Training for Fur-Ever

Kelly Cyr ’12, biological sciences, is currently a graduate student in applied molecular biology at UMBC.

Kelly Cyr volunteering at BARCS (photo by Steve Harmon)

I first got involved with the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter (BARCS) in September of 2009. I was living on the Shriver Living Learning Community Floor (SLLC), and used it as my service site for the 096 Practicum. BARCS had only been around for a few years when I started volunteering there. The Baltimore City Municipal Animal Shelter reorganized into a 501(c)3 non-profit (BARCS) in 2005 in hopes that being able to create a volunteer force and fundraise would help improve the lives of the animals in the shelter and the adoption rate.

I continued to volunteer at BARCS in the spring and the following fall was offered the use of a Shriver van so I could drive other UMBC students to the shelter. One of the biggest problems with volunteering at BARCS and enrolling in the 096 Practicum is the training that volunteers need to go through. With only a limited amount of trainers, all of which are volunteers themselves, it could take more than a month for a new volunteer to be completely ready to come in on their own. So, with permission of the volunteer coordinator, I started training UMBC students to walk the dogs at the shelter in order to try to get past that issue. The following spring I was made an official Service-Learning Intern for BARCS, and was taking a full van of volunteers to the shelter once a week.

Since then, BARCS has become one of the most popular service sites for UMBC students. I had to start offering two days a week to keep up with it! UMBC students are a welcome sight every week, and on days that we’re there it’s almost guaranteed that all the dogs will get walked and all the cats will get socialized. The volunteer coordinator, Joe Miletti, has nothing but praise for the UMBC program and the way UMBC students conduct themselves at the shelter. The UMBC students that volunteer at BARCS enjoy getting to spend part of their week playing with dogs and cats (as well as other needed jobs, like laundry and greeting customers), and the positive socialization that they give the animals in the shelter helps to increase their likelihood of being adopted into “fur-ever” homes.

Emily Martin and Kelly Cyr at BARCS (photo by Steve Harmon)

I plan on continuing the BARCS program as a graduate student, with the help of some co-interns (volunteers from previous semesters who will be helping me out and learning how to train new volunteers in order to be able to take over when I leave UMBC for good). If anyone is interested in volunteering at BARCS as part of the 096 Practicum, they should contact me. For more information about BARCS, you can go to their website. More information about volunteering with the 096 Practicum can be found on the Shriver Center’s website.

Contact the author, Kelly Cyr, at



  1. As a former volunteer, I would like to encourage anyone who’s reading this post and is interested, to apply, with or without the Shriver center. I enjoyed the time I spent there, whether it was socializing with the animals or my fellow volunteers from UMBC or with staff as well as new friends I made with other volunteers as well as those from other schools. It was an educative experience for me and a fulfilling one. I would love to go back and continue my experience there if my next semester’s schedule allows it.

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