Humane Society of Harford County Celebrates 70 Years; Estimated 300,000 Animals Cared For

From the Humane Society of Harford County:

Seventy years ago this month, The Humane Society of Harford County (HSHC) opened its doors to a dozen stray dogs and cats, leading to seven decades of compassionate care for homeless, neglected and abandoned animals of all kinds. Just steps away from the current animal shelter that officially began in 1946 on a modified farm, stands a brand new, modern facility that will open this spring – an exciting juxtaposition of old and new.

While no formal statistics exist, HSHC estimates that it has cared for over 300,000 animals since its inception. Photographs from scrapbooks kept over the years show staff and volunteers helping not just countless dogs, cats and rabbits, but also goats, horses, pigs, sheep, reptiles, and even a monkey.

Seventy years ago when HSHC was in its infancy, It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart first hit theaters; crooner Perry Como and Frank Sinatra both have hits on the Billboard charts; President Truman set up the Central Intelligence Agency; and Jackie Robinson debuted as 2nd baseman for the Montreal Royals.

HSHC’s History

Together with friends who shared her concern with a growing number of abandoned animals left to fend for themselves, Mrs. Elsa Horne Voss of Atlanta Hall Farm in Monkton set up a makeshift shelter for stray dogs during World War II on the Albert Hughes farm, just outside of Jarrettsville. Her goal was to establish a permanent facility that would be dedicated to caring for and rehoming unwanted pets, so in 1946 Voss purchased a 26-acre farm in Fallston and formally created Harford County’s first official home for homeless animals.

Soon, pets began to pour in. According to a 1948 article in The Evening Sun, “animals came from every corner of the county. Some came from the deputy sheriff’s office, others through people who called up to tell of strays in their yards, still others from people who wanted to get rid of the animals they had in their houses.”

A drop box was set up with one side for dogs and the other for cats. People who adopted were asked to donate $2 or $3 to help finance the organization and in doing so, became members. Voss appointed Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Boniface as live-in caretakers of the facility. The resided in the farmhouse (where cats are presently housed) and took care of the property as well as the dozen or so dogs and cats that made the kennels their home.

Once her shelter was established, Voss turned her attention to lobbying lawmakers in Washington, DC for stricter laws on such issues as animal researching and testing, rabies prevention and animal cruelty. She wrote countless letters to local newspapers, advocating for proper animal vaccinations, spaying and neutering, banning puppy mills and more.

Her little shelter continued to grow, and Voss witnessed countless advancements in the treatment of animals before her passing in 1982. The farmhouse and attached kennels, once a state-of-the-art sheltering facility, started to bulge and crack and fell behind the times. In the early 2000’s the shelter’s leadership began planning for what would become a massive undertaking: the construction of a new facility to house Harford’s homeless animal population.

Invest in the Future

After 70 years of operating out of an old, renovated farmhouse, HSHC enters a new chapter in its history when the operation moves into a brand new, expanded and modern facility in 2016. Events to celebrate the opening will include the planting of a time capsule in the cornerstone of the building and a grand opening celebration.

“We invite our friends in the community to help us celebrate our milestone with a $70 donation,” says Jen Swanson, executive director. “All of the $70 gifts we collect will be placed in The Humane Society of Harford County’s Phoenix Fund. This is a dedicated bank account used only for expensive surgeries and treatment for critically ill or injured animals.” Donors who contribute to our 70th anniversary will be specially recognized at the end of the year!


  1. Animal Lover says

    Love this! I would love to make a $70 contribution for the anniversary. Please keep us posted with dates and times for the upcoming events! Congratulations on your brand new facility!

  2. Forever Amber says

    When I first came to Harford County, the Humane Society presented itself as a “no kill” facility. I have heard it on the wind that this is no longer the policy.

    I hope I am wrong. I want to continue donating on a monthly basis, but not to a facility that kills those defenseless creatures that find themselves at the mercy of a “humane” shelter.