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Shelter from the Storm

By S. Mathur

If you have ever thought that animal shelter workers must be an epecially courageous and compassionate lot, the staff and volunteers at the Athens Area Humane Society will only confirm that belief. The no-kill shelter has increased intakes by over 300 percent - and has an active program of providing shelter and care for homeless animals, low cost medical care and neuter/ spay and vaccination services, and adoption services. It also works to reunite owners with lost pets and to educate the community.

Helping shelter pets find happy forever homes is a major goal, and AAHS will take the time to make sure that pets and people are suited to each other, says Leah Trotter, Outreach and Communications Specialist at AAHS: "...we do spend time with each and every adopter to help them find the best match for their household and lifestyle."

Summer camp at the animal shelter must rank high on any child's wish list, and this year, it came true for many at the AAHS. A wonderful time was had by all participants - kids, animals and staff- says Trotter: "Our Director, Jane Stewart, held a summer camp at the rescue agency she worked at before coming to AAHS, so she was familiar with the process. The camp was so much fun! We hosted twenty-two children from ages 7-12 for one whole week at our shelter. Camp was from 9am -1pm each day. In that time, the campers learned about animals (treatment, care, etc.), had a guest speaker, did a craft, got playtime with the puppies and kittens, played games, and had lunch/snack. We got a lot completed in the week the kids were here. It was so much fun and we even had two campers adopt kitties (with their parents' permission of course)."

Although AAHS is a large organization caring for more than 1,000 animals a year, it works hard to keep those animals happy and healthy. The shelter features several free roam rooms for the cats and some larger indoor pens for the dogs. A live "kittycam" on the AAHS website lets prospective adopters and supporters view the critters as they sleep, eat, and play. In addition, many animals live in foster homes. "This allows us to save more lives and keep vulnerable animals out of the shelter environment where they can become stressed or even sick," says Trotter.

In addition, AAHS does community outreach work with a focus on fundraising and education. The group hosts everything from an annual gala to a holiday photo opportunity your pet can pose with Santa Claus. AAHS participate in events at the University of Georgia and local volunteer fairs, and comes to local schools to educate kids about animals. AAHS also offers low-cost spay and neuter services Mon-Thu by appointment, as well as a Pet Care Clinic at Pet Supplies Plus in Athens on the first Saturday of each month. "These two services allow people to get their animals fixed and keep them current on their much needed vaccinations because the rates we offer are extremely affordable," says Trotter. "This helps keep the pet overpopulation down in our community and keeps animals out of our local animal control shelters, where they will likely end up being euthanized."

While many people might find the idea of working at an animal shelter stressful, Trotter says "I love interacting with the community and bringing people together for the common goal of helping animals. I get to meet so many amazing people and wonderful animals. I am truly lucky!"

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