The Atlanta Humane Society is a no-kill animal shelter in Atlanta's Midtown neighborhood. They adopt out thousands of dogs and cats every year—all spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies, and microchipped. The AHS has so many furry residents that they recently purchased land in a suburb of Atlanta, where they plan to open a second shelter in December. We talked to AHS Vice President of Development Deborah Marshall about the animals she sees at the shelter, and some exotic dog breeds you've never heard of, like Shepradors and Terrievers. Marshall even told us a miraculous rescue story.
Deborah Marshall: A lot of them are transferred in from other shelters when they become full, and there are owner surrenders that come through too—an individual will bring their cat or dog and say "I can no longer care for this animal, and I'd like for you to take it in." We don't euthanize for reasons of time or space.
We provide shelter, food, medical care, staff members and volunteers who walk the dogs, and people who work in the cat room as well. We have three veterinarians on staff, and they not only take care of our animals, but they also see animals that are owned by the public.
We seem to get a lot of Labrador mixes, German Shepherd mixes, pit bull mixes, hound mixes, and terrier mixes. And we do get purebred dogs from time to time. We get purebred terriers, and we had a standard poodle in here until last week. Sometimes we'll get Shih Tzus or Beagles. I'd say maybe 20 percent of our adoptions are purebred every year.
We get puppies out of situations where the breeders were more interested in economics than the care of the animals.
Larger dogs are harder to adopt out, because people either think they can't handle them, or they live in a small space, so they don't think that they have enough room for a large animal. And larger dogs typically need more training because they're big, they're strong, and they can knock you down. They're just a little tougher to adopt out.
The little French Bulldog that's here is going to be gone in a second. Purebred dogs tend to move out very quickly. Small dogs and puppies of all kinds tend to move out quickly too. We'll get a Yorkshire terrier, and we'll know it's not going to be here for a day.
Our Purebred Mutt Club is our way of rebranding our animals. Instead of calling them "mixed breeds," we refer to them as a "blend." So a Shepherd and Labrador is a Sheprador, and a terrier and a retriever's a Terriever. The idea is that these are unique dogs—there's not another one like them, so you have your own particular breed. The Purebred Mutt Club is really just a way to try to get people to look at these animals in a different light.
We've done lots of puppy-mill rescues where we get puppies out of situations where the breeders were more interested in economics than the care of the animals. We've done a lot of hoarding rescues, where the individual has taken in more animals than they can care for. We've also done pit bull rescues, where we work with law enforcement to bring these animals back.
But probably the most memorable rescue in my mind was about four years ago, we had a pit bull brought in here with a knife sticking out of her head. We got her into the clinic and the doctors looked at her, and realized that the knife had not penetrated the skull into the brain, so they were able to extract the knife. It was such a striking visual, to see a dog with a knife sticking straight out of its head. But since it didn't puncture the skull, the brain was still in tact, and she was absolutely fine. They named her Lucky, and she was adopted by a couple who already have pit bulls and were very familiar with the breed.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture has to license all breeders in the state of Georgia. They check up on them periodically, and if they get wind of one that they feel is more interested in economics than the true care of the animals, they'll go to them and say "OK. You can either relinquish these 50 animals through the Atlanta Humane Society, or you can be charged with 50 counts of animal cruelty." And most of the time, the people do relinquish the animals.
Make sure you’re ready to care for an animal for up to 15 years—it’s a long-term commitment for housing, nutrition, and medical care. And be sure you're getting the right sort of animal that fits your family's lifestyle. If it's a purebred, you can research the breed. If you adopt from a shelter, it's more likely you're getting a "purebred mutt," and we try to figure out what breeds are in the animal so you can research how those particular breeds do and what their needs are.
When my friends call me and say, "I saw this cute dog on your website, what's it like?" I always say, "What you really need to do is come in and talk to one of our staff members or volunteers that walks the dogs every day, and tell them exactly what you're looking for in a pet. Do you want an athlete? Do you want a couch potato? Do you want an animal that's good with children? Do you need an animal that's good with other pets you have in your home?" If someone just wants a dog that's going to lay on the couch with them and watch TV, then that's not going to be a German Shepherd-lab mix. We really try to match up the right characteristics of an animal with the individual, and we always encourage people to bring their children and their other pets to meet the animal. You want to see how the animal interacts with you.
Also, maybe it makes more sense for your family to have an adult dog than a puppy. Puppies have to be house broken, and they chew on things. They're very cute, but there's a lot of training that goes into getting a puppy, whereas sometimes adult dogs that are brought in here are already housebroken. They're past that chewy stage, and maybe that would be a better fit for a particular family's needs than a puppy.
AHS houses, feeds and cares for about 300-350 dogs and cats at any given time. 2/3 of those are dogs, 1/3 are cats.
About 60% of those dogs are puppies, and about 30% of those cats are kittens.
AHS placed more than 5500 animals in loving homes in 2010.
They spayed and neutered more than 6100 animals in 2010.
The Atlanta Humane Society's HEART SUV (Humane Emergency Animal Rescue Team Surgical Utility Vehicle) spays and neuters 25 animals a day for people who can't afford or travel to a private vet.
The AHS spays and neuters 35 animals every Saturday at their in-house clinic.