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Friday Focus: St. Mary's Animal Welfare League

By Monica Meinert • August 21, 2015

The St. Mary's Animal Welfare League helps cats, dogs and horses by providing veterinary, fostering and adoption services. We spoke with Katie Werner, President of SMAWL, who shared a favorite story about a particularly special dog and gave us the inside scoop on how you can help a local animal find a “furr-ever” home.


Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.)

A: The St. Mary's Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) is a nonprofit membership organization founded in 1990 that works to help the homeless, abused and neglected animals in our local community and — in times of extreme need — in our larger national rescue community. Immediate goals include aggressive campaigns to find homes for homeless cats and dogs and to curb pet overpopulation through spay/neuter programs. Future goals include the building of a no-kill shelter in St. Mary's County. Services provided include pet adoptions, discount spay/neuter vouchers, monthly low-cost rabies clinics, humane education and the Pet Food Pantry. SMAWL is an all-volunteer organization and welcomes new members and volunteers. SMAWL offers a variety of volunteer opportunities, including fostering animals waiting for adoption. To contact SMAWL, call 301-373-5659, send an e-mail to smawl@yahoo.com, or visit www.smawl.org.

The Snowflake Society was created in 2006 as a division of St. Mary's Animal Welfare League (SMAWL) to help horses and other hoofed animals. The mission statement of the Snowflake Society reads: "To provide shelter, care, rehabilitation and adoption services for abused, neglected, and unwanted horses and other hoofed animals; and to promote humane treatment of hoofed animals through education, investigation, and legal intervention."

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)?

A: There are many favorite moments and all of our animal adoptions are reason to celebrate, but the most rewarding is when we are able to help those special animals that are considered “unadoptable.”  Once such recent rescue is Martha, a blind Beagle we pulled from Tri-County Animal Shelter.  We were fortunate enough to find a foster home that had a very special cat, Dutchess, who helped Martha adjust to her new home. The two became inseparable! Like so many of our foster family, Dutchess’ family became “failed” fosters and adopted Martha.  Having the ability to rescue animals such as Martha is why we do what we do.  We are able to continue our rescue mission because of the support we receive throughout the year from our friends, sponsors and the community at large.

Q: What is your biggest challenge?

A: Since we do not have a permanent shelter, our biggest problem is having foster homes for our animals.  We are limited in the animals we can take in due to the foster space we have available.  Foster homes are vitally important to help in the care and socialization of our animals.  SMAWL pays for the veterinary care and asks our foster families, in addition to providing a safe environment for them to live, to transport them to veterinary appointments and to adoption events so that they can find their “fur-ever” homes.

In addition, we do have many other volunteer opportunities such as working at our Rabies Clinics and Adoption Events.  We also need assistance in caring for some of our cats who reside at the Petco in California, Md. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway, Md.

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: We have Adoption Events at the Petco in California on Saturdays between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and at our “Cat Castle” in Callaway on Saturdays and Sundays between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.  In addition, we have Rabies Clinics on the second Monday of the month between March and November at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds in Leonardtown, MD between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.  We also hold adoption events at other locations such as the Pet Valu in Leonardtown, the Tractor Supply Co in Hollywood and Pepper’s Pet Pantry in Solomon’s.

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?

A: There are several things people can do to get involved:

  • Become a member – membership fees help us continue our mission.
  • Volunteer – there are many volunteer opportunities, from helping at an adoption event to helping to organize our Animal Fair.
  • Foster – the more foster families we have, the more animals we can save!
  • Have a pet food drive to help keep our Pet Food Pantry stocked.