About Us


The Humane Society of Baltimore County, now known as the Baltimore Humane Society (BHS), was founded in 1927 by a pioneering and compassionate socialite named Elsie Seeger Barton (1886-1983).

In 1902, at age 16, Miss Seeger was stricken with rheumatic fever and was confined to her bed. During that time, her constant companions were the family’s beloved pets. It was at that time that Ms. Seeger resolved to devote her life to the care and humane treatment of companion and service animals. When she became well, she established a refuge for abused and homeless animals on her family’s estate, known as “Thistle Top” on Milford Road in Pikesville, MD, overlooking Gwynn’s Falls Dam. In 1908 she married Bolling Walker Barton, Jr., President of Barton, Duet & Koch Paper Company.

  • '20s

    BHS in the 1920s

    Elsie Barton Seeger

    By the 1920’s, Mrs. Barton was well known throughout the community as the “animal lady”. She recruited a number of other society women with whom she shared a common goal. Together, these women began what we now know as the Baltimore Humane Society. Mrs. Barton lead the way financially and in spirit. In August of 1927, BHS officially became incorporated in the State of Maryland. The women opened a charity shop on Reisterstown Road at Walker Avenue, the proceeds from which helped fund the early operations of BHS.

  • '30s


    By 1931, animals were still being kept on the Seeger estate but Mrs. Barton knew the time had come to build a dedicated sheltering facility. In 1936, a new 23-acre compound was opened on Park Heights Avenue near Old Court Road. It was a marvel for the time, and included a 22-room administration building, a three-story horse hospital, an animal hospital with operating rooms, a ring for horse and pony shows, playrooms and classrooms for Humane Education programs, a library, an auditorium, an aviary, a pet cemetery and state- of-the-art housing for the animals. Mrs. Barton privately funded the project, and, in the presence of 500 supporters, dedicated it in honor of her father, Paul August Seeger. This new facility even offered free veterinary clinics twice a week, and a 24-hour pet ambulance service.

  • '40s


    By the 1940s, Mrs. Barton contracted with the Baltimore County government to run their “stray department”, a precursor to animal control. For the next 30+ years, BHS would patrol the nearly 600 miles of Baltimore County roadways, collecting animals, operating the early licensing programs, and helping reunite owners with lost pets. Throughout World War II, BHS served the community by providing classes and lectures on disaster preparedness for pets and livestock. BHS even hosted Baroness Spackleberg of England, who came in 1941 to talk about “Air Raid Precautions” for animals. BHS also partnered in 1942 with American Red Star Animal Relief (a program of the American Humane Association) for the duration of the war.

  • 50's


    In the early 1950’s Mrs. Barton received news that construction of the Baltimore Beltway was slated to begin soon, and the path ran straight through her beautiful new facility. Knowing she could not win this fight, she began purchasing the 400 acres of rolling hillsides, farmland, and woods in Reisterstown that is our current home. She moved some 800 graves from the cemetery on Park Heights Avenue to the new location and built another state-of-the-art shelter.

    In 1957 the new facility opened. The “new” shelter operated on 22 acres of the property, and the rest of the property was and continues to be undeveloped wildlife sanctuary.

  • 60's


    Dr. Robert P Wagers with a dog nursing a litter of pups

    Recognizing the heartbreak of pet overpopulation, in the early 1960s, Mrs. Barton converted the animal hospital at the shelter to a low-cost, subsidized spay and neuter clinic. The clinic was run by Dr. Robert P. Wagers. Dr. Wagers also operated his own private practice and was the veterinarian for the Baltimore Zoo. Dr. Wagers spent most of his time divided between the three locations, and kept a two-way radio in his car for emergencies.

    Our low cost Spay, Neuter and Vaccine Clinic is named in his honor.

  • 70's


    By the 1970’s, the costs associated with operating the County’s stray department had become overwhelming, and while Mrs. Barton received a stipend from the County, it wasn’t enough. She petitioned the County for more funds, but she was unsuccessful. Faced with becoming bankrupt and losing the shelter altogether, Mrs. Barton chose to end the contract with the County in 1974, and BHS became an independent organization.

