DogTiltedHeadSince I work in a local shelter, it was no surprise to me when a local restaurant called offering to donate a percentage of every entree ordered for one week to the SPCA. I was grateful, of course, but we are not called the SPCA, which stands for Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In my county, Frederick County in Maryland, there is no SPCA. There is one in the adjoining county, but it doesn’t run a shelter. There is also a national SPCA that does run an adoption center, but only in New York, and it is not affiliated with local SPCAs despite the similar name.

Confused? So was the restaurant owner. She was familiar with our local humane society, which has no shelter, and our local animal welfare league, which has a storefront adoption center for cats and kittens.

Most counties have one of these groups working to save homeless animals. Some of these groups have legal contracts with governments to run local shelters. So how do you know which one you have?

You could try an internet search for your county’s name plus “humane society” and see what you get. But that alone won’t tell you if the group has a shelter or even takes in animals. You’ll have to call them. Many volunteer organizations don’t have the funds to have a live person answer their phone but they’ll get back to you with the details.

If you want to support local hands-on animal groups, you’ll need to do two things. First, find out the names of the groups in your area and which are involved in activities you support, check references, and then donate. Donate time, money, supplies, or adopt a pet. If you are unable at this time to help in these material ways, find out if the group you want to assist has a Facebook or page. If so, share their adoptable animals through your own social networks, or print a pet profile and post it at work on a community bulletin board.

There are many people who just don’t know who does what anymore, and the similar names between local and national groups is one reason. So whether your favorite shelter is an SPCA, humane society, or animal welfare league matters not. Those groups doing the work of rescuing homeless animals need your support because they are not getting it from national groups who share similar names.