An old estate in Hampden is a haven for animals

JACQUES KELLY

July 14, 1993|By JACQUES KELLY

The owl and the pussycat reside contentedly at 3300 Falls Road in Hampden.

Their abode is Evergreen on the Falls, the North Baltimore headquarters of the Maryland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which looks more like an animal lover's bed-and-breakfast than a humane society headquarters.

With its lawns, stands of ancient boxwood, roaming peacocks, tall trees, rose and perennial gardens, the place retains the feel of an old Baltimore estate removed from 20th century troubles.

The inhabitants of this peaceable kingdom include the goat brothers Ike and Mike, Hamilton the donkey, Freckles the sheep, ponies April and Baby, and Carmella the Vietnamese potbelly pig.

The livestock is not for adoption because the SPCA runs its farmette only for educational purposes. But dozens of cats and dogs are looking for homes and, according to SPCA members, the homelier pooches get adopted fast.

"An ugly dog, so long as it's cute, is the most popular. It's just something that sparks peoples' interest in an ugly dog. A pedigreed dog, on the other hand, can sit for a long time, especially if it's a large breed," said Suzy Ross, SPCA superintendent.

The Society bought this Evergreen in 1926. It is not be be confused with other Evergreens -- the Johns Hopkins Evergreen in the 4500 block of N. Charles St., or the Loyola College campus. This Hampden property includes the venerable Snyder-Carroll Mansion, once the home of an owner of Mount Vernon Mills. The Mills' textile looms made the cotton duck used in ships' sails.

The SPCA, which enters its 125th year of service this fall, was once headquartered in the 600 block of N. Calvert St., the present site of Waterloo Place Apartments. When it was founded, the SPCA primarily focused on beasts of burden.

In the days of animal labor, it maintained horse watering troughs in the city and transported watering wagons to construction sites. For example, from Aug. 8 to Sept. 5, 1940, the society watered 1,457 horses and mules from its water wagon.

A story is told about Mary Butler Shearer, the dominant personality behind the SPCA from 1907 until her death in 1953:

"On the Charles Street hill near the Washington Monument she witnessed an act of flagrant senseless cruelty to a team of horses. They were unable to keep their footing and had fallen and were struggling to get up on the ice-covered streets. They were being severely beaten, still hitched to a heavy wagon. In a minute of militant fearlessness and rage for the suffering animals, Miss Shearer climbed aboard the wagon, seized the driver's arm and whip and berated him until he sought help for the beasts," wrote Ingreet Weisheit-Smith in a 1976 history of the Society.

The Society also had a contract to run the municipal animal shelter on Calverton Road for many years. There was a major parting of the ways when the city decided to sell dogs and cats for medical research. The SPCA opened its own kennel on Falls Road.

Today, the policy against selling animals for research extends to the wild foxes, who are regular visitors to the Jones Falls Valley. They are not shot or trapped, even when they dine on a rabbit or duck on SPCA property.

"The cat population has soared lately. We keep all our animals as long as we have the room. If space permits, we'll keep them a year," said Ross.

The SPCA also has distinct rules. It preaches responsibility on the part of pet owners.

"If someone comes in to adopt a dog as a guard in a junk yard, we won't give one up," Ross said.

When stray dogs are dropped off for safe keeping, they are held for five days then put up for adoption. Occasionally, people will visit the kennel and find a dog that just sings -- or barks -- to them. But if the animal has not had the required five-day stay, it cannot be claimed.

"There was the time the people were so into adopting a dog, they brought a Winnebago and parked it across the entrance and slept the night on Falls Road so they'd be the fist ones in on the sixth day. That's unusual. But it's not unusual for people to arrive here at 5 or 6 in the morning," she said.

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