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Atlanta Humane Society Runs on Love, Hope and Courage

By S. Mathur

The Atlanta Humane Society has been around for over 140 years, and helps around 25,000 animals each year, finding forever homes for 8,000 dogs and cats. It also runs a low-cost veterinary clinic, public education programs, and successful spay/ neuter program.

Founded in 1873, for nearly eighty years it was a child and animal protection agency. Its mission is to "improve animal welfare in the southeastern United States by providing quality animal services including preventative initiatives, education, advocacy and adoption of animals into permanent loving homes."

While adoption is the goal for the thousands of animals who come to the shelter each year, the Atlanta Humane is very careful to match pets to homes. Vice President of Operations Tara High explains that those considering adopting a pet should carefully think through the pros and cons before taking on the responsibility: "Be honest about your lifestyle and what kind of energy output you as an individual have. You want to get a pet whose energy output/affection is going to be similar to yours. Research the characteristics of what you want your future pet to be like."

She also has very useful advice for anyone who finds a lost or stray animal: "If you find a stray or abandoned animal, you should take the animal to a veterinarian or animal shelter and have it scanned for a microchip. You can check social media and local neighborhood communities to see if anyone has posted a missing animal. You can also take a photo and create a flyer in the area where the animal was found. We'd also suggest that you let the municipal shelters know that you find this animal. That is where strays are typically taken and that's where owners are trained to go looking for a lost pet." These simple steps are often successful in reuniting lost pets with their families.

The Humane Society's spay/neuter program has also been successful in reducing the overpopulation of dogs and cats, many of whom end up as strays. High credits both social and print media with getting the word out. The number of puppies and kittens in need of rescue has been reduced significantly, she says "but the number is still large. We're able to save a higher percentage of those needing rescue in Georgia than was the case 10, 20, 30 years ago."

Volunteers are always welcome at the shelter to walk the dogs and play with dogs and cats. For dog-walkers, there are morning, mid-day, late afternoon shifts so that each dog can have several outings a day. Cats can be socialized at any time of the day. The greatest need for volunteers is in in the spring and summer, because that's when the shelter is most crowded. Volunteers can also choose to foster animals until they find a forever home, giving the shelter more room. The shelter does not euthanize adoptable animals, and there is no time limit for how long an animal can stay at the shelter.

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