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Bowie residents Connie Carter and Teri Stumpf know that a good photograph is worth more than a thousand words to the occupants of the Prince George’s County Animal Shelter. It can mean the difference between being passed over or being placed in a forever home with a loving family.

Carter, 67, and Stumpf, 62, have been visiting the county shelter in Upper Marlboro for the past five years to take high quality photos and videos of animals waiting to be adopted. They dress the dogs in fancy bandanas and take free, professional-level photos in an effort to make the shelter’s online photo gallery more appealing. The two woman visit the shelter weekly and hunt down the sub-par photographs and the culprits who took them.

“I’ll see [the staff members who took the photographs] in the hallway and I’ll say ‘That sucked. That picture sucked’,” Carter said. “Some of them hide from me when I come in.”

Carter, a professional photographer who ran a Crofton studio for 20 years before semi-retiring in 2005, said she then teaches staff members to take better pictures of the animals and encourages them to participate in one of her shelter “photo contests” with gift card prizes.

Carter recruited Stumpf, her neighbor and fellow animal-lover, about five years ago and the two women formed Connie and Teri 4 Animals, a charity group with hundreds of supporters that is currently seeking nonprofit designation.

In addition to taking photographs and videos of shelter animals, Connie and Teri 4 Animals fundraise for the shelter, make and donate animal bedding and toys, host an animal and adoption education show on the Bowie cable station, and circulate a newsletter to a group of about 300 community members.

“These [animals] just need someone to love them,” Carter said. “They just need a chance.”

Carter and Stumpf’s largest fundraising effort so far has been Duncan’s Fund, a program they launched in May that is dedicated to raising money for shelter animals with medical needs, Carter said. Connie and Teri 4 Animals held two yard sales on July 19 and raised nearly $2,000, she said. Carter said the fund is awaiting the next admitted animal that needs medical help.

Stumpf said she is pleased to see the community interest in and support of Duncan’s Fund.

“As we meet people, it’s just kind of been snowballing,” she said. “There are so many animal people in Bowie, and they want to help.”

Duncan’s Fund was named after a dog who was admitted to the shelter needing a $400 amputation surgery, Carter said. Between Carter and Stumpf’s fundraising efforts and the help of shelter friends, Duncan’s surgery was funded and he was adopted earlier this year, said Venia Cleaveland, a groomer and behavior evaluator at the county shelter.

Cleaveland said there are many animals that come to the shelter needing medical attention — from heartworm treatment to surgeries.

“We, being a government facility, can’t usually take care of that type of thing,” she said. “Medical expenses are not cheap.”

Cleaveland said it is not uncommon for shelter workers to pay medical expenses out of their own pockets for what she calls “the kids.”

“Sometimes I throw in 50 bucks,” she said.

Carter said she has seen a big improvement in the photographs taken at the shelter and hopes her organization’s nonprofit designation will raise more awareness and inspire more people to donate because of the tax incentive.

“It has [already] improved so much,” Carter said. “We will continue to fight for the animals as long as we can.”

For more information, visit www.connieandteri4animals.org.

eeastman@gazette.net