The WHS is facing overcrowded conditions once again and is requesting help from volunteers and families in the DC area to assist. Summertime always brings an influx of animals to shelters across the country, and during slow economic conditions it is even worse. The Washington’s Post gallery of photos of the WHS can be viewed at this link.

Daniel Blair, a project architect for our firm, and his wife Ellie typically foster dogs for the WHS and a local non-profit rescue organization called HART. They answered the WHS’s call for help by fostering an extra dog to try to provide some relief at the shelter.

The dog that Dan and Ellie have brought into their home is named Mahlia. According to Dan, she is a very kind and strong willed German Shepherd, who came to the shelter as a stray. Severely emaciated, malnourished, and with a skin condition, life has not been kind for Mahlia. Based on the photos, she has a long road ahead of her (warning: they may be difficult for some). Her best recipe for recovery: medication, constant care, and a low-stress environment.

In my opinion, animals should not have to leave the shelter to find a low-stress environment. When we researched the design of animal care facilities across the country a couple years back, we concluded that providing a low-stress environment for animals is possible with good design. At the most basic level they are no different than designing a horse barn: proper ventilation, care, and attention to detail are most important.

Unfortunately, Mahlia’s case is not isolated; we know the US has animal overpopulation problem. The HSUS estimates approximately 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are put down each year as a result of over-reproduction. If pet owners simply listened to Bob Barker’s closing words each day and implemented the cheap and easy solution by spaying and neutering their pets, then there would not be a need for all of the non-profit animal rescues. Presently, it is estimated that there are 4,000 to 6,000 operating in the US. Unfortunately, human behavior is a very difficult thing to change. If it took approximately 50 years for 80% of the US population to finally use seat belts, then it may take a long time before we reach the tipping point with this issue.

The Washington Humane Society is one of the ten oldest Humane Societies in the US, and they have always held the contract to provide animal control services for the District of Columbia – meaning they have to take in and care for every animal that is caught or turned in. This includes everything from gerbils, cats, and dogs to pandas and bears. So even if the US overpopulation issue is ever resolved, there will always be places like the WHS to fulfill a public need. Since they are the ones in need right now, please consider volunteering, donating, or spread the word to help provide relief for the WHS or your local animal control shelter. In the meantime, we wish Mahlia the best of luck in her road to recovery, and we will look forward to updates from Dan about her story in the coming months.