Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

Joan Oliver: Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne's County

Mar 01, 2018 07:00AM
By Caley Breese

Throughout her life, Joan Oliver has done a lot of volunteer work, specifically with animals. When she worked in Annapolis before retiring, Oliver would volunteer with the SPCA, walking dogs on her hour-long lunch break. Then, in the early 1990s, she met a woman who had been feeding feral cats and volunteering at another animal shelter, now known as the Animal Welfare League of Queen Anne’s County (AWL). Oliver was introduced to some of the people there and began to help. The rest was history.

“The animal shelter is just a passion of mine,” Oliver says. “It always has been. I just love animals and started [volunteering] there, and I’ve been there ever since.”

Oliver has been volunteering with AWL for over 20 years. Until September of 2013, the organization was county-run. Today, it’s a private, nonprofit, no kill, open-admission shelter. According to Oliver, they have a contract with Queen Anne’s County to accept all strays and unwanted animals as long as they’re found in Queen Anne’s County.

“They’re good, good people,” Oliver says of AWL’s staff and volunteers. “They have the heart of the animals, as well as the heart of the people in this county. They think of everything.”

In 1997, Oliver, along with a few other individuals, formed a group called Adopt-A-Pet. Its goal was to fundraise for AWL to help support medical costs at the shelter. They became a nonprofit organization in order to receive nonprofit benefits; however, in 2017, they decided to dissolve the group. 

"The animal shelter is just a passion of mine,It always has been. I just love animals and started volunteering there, and I’ve been there ever since.”

Oliver’s main focus at the shelter is the spay/neuter clinic, which she helped start in 2002. With the money she raised from Adopt-A-Pet, they were able to pay for almost everything in the clinic. Today, a veterinarian comes into the spay/neuter clinic once a week, which is when Oliver comes in to assist with administrative duties among other things. She is there for at least seven hours while the vet works.

Although she is most passionate about the spay/neuter clinic at AWL, Oliver also assists in several different areas, such as attending various off-site adoption days, washing dishes and linens, cleaning up after the animals, and grooming them. Most recently, she began taking a cat to a nursing home to comfort the residents.

“It’s once a month right now, but we’re hoping that we can make it a little bit more,” Oliver explains. “We’re also just doing one nursing home, so we’re trying to branch out. It’s fun. This one lady remembers having cats. The joy on her face when she holds that cat, it’s like going back to her childhood again. It’s worth it,” she says with a smile.

Oliver also volunteers at other organizations in the area, including her church. When she’s not volunteering, Oliver likes to spend time with her six children and 11 grandchildren. 

“I don’t really have a lot of time, but volunteers don’t have to have a lot of time,” Oliver says. “They can come for an hour. You can’t imagine how many dogs you can walk in an hour. You can’t imagine how many puppies you can bathe in an hour. You can’t imagine how much cleaning you can get done in an hour. People think they don’t have enough time—you can make time. But you have to want to do it. It’s a place that I love being, and I can’t imagine not volunteering there.”

For more information on the Animal 
Welfare League of Queen Anne’s County, visit

Do you have a volunteer to nominate? Email Caley Breese at