About 6,000 animals spend time at the county’s animal services and adoption center in Derwood each year. Many of them need the same thing—a home.
Gregorio Heredia of Rockville looks at cats with his family. At the Derwood center, about twice as many cats are adopted than dogs. The center’s director, Tom Koenig, says that’s partly because the county is densely populated and many people live in apartments or townhouses with limited space and restrictions on owning dogs. At times, Koenig says, the shelter takes in a large number of animals from hoarding situations, most often cats with behavioral or medical issues that make it more challenging to manage their care.
Nathalie Heredia snaps a photo of a cat up for adoption.
Visitors can interact with animals outside of their cages in small “meet-and-greet” areas to get a sense of their personalities. It can be overwhelming for the animals, so staff members coach potential adopters to be neutral, keep their hands low and let the animals come to them. Left to right: Nathalie Heredia, Emily Heredia and their mother, Carolina Ramirez.
Amber Anderson of Silver Spring says she’s drawn to rabbits because they are smart. “I think rabbits are misjudged as pets,” she says. “They have their own personalities.” Although she didn’t end up adopting this rabbit, Amelia, she later got a pair of rabbits through someone suggested by a family member. Anderson says she enjoys how the rabbits know her, and how they hop to her whenever she lets them out of their cage or if she has food. The center gets rabbits regularly, and the exotic pets require special care. “We send a shopping list and general care sheet [home] with any first-time rabbit adopter,” adoption counselor Courtney Stackhouse says.
Sheila Smith, an animal care attendant, plays with Chico, a 5-year-old German shepherd, in one of the center’s 20 outdoor areas. The outside of the shelter also has space for group play and a large walking area for staff and volunteers to exercise and socialize adoptable dogs. Chico was brought to the shelter in February 2017 because his owners were moving and couldn’t bring him along, a common reason animals are surrendered. He came with no vet records, but staff discovered that he suffers some discomfort from hip dysplasia and can be tense around other animals. Chico needs to be adopted by someone who has a big yard or lives in a rural area and doesn’t have other pets in the home.