For Humane Society director, aiding pets is a passion

David Fitzgerald, center, executive director of the Wicomico County Humane Society, credits his supportive co-workers with helping make the pets sanctuary a community success.

David Fitzgerald, center, executive director of the Wicomico County Humane Society, credits his supportive co-workers with helping make the pets sanctuary a community success.

Last year, a 13-year-old Dachshund was taken to the Wicomico County Humane Society, the pet of a woman who had died.

Sadly, the little dog was being abused by a child, so the inheriting family surrendered her.

“I knew she wasn’t going to get adopted, so I took her,” said a smiling David Fitzgerald, director of the Humane Society, who had two more Dachshunds at home.

Timid Cinnamon joined 10-year-old Daisy and 8-year-old Chloe and is now daddy’s girl, he said, showing a guest a picture of the three dogs romping in the yard.

Fitzgerald understands pets.

He loves them, and said his staff of 20 does, too, as they care for about 100 dogs and cats needing homes.

Contrary to what some believe, Wicomico is not a kill shelter. Unless an animal is critically injured or ill, it can remain at the shelter indefinitely.

“We have no euthanasia list or euthanasia deadlines. Our goal is to get animals returned to their owners or transferred to another owner. To reunite or transfer, that has always been our goal. We have some animals that have been with us for years,” he said.

About 3,500 animals each year go through the facility on Citation Drive near the airport.  Another 1,300 are spayed or neutered at the clinic on site.

Pets receive medical treatment from two or three veterinarians who go to the Humane Society to see them. Kim Engst is the animal care manager, there with the four-legged population every day. She informs Fitzgerald about any illnesses and, as a licensed vet tech, gives vaccines and medications.

Some days, Fitzgerald works directly with the animals, when he’s acting as back-up person. He handles administrative duties and communicates with animal control about dogs running at large and other issues.

There’s paperwork, calls to return, legalities to attend to.

On a typical day, more than 100 cats and dogs are making their home at the humane society.

Before they go to a new home, the pets are spayed or neutered and given microchips and shots.

Members of the adopting family fill out an application and are interviewed to be sure they can afford a pet. All other pets in the home must be up to date on rabies shots. Veterinary records are checked.

Thirty days later, the family is contacted to check on the progress of the pet.

“It’s a bittersweet moment for the staff when they animals go home, especially for the kennel staff who clean and take care of them every day and especially when a long-term resident who’s been here for a few years gets a home,” Fitzgerald said.

All of them have names, like Fabio, Bobby Sue, Maude, christened by staff members who sometimes choose themes such as trees, fruit and TV characters.

Cost to adopt is $150 for spayed females and $125 for neutered males.

All  available animals are on the Web site at wicomicohumane.org, and it’s updated every day.

A Humane Society is important in a community, Fitzgerald said.

“There has to be a place to bring animals when something tragic happens and a place for low-cost spaying and neutering and for the safety and health of the public,” he said.

A former business manager, Fitzgerald has also worked in public safety, was a paid firefighter and emergency management planner and IT planner for Worcester County from 2003-2011.

Wanting a change, he went to the Humane Society three years ago and joined co-workers who, he said, “have a passion for animals.”

On Sept. 12-14, cats and dogs will be available to meet at PetSmart, with hopes they will find new owners.

“On this job, no two days are alike,” Fitzgerald said, sitting in his desk chair for a pleasant conversation.

“There’s a lot to do. I go home tired.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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