The Heard County Animal Control building is a small cement building, just to the side of the Police Department. It has a long history of controlling the animal problem in Franklin, Georgia by killing unwanted animals.
Enter Dawn, a tiny, determined, miracle worker of a woman who is the volunteer unofficial rescue coordinator for Heard County and is pretty much single-handedly responsible for saving the dogs who land in their shelter.
She used to volunteer in a shelter closer to her home in LaGrange, but she took a full-time job at the local elementary school and could no longer volunteer because the shelter was only open 10-2 each day.
SIDE BAR: Shelters that have restrictive hours like this are unlikely to have a robust adoption or volunteer program. They will also struggle with reclaims, as most people can’t get to the shelter during those hours to look for their dog or adopt a dog or volunteer. More people-friendly hours is one simple change that can have a profound effect on the live release rate of any shelter and on the quality of life for the animals in its care.
Rebecca, a sparkly-eyed young woman with a ready smile, is the rescue coordinator/everything-that-needs-to-be-done person at PAWS (Public Animal Welfare Services) in Floyd County, Georgia. She started in March 2020, so she has yet to know what life at the shelter is really like without the challenge of a worldwide pandemic.
PAWS is a great model (imho) of the future of animal sheltering because it is a public county shelter that encompasses both Animal Control and Animal Care/adoption in the same building under the same leadership.
As soon as we turned into the driveway of the Humane Society of Blue Ridge, we spotted the community dog park. Further up the drive, we found a beautifully landscaped garden area where a couple was walking a shelter dog. Walking trails and dog parks are two ways that shelters are inviting the public to join them in their mission to save animals. Often, creating spaces that showcase a welcoming energy can be the key to changing the narrative in places where shelter work has not always been so positive.
Fannin County Animal Control looks like a lot of other public animal control facilities. It’s a small sturdy cement bunker type building on a small wooded lot. JR, the animal control officer who greeted us has been here for six years, but the shelter has obviously been here much longer.
Inside we met two dogs Animal Control had picked up off the highway the day before. They were housed in metal crates in the open area across from the kennels, near the space heater – which was lucky for them on the bitter day we visited. Still it was pretty sparse accommodations.
(Gaston County Police Animal Care Enforcement, Gastonia, NC)
After visiting nearly 80 shelters and rescues, I can tell a lot about a shelter just by walking through their kennels. Whenever you enter, of course the dogs go nuts. The barking is off the charts, all conversation ceases.
I always try to keep my own energy low; I don’t look dogs in the eye, I crouch in front of kennels, and I rarely wear the ballcap that has become my favorite hairstyle these days, knowing that it can be a trigger for some dogs.