The St. Mary's Animal Welfare League is a nonprofit, rescue organization that specializes in the rescue, care and placement of abused, neglected and homeless companion animals

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2018 Pet Fair

  • icon 2018 Pet Fair

Letter from the President

                                                                                                April 8, 2016

Dear SMAWL Family:

            Spring is a time for renewal and rebirth, when the cold days of winter melt into the warm spring.  SMAWL is now 25 years young and we are experiencing growing pains – which is a GOOD thing.  For many of the past few years the work done by SMAWL has been done by members of the Board of Directors and a few key volunteers.  Our Board is truly a working board.  Now our volunteer base is growing larger and we are in the process of developing a great support system so we won’t have to do it all.  This will enable us to better carry out our mission of providing animal welfare services for pets and people through rescue/spay neuter, pet retention, and advocacy programs in order to create a safety net for companion animals and community cats in St. Mary’s County and surrounding areas.

In 2015, SMAWL rescued, rehabilitated and adopted 28 dogs and 286 cats.  We provided spay and neuter grants to approximately 176 pet owners in our area, and vaccinated over 1,064 animals through our monthly rabies clinics.  Last year we welcomed over 600 people and their pets to our 11th Annual Animal Fair and held meet and greets EVERY Saturday at PETCO, and joined our rescue partners at numerous events throughout Southern Maryland.  In addition, our volunteers visited PETCO twice a day, every day, to care for our adoptable cats residing at the PETCO cat condos.  As we celebrate our 3-year mark at our Cat Castle Rescue Center in Callaway we are able to provide a healthier environment for our fur-babies awaiting adoption and to give them a place where potential adopters can come and visit them.  The Cat Castle Rescue Center is open on the weekends between 11 and 4 — stop by and say hi.  This is just a snippet of what SMAWL does every day to carry out its mission.

We were able to accomplish all of this through the generous support and contributions of our sponsors, partners, members, volunteers and the community at large.  We thank each and every one of you for your continued support. 

Earlier this week we made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Animal Fair.  We have found that fewer and fewer rescue organizations have volunteers available on our regularly scheduled date due to Mother’s Day and graduation events.   We understand the amount of work that goes into transporting animals and hosting offsite adoption events and without strong volunteer support the rescues are unable to attend these events. 

The primary goal of Animal Fair is to facilitate animal adoptions, not just through SMAWL but through the many local and regional rescue organizations in attendance.  In order to encourage broader rescue attendance, we looked into postponing the event until the fall.  Unfortunately,  the facility was not available for any weekend in September or October.  This led to the hard choice to cancel the event.

We are planning ahead for fall dates in 2017 and anticipate bringing Animal Fair back bigger and better...more animal related activities, more adoption opportunities, animal related education and plenty of events and games to entertain the families who come out to support the animals and rescues year after year.

            If you’re interested in volunteering with SMAWL we’d love to have you.  We have many volunteer opportunities available and are always looking for cat and dog fosters – we’d love to have you join us in our foster program.  If you’re interested, please send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or give us a call at (301) 373-5659.

            We thank you for your understanding and your patience as we continue to grow – we’re only going to get better!  Remember – adopt one until there are none!

I remain

                                                                                                Very truly yours,

                                                                                                KATIE WERNER

                                                                                                SMAWL President


Past Letters

February 02, 2016

Dear SMAWL Family:

The building at Tri-County Animal Shelter (TCAS) was built in 1976, a time when Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s Counties were very different communities than they are today.  All three counties were much more rural, there was one lane to take traffic from Waldorf to St. Mary’s County and the Thomas Johnson Bridge spanning Calvert and St. Mary’s Counties was not yet built.  Since that time this area has grown exponentially and our attitudes toward companion animals have evolved and changed.  Where once companion animals were seen as property and it was common for dogs to remain chained outside 24/7, they are now seen as members of our families and it is considered inhumane for dogs to be treated in such a manner.

There has never been a better time to make your voice heard on behalf of the companion animals in our community.  As you may be aware, commissioners from St. Mary’s, Charles, and Calvert counties met recently to discuss the fate of TCAS.  The decision that must be made is how much to investment in making improvements to the current shelter or should each county support their own county shelter instead.  We believe the time is now for a shelter in St. Mary’s County. 

The time is now to institute a dynamic Trap Neuter Return (TNR) program for feral cats thus reducing the number of cats euthanized.  SMAWL and other rescue organizations in the county receive private grant money each year and we manage a program for the community, but the need far outweighs the funds available.

            The time is now to make necessary changes within our community to reduce the number of animals going into TCAS.  Approximately 2,500 cats and 500 dogs are euthanized at TCAS in a year – twenty-five percent of these animals come from St. Mary’s County.  This is unacceptable and work needs to be done to reduce these numbers dramatically. 

Some of the recommendations we are making no matter which path our commissioners choose:

  • No healthy or treatable animals should be euthanized simply due to lack of space.
  • The shelter should be fully staffed to ensure proper care for all animals in their care.
  • The shelter needs to have a full time veterinarian on staff skilled in recent advances in both shelter medicine and behavioral assessments of animals in a shelter environment.  This would allow for emergency treatment to injured or sick animals who are currently left to suffer unless their injuries are so severe that there is no choice but to immediately euthanize.  This would also help alleviate and eliminate many of the communicable diseases being spread amongst the animals in the shelter, reduce the cost of treatment and euthanization due to minor issues such as ringworm.
  • Create a separate space for kittens and puppies that is not only more conducive to their needs, but is a more pleasant environment for potential adopters.  Currently kittens under 8 weeks old are at the top of the euthanasia list due to the extra attention needed and lack of staff to provide for their needs.  There needs to be an effort to implement a Bottle Baby Program (for both puppies and kittens) utilizing volunteers to help orphaned animals in their first weeks of life.
  • Instead of following the county government schedule for hours of operation, the shelter needs to be open when the public is available to visit the adoptable animals, including evenings, weekends and holidays.

            The time is now to consider separate shelter facilities in each county.  St. Mary’s County is the only jurisdiction in the tri-county area with no shelter facility (public or private).  There are two facilities in Charles County (TCAS and Humane Society of Charles County) and two in Calvert County (Humane Society of Calvert County and Calvert Animal Welfare League-CAWL).  SMAWL currently owns a little over 6 acres of land in Loveville with the hopes of an eventual shelter facility but infrastructure issues have proven to be a tremendous road block.  SMAWL is open to entering into a public-private partnership to accomplish the long-term goal of having and operating a shelter facility in St. Mary’s County.

            The companion animals of St. Mary’s County deserve the chance to be adopted by a loving family, deserve to be treated humanely and should not be transported to another jurisdiction to await an uncertain fate.  To that end, in addition to a shelter facility in St. Mary’s County, the time is now to review our Animal Control Regulations and put stronger measures in place to protect the defenseless.  Local rescue organizations need to have input into the Animal Control Regulations as they know the need and can advise on the latest developments in best practices.

The time is now – if not now, then when?

            Please write to the St. Mary’s County Commissioners (P.O. Box 653, Leonardtown, MD 20650 or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) and express your support of a public-private partnership with SMAWL to establish the first St. Mary’s County Animal Care & Adoption Facility.  The SMAWL Board of Directors encourages all 2,357 members for your time and consideration of these issues.  More importantly the many companion animals with no voice thank you.

                                                                                                Very truly yours,

                                                                                                KATHLEEN M. WERNER (Katie)

                                                                                               President, SMAWL Board of Directors