Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny

“The little baby opossum we raised and released will eat thousands of ticks in [someone’s] backyard and help prevent Lyme disease. The snake that is caught in a glue trap or garden netting and we rescued will go off and eat lots of mice and keep them out of your house. Bats eat mosquitos,” says Smith, who lives in Silver Spring.

A bird might stay at Second Chance for a week or two; turtles and squirrels could be there for months. As the animals are treated, staff members try to calm them by speaking in nurturing voices, but they don’t name their patients. “I get so attached that I want the best for them,” says Courtney Thomas, clinic tech and assistant clinic manager, “which means getting them out where they thrive.”

This Eastern box turtle (above) is about to receive a dose of fluids as he recovers from recent surgery. Box turtles are very territorial, so once a turtle has been nursed back to health, which can take several months, the center makes sure it’s returned to the area where it was found. The average lifespan for the turtles is 30 to 50 years in the wild. There are reports of some reaching 80 to 100 years. Photo by Laura Chase De Formigny

Just beyond a residential neighborhood on Barcellona Drive in northern Montgomery County, Second Chance’s farmhouse was retrofitted to accommodate an exam room, surgical suite, incubators and enclosures for a variety of animals. In addition to the seven paid employees at the center, three veterinarians volunteer their time—mostly to perform surgeries and prescribe medication—along with several other volunteers who help care for the animals. Because the critters are often sick or recovering from trauma, the center is not open to the public. That’s disappointing to the people who sometimes show up for a look at the animals, says Second Chance President Maureen Smith, who adds that the lack of public exposure can make it challenging to get out the word about the center’s needs.