The Humane Touch
BY AMELIA BLADES STEWARD | PHOTOS BY CAROLINE J. PHILLIPS
Jenna Green, operations coordinator, makes her rounds through the dog kennels.
In her menagerie at home, Patty Crankshaw-Quimby has three dogs, two cats, three tortoises, and one gecko. Work is another story.
Executive Director of Talbot Humane Patty Crankshaw-Quimby has been in the animal rescue business for most of her life. In 2019, she marked her 20th anniversary with the local nonprofit, and it continues to be a surprise every time the door opens, and a new animal arrives.
The day of Quimby’s Shore Monthly interview, her office was like a scene from Doctor Doolittle. Quimby’s Yellow-Nape Amazon parrot Jo Jo mocked her every time she laughed, with an accurate imitation. It made me laugh every time, too.
There are no monotonous or ever-repeating days for Quimby, and it’s what she loves most about her job. She remarks, “You never know what is going to happen day to day and what’s going to come through the door.”
Top: Patty Crankshaw-Quimby and parrot Jo Jo in her office.
Middle Left: Bettye Make comes twice a week to pet and play with the adoptable cats.
Middle Right: Morgan Jenkins is a volunteer who takes dogs outside and helps to socialize them. Bottom: An adoptable cat peers out from the stacks of cages in the hallway at Talbot Humane.
She enjoys recalling her favorite exotic animal stories — two in particular that happened in the last year at Talbot Humane. A 90-pound Sulcata tortoise got loose in Mulberry Station in Easton and managed to travel across Route 50 to Chapel Farms before being captured and brought to the shelter. It was believed the tortoise was abandoned after it grew quickly to its large size. This breed of tortoise can live 80 to 100 years. The tortoise, named Gamera, thought to be 15 to 20 years old, is now part of Quimby’s household.
“I have always loved reptiles,” she says. “I think it was just meant to be that we found him.”
The second incident involved a Capuchin monkey who was brought in after its owner was arrested. Talbot Humane kept the monkey until her owner was free to claim her. She adds, “You have to learn how to care for these exotic animals as they are brought in.”
Quimby’s love of animals stems from her childhood, where she doesn’t remember a time without animals in her home. “All of our family pets were rescued animals, except for two reptiles which we bought at a pet store,” she says. “My parents and grandparents were all animal lovers.”
Her journey to Talbot Humane, however, was not a planned one, though certainly one she doesn’t regret. She states, “After graduating from Salisbury University with a degree in microbiology, I had worked five years as a server and caterer at Mason’s Restaurant. In 1999, Talbot Humane was hiring an Animal Care Tech and I applied for the job and got it. I started at the front door of the operation when it was on a shoestring budget, and I quickly fell in love with helping the animals.”
After serving as an Animal Control Officer for three years, Quimby then served as the Shelter Coordinator from 2004 to 2011 before becoming Executive Director of the agency in March 2011. She credits Suzette Stitely, one of the Shelter’s previous executive directors, with mentoring her in the job.
Top: Manuel Martinez, animal care technician.
Bottom: Dayniese Hurly, animal care supervisor.
Quimby reflects on the experience at Talbot Humane, particularly the sheer volume of animals the agency was dealing with when she arrived in 1999. She comments, “We saw two times the number of animals a year then. I soon got the idea that I could help make a difference in that number.”
“With every opportunity, I had to learn something. I still have more to learn today.”
Talbot Humane started in 1932 as Friends of the Animals and then opened a facility at its current location in 1948, calling the nonprofit Talbot County Humane Society and changing its name later to Talbot Humane. She recalls, “We were called ‘The Pound’ back then. Things have really changed in how people look at their pets and how society looks at animals today.”
“What has changed the most is how people expect us to react to situations. It used to be punitive. Now, we try and help people to be good pet owners. In most instances, it is a lack of resources and a lack of knowledge that creates the situations we encounter,” she adds.
Quimby also credits the Internet, television and the media with educating people about the human/animal bond, people’s knowledge and perceptions about animals, and animal adoptions. She states, “We can now acknowledge that it is ‘ok’ to care for animals at the level we are seeing people do it.”
Talbot Humane’s Spay/Neuter Program has also had a positive impact on the number of puppies and kittens that come into the shelter today. Quimby shares that two-thirds of the animals in the shelter are cats and 20 to 25 percent of the dogs are pure breeds. As an open admission shelter, Talbot Humane must take in every animal that is brought to its doors. Quimby states, “Every animal gets a chance unless they are untreatable, or the animal’s behavior is a danger to the community.”
Jenna Greene comforts a new dog arriving into the system.
In 1999, Quimby said there were eight staff members and 10 volunteers caring for 2,000 animals a year. Today, Talbot Humane has 18 staff and 150 volunteers caring for approximately 1,000 animals a year. The organization is also supported by Head to Tails, a local thrift shop. A new program, featured on Talbot Humane’s website, helps with rehousing pets when people become sick, are aging, or moving. This allows the agency to help people find adoptive homes before animals are abandoned. For the past four years, there has also been a Pet Loss Group with Talbot Hospice to help pet owners who are grieving the loss of a pet.
“Although there are days that I cry and may say a curse word or two, it’s knowing that we did the best we could for the animals here that matters to me most and is part of why I have stayed for 20 years.”
Quimby also credits her Talbot Humane team, a supportive community and board of directors with the success of the agency and her personal satisfaction with the job.
Her growing role in animal advocacy has surprised her during the tenure of her work. She is currently president of the Professional Animal Workers of Maryland and on the board of Maryland Veterinary Examiners. She explains, “Advocacy was not something in my wheelhouse. I have forced myself into this role. If it’s something I believe in or I am passionate about, I can do it. It is part of being willing to learn to do new things.”
Last year, Quimby was instrumental in getting a new law passed in Talbot County which prohibits the tethering of animals in the county, as well as provides inspections and licensing of boarding kennels, breeders, and training facilities. On the horizon, Quimby hopes to see a new shelter built in Talbot County which would serve the Mid-Shore.
“I want to be a part of making Maryland humane and to see our Shore shelters flourish.”