Caroline A. Griffin, Interim President of the Baltuimore Humane Society, and Wishbone, a Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix.
While more than a thousand attorneys have recently volunteered their time to aid homeowners facing foreclosure, Caroline A. Griffin, Interim President of the Baltimore Humane Society (BHS), has focused her efforts on a different population that is likewise bearing the brunt of the bad economy.
“Since January, three geriatric dogs – ages 12, 14 and 16 – were surrendered to us,” says Griffin, a Towson-based family law practitioner and former member of the MSBA Board of Governors, who was elected to head BHS (www.bmorehumane.org) earlier this year. “The 12-year-old dog was a German Shepherd who was adopted from our facility as a puppy. Unfortunately, the owners lost their home in a foreclosure and surrendered their dog to us. As one can imagine, a shelter is an extremely stressful situation for a geriatric dog, and our staff works around the clock to find suitable homes when these animals come in.”
Sadly, these are but a few examples of what the BHS faces every day. “The mission of the Humane Society is to provide for the temporary care and refuge of homeless and suffering animals, a low-cost spay/neuter clinic and education and outreach to the community,” explains Griffin. “This work is not glamorous, but it’s what we do, and what makes me most proud.”
Griffin began volunteering with BHS 13 years ago, when a serious illness and consequent surgery led her to take time off from work. “I was drawn to older animals that were depressed and suffering from the stress of living in a shelter and who were being overlooked by potential adopters,” she recalls. “I was amazed at how resilient and responsive these animals were to just a minimal amount of attention, and when they were adopted, I became hooked.”
Since then, she has served BHS in various capacities – “first as a volunteer, then as a Board member” – devoting between 15 and 20 hours a week to the organization’s activities. When the Board’s former President recently became Interim Executive Director, Griffin, the Board’s longest-tenured member, was nominated to fill the vacant post.
For Griffin, BHS “has distinguished itself in three major respects” within the world of animal rescue. “First, I believe that we have the most progressive euthanasia policy in the area,” she notes, citing a measure adopted in November 2008 “banning euthanasia due to space constraints, length of stay, age or medically-treatable conditions. Moreover, any decision to euthanize an animal must be made by three staff members, including our veterinarian. As a result of this policy, the Baltimore Humane Society does not euthanize healthy animals.”
is not glamorous, but it's what we do, and what makes me most proud."
CAROLINE A. GRIFFEN
Interim President, Baltimore Humane Society
“Second,” she continues, “we own 365 acres of land in Reisterstown, and most of our property is a wildlife sanctuary. We have created trails throughout our fields and woods, and our volunteers have the ability to exercise our dogs and take them for long walks, which improves their health and reduces stress.” BHS, she notes, is also “in the process of developing a shelter medicine program. In the near future, we hope to invite veterinary students to stay at our facility for internships, where they can practice their surgical skills, which, in turn, will allow us to broaden the scope of our spay/neuter services.”
BHS and its charges also benefit from Griffin’s legal experience. “I’m constantly using my legal background,” she admits. “As a Board and a non-profit corporation, we’ve testified in Annapolis and had to deal with legal issues involving zoning, contracts, estates and trusts, employment and even intellectual property issues.”
BHS regularly pools its efforts and resources with the Maryland SPCA (www.mdspca.org) and the Baltimore Animal Care and Rescue Shelter (BARCS; www.baltimoreanimalshelter.org), says Griffin. All three organizations comprise the Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance (BAWA), the executive directors of which “meet monthly to discuss animal welfare issues affecting the region and share information and statistics regarding adoptions and euthanasia.”
“As the City’s animal shelter, BARCS faces punishing demands,” she says. “On average, they receive 30-40 animals per day, including all the abuse and neglect cases in the City. Our Board of Directors recently purchased a van so that we can transport animals from BARCS when they run out of cages; the Maryland SPCA and several rescue groups also provide great assistance to BARCS with animal transports. As a result of the BAWA coalition and many rescue groups, the region will soon see the end of euthanasia of healthy animals, which is a remarkable accomplishment for an urban area.”
But much remains to be done, Griffin laments, as she has seen firsthand in her role as Chair of the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Task Force for Baltimore City. “As the Chair of the Mayor’s Task Force, I have seen animals that are not only abused, but tortured,” she notes. “Last summer, several animals were stoned and set on fire in Baltimore City. I saw some of these victims, including animals seized from dogfighting operations. It’s the most difficult part of my job, and the images still haunt me.”
"IT'S THE MOST
difficult part of my job, and the images still haunt me"
CAROLINE A. GRIFFEN
Interim President, Baltimore Humane Society
To combat these atrocities, Griffin says, the Task Force has offered recommendations on “ways to eradicate animal abuse, including dogfighting; legislation to protect animals and prosecute abusers; training techniques for law enforcement officials on how to handle animal cruelty cases humanely and to ensure acquisition of the best evidence to prosecute animal abusers; and steps to foster improved responses to incidents of animal cruelty, among other things.” This summer, Griffin will travel to the University of Denver to participate in a Roundtable sponsored by the National Link Coalition, which, she notes, works to promote understanding of the link between animal cruelty and human violence. “I am hoping that the Baltimore Task Force will serve as a model for other groups around the country.”
Indeed, Griffin herself serves as a model for the legal profession. “For all the criticism that lawyers endure, their skills are so useful to non-profit boards,” she stresses. “Not only can we improve the lives of others, we enhance our own lives with our work.”