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Humane Society of Forsyth County Looks Out for Homeless Pets

By S. Mathur

The Humane Society of Forsyth County (HSFC) was founded in 1975 and for over forty years has provided shelter to the county's homeless cats and dogs, introduced programs to reduce pet over-population and educated the community about responsible pet ownership. It has the distinction of being one of the few no-kill shelters in Forsyth County, GA, as well as the largest. Over the years it has helped more than 20,000 homeless animals to find loving forever homes.

The innovative new Humane Hearts pet therapy program brings dogs and cats to people who need emotional support. Karin Landes, Communications Lead at HFSC says "Humane Hearts therapy animals are owned by people who want to volunteer to enrich the lives of special groups within our community.

The role of a therapy animal is to work as a team with their handler to provide emotional support to all people, with a special emphasis on the aged and children. On a typical day, our volunteers are visiting nursing homes, local schools and our public libraries."

At present HFSC has more than 50 Therapy dogs who make a total of 1000 visits across the community. Their presence really makes a difference to the people they visit, says Landes "As an example, interaction with our pets can bring an elderly person in a memory care unit out of their shell where they actually become sociable, even though they are normally withdrawn. The same can be said with visits to severely disabled children who light up when they see our animals show up in their classrooms. Some will talk to the dogs even though they generally ignore other humans."

Another important program is the Spay/Neuter Assistance Program or SNAP, launched in 2009. It offers assistance for low income pet owners, with spay/neuter vouchers for local veterinarians who are participating in the program.

Landes explains that "Recipients are asked to fill out a qualification form and provide nominal co-pay which can be as little as $5. Our goal is to reach pet owners who are likely to allow their dogs or cats to breed without a program like SNAP." The overall goal is to reduce the number of homeless pets by tackling the problem of pet overpopulation.

Homeless pets are still a big issue within Forsyth County and surrounding areas, says Landes, but the impact has been greatly reduced.The ASPCA estimates that more than 2.7 million animals are euthanized each year nationwide. Spay/neuter is the best way to prevent unplanned pet births to deal with this heartbreaking problem.

HSFC also has an adoption program for shelter pets, a pet food pantry for owners who are facing financial hardship, and a thrift store. HSFC does not receive any funding from state agencies and relies on donations and volunteers to keep its programs going. Volunteers can help with the Humane Heart program as well as fundraising events, adoptions, shelter help, and more. Anyone interested in volunteering should visit the website at forsythpets.org and go to the How you Can Help Section.

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