Bringing Change for Animals in Georgia

Bringing Change for Animals in Georgia

What an inspiration it was to meet Candas of Paws Furever Home. It was tricky to find her kennels in this very rural part of south Georgia, so we called her and she talked us in. She greeted us with us a big smile and an open heart. And what a heart it is!

Candas rescues dogs from pretty much anywhere—dogs from any of the four surrounding counties who don’t have shelters, dogs dumped by police or residents at the local vet, and lately, she gets a lot of dogs left outside the Dollar General. Where she lives in Tift County, they do have a shelter. In fact, that’s where she started.

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Too Many Lives Depend on One Volunteer

Too Many Lives Depend on One Volunteer

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.

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The Challenge of ‘Saving Them All’

The Challenge of ‘Saving Them All’

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.

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Intentional Sheltering and the Difference It Can Make

Intentional Sheltering and the Difference It Can Make

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.

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Together We Can Let the Dogs Out

Together We Can Let the Dogs Out

After nearly two weeks in Georgia and Florida (with one quick stop in NC), we are home and I’m sifting through all that we learned.

The chorus of too many dogs and not enough adopters, resources, or rescues were variations on the same theme. Just like other trips, we met heroic rescue coordinators, shelter directors, ACOs, kennel techs, and volunteers sacrificing selves and sanity to save dogs.

The biggest challenge continues to be changing minds and hearts. BSLs, ordinances, and prejudices condemn too many dogs regardless of the individual animal. Ignorance, culture, and too often access/affordability stymie efforts to spay and neuter to control the endless stream of puppies and kittens.

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Off We Go on Shelter Tour!

Off We Go on Shelter Tour!

We leave for our shelter tour in two days. As always, I’m excited but nervous and slightly overwhelmed. There are so many details, so many new people, new places, and hundreds of miles to drive.

Often when I reach out to a shelter director or Animal Control officer about a possible visit, they are skeptical. Some outright ignore my emails or don’t return my calls.

I get it. I do.

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