a nonprofit shelter that accepts and cares for all animals in need and promotes responsible pet ownership for a more humane community in Baltimore City.

Is BARCS a 501(c)3 organization?

Yes, BARCS is a private 501(c)3 organization. While we do receive a grant from Baltimore City each year for our intake and care contract with Baltimore City Animal Control, a majority of our budget is comprised of private donations. Our EIN number is 86-1130456. We are registered and rated Platinum on Guide Star.

What is BARCS' relationship with Baltimore's Bureau of Animal Control?

While BARCS and Baltimore City Animal Control share the same building, BARCS is a private, nonprofit organization. Baltimore City Animal Control does not operate a shelter and care facility; those duties are contracted out to BARCS. Animal Control is responsible for health code enforcement (complaints, compliance with laws, etc.) and investigations regarding animal neglect, cruelty and animal bites. BARCS is responsible for all shelter operations and programs, including: housing and care for shelter animals; lost and found; pet licenses; adoptions; volunteer; foster; rescue; and low-cost vaccination and microchip clinics. Once Animal Control brings an animal to the shelter, BARCS assumes responsibility for the care of that animal. BARCS also houses and cares for animals held for hearings and investigations.

Is BARCS a "no kill" shelter?

“No kill” is a popular term used when classifying shelters, rescues and other animal welfare organizations, but it can be confusing and misleading. The definition of “no kill,” according to the advocates who created it, is an organization that saves 90+% of the animals that enter their care. In 2022, BARCS ended the year with an overall save rate of 88% for dogs and 94% for cats.

But, it is important to understand that under the “no kill” definition, a difference of small percentages can equate to inaccurate labeling. For example, if XYZ Shelter saves 90% of their animal population, they are considered a “no kill” shelter, but at only one percentage lower (89%), they would be labeled a “kill shelter.”

Furthermore, when comparing shelters, intake numbers can make a huge difference in what the percent actually means. For example, a shelter that takes in 100 animals each year and saves 90% (90 animals) has different resources and needs than a shelter that takes in 11,000-12,000 animals a year and saves 90% (9,000). Black and white labels simply don’t tell the full story of an organization.

While we don't label ourselves “no kill,” we embrace the positive philosophies of the movement by working tirelessly to save all healthy and treatable animals in our care. For over a decade, no friendly or healthy animals have been euthanized, and for the last six years, no friendly animal that could be saved through reasonable medical intervention has lost their life. BARCS is always growing and evolving our processes to save more animals each year, and more can be saved when the community comes together for the animals.

As a high volume, open-admission shelter, we cannot predict what today or tomorrow will bring. It is not uncommon for an open-admission shelter like BARCS to intake extraordinary volumes of animals in a single day. Some cases from recent years include 89 dogs from a dog fighting ring, 68 chihuahuas from illegal breeding, 147 cats from a double hoarding case, and 66 large pythons from a neglectful situation. Each of these sizable intakes took place within one day and were additional to our regular admissions (30+ animals per day). The open admission structure means that no matter what the circumstance, we welcome ALL animals into our care that have no other alternative—regardless of history, health or temperament—resulting in 10,000 animals helped per year.

We can confidently say that with the expansion and growth of our programs, as well as our reach into the Baltimore community, we will continuously strive to save all healthy, friendly, treatable animals. We still have so much work to do in our community to continue to save more animals in the future, and we can only make that happen with the help of our supporters through donating, adopting and volunteering.

How many animals does BARCS care for?

BARCS is an open admission shelter that grants refuge to all animals in need. We are the largest animal shelter in the state of Maryland, taking in 11,000-12,000 cats and dogs each year, plus an additional 1,200 exotic, farm and wildlife animals.

On average, 30 or more animals are surrendered or brought to BARCS each day.

Our current shelter houses more than 250 animals at any given time, with an additional 200-600 animals in foster homes depending on the time of the year. Adoptable BARCS cats are also housed and cared for at partnering pet supply stores in the Greater Baltimore Area.

How many people work at BARCS?

BARCS has more than 70 employees spanning over a dozen departments:

Customer service employees work with people surrendering and redeeming their pets and handle all transactions—from approving adoptions to issuing pet licenses and more.

Animal care employees provide care for the animals and help adopters find their new or lost companions.

Medical staff members evaluate, vaccinate, spay/neuter and provide medical care to our homeless animals.

Program staff members manage our adoption, foster, rescue, community and volunteer programs.

Is BARCS fully staffed to care for the volume of animals you take in?

No. We have a long way to go until we are fully staffed. Our staff members work very hard, and each one plays the role of several workers in a typical shelter environment. With additional staff, we would be able to implement additional programs and improve current programs. While our employees are extremely dedicated to their work, the demand of caring for so many animals sometimes makes it feel like a crisis environment. To work at BARCS, you have to be willing to multitask and be on your toes at all times, working hard and fast to save lives. Each year we hope to raise enough money to add additional staff members and expand our lifesaving programs.

Does BARCS need volunteers?

Absolutely! Volunteers are the backbone of our organization. We have nearly 1,000 active volunteers logging 30,000 hours each year. We are so grateful for our dedicated volunteers.

Volunteers help in all areas of the shelter, including doing laundry, walking dogs, socializing cats, assisting with events, placing animals in new homes, surgery, fundraising, and much, much more!

We would love for you to join our volunteer family. Please use the "volunteer" section on the website to learn more and sign up!

Does BARCS only have pit bull-type dogs?

No. BARCS gets mixed breeds and purebreds of all kinds in the shelter throughout the year. It sometimes seem like there are only pit bull-type dogs here because many other breeds get adopted more quickly, often the same day they arrive. Also, our partner rescue groups tend to take other breeds more regularly. Allowing rescues to select the animals they want for their programs helps us to save more lives by making room for pets that may be harder to adopt. Pit bull-type dogs are really great dogs, but sadly they have been poorly portrayed by the media. We suggest to the public that if they want a specific size or breed of dog, they should come to the shelter frequently so they get the “pick of the litter.” We adopt on a first come, first serve basis, so we can place animals as quickly as possible. This allows us faster turnover of space for the high volume of animals that come to our shelter on a daily basis.

How can I help?

There are several ways to help.

BARCS accepts tax deductible monetary donations to help care for the animals. The highest costs in our annual operating budget other than salaries are medical care (vaccinations, antibiotics, preventatives, spay/neuter surgeries, etc.), cleaning and care supplies and food.

You can help by collecting donations of towels, toys, food and other wish list supplies. These are listed on our website under the "Donate" tab and Facebook pages.

We are always looking for more volunteers in all areas of the shelter. The only way we are going to solve animal homelessness in Baltimore is by working together.

You can support the shelter by adopting an animal in need or fostering one in your home until it is adopted.

You can help by making sure your pets, your friend’s pets, your family’s pets and so on are all spayed and neutered, vaccinated, wearing identification, treated humanely and kept as part of the family for life.