    We no longer receive any operational funding from the County, and we rely only on private donations.

  • 80's


    Mrs. Barton and her dog

    Mrs. Barton lived on the Reisterstown property in a colonial stone house until she died on May 4, 1983, at 97. She left all of her family’s estate and 365 acres to BHS in perpetuity, to be used as she dictated in her will.

    People may ask us with all of this land why do we not build additional structures, dog parks or expand more?

    Mrs. Barton stipulated in her will that no additional buildings or structures can be built upon the land. We cannot expand beyond the original footprint of the buildings that are here. We can go up, but we cannot go out, and since the buildings were not designed to have another level on top of them, they would have to be demolished and everything would have to be rebuilt from the ground up. The land and the shelter are overseen by the Elsie Seeger Barton Trust, which is now managed by M&T Bank. BHS receives 11.5% (approx. $180,000) of the annual operating budget ($1.6m) from the Trust. The rest is made up from donations, event proceeds and grants from foundations.

  • 00's

    Early 2000s

    In 2008, Baltimore Humane Society made it official policy not to euthanize animals due to time or space constraints. We work closely with other animal welfare organizations, shelters, and rescues to save as many lives as possible. We are a proud member of Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance, partnering with Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Baltimore Animal Rescue & Care Shelter and Baltimore City Animal Services.

    In 2011, BHS reopened after an extensive renovation project, which doubled our capacity for shelter residents so that we can save more lives. The improvements included new windows and HVAC systems, backup power generators, new kennels and cat condos, the addition of cat communal rooms, two new exam rooms in our veterinary center, and many other much-needed upgrades.

  • NOW

    Baltimore Humane Society Today

    Today, BHS continues the legacy of Mrs. Barton by caring for thousands of wonderful animals every year. We continue to operate a low-cost, subsidized Spay, Neuter & Vaccine Clinic, which assists in helping to control the epidemic of pet overpopulation and serve low-income pet owners with quality pet care and vaccinations. In addition, our Baltimore Humane Society Memorial Park, on the grounds of BHS, provides a final resting place for many beloved pets and offers burial, funeral, and cremation services, free pet bereavement services and special memorial events. Three hundred and forty three acres of our land still serves as a protected wildlife sanctuary, alive with deer, fox, several species of birds, and numerous other types of local wildlife.

Our Commitments

The Baltimore Humane Society was founded to protect our region’s pets and to address and prevent their suffering. Since our first day we’ve developed a set of tenets that represent our commitments to the pets we care for. All of our efforts are centered around one word … “humane”.

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LIVE Humanely

Each individual has the power through their own actions and a focus on their personal ethics to live with respect for others and for other life.

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LEAD Humanely

Each individual has the strength to demonstrate and to educate others on their conviction that all individuals, be they man or animal, deserve respect and humane care.

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BELIEVE Humanely

Each individual can trust in the goodness and virtue of others and can believe that our community continues to move toward greater respect and humane treatment of the animals in our care.

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DREAM Humanely

Each individual can dream of tomorrow and the opportunities it will bring to progress our mission of a humane community.

Our Mission

  • Provide a temporary home, safe refuge, and care for homeless animals.
  • Work aggressively to place each animal that comes to our shelter into a loving, permanent home.
  • Strive to end the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals by offering affordable spay, neuter and wellness services, and by addressing the issues that cause people to surrender animals.
  • Educate the community regarding the humane treatment of animals and increase awareness of animal issues.
  • Ensure a peaceful final resting place for beloved pets through the operation of a beautiful and well-maintained cemetery for companion animals.

We Need Your Support!

The Baltimore Humane Society is a private, independent non-profit organization in the State of Maryland. Our Federal Tax ID is 52-0623165. We do not receive any operational funding from the county, state, or other governments; and we are not affiliated with any national humane societies or animal welfare organizations. We rely entirely on donations from generous individuals like you!

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