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For the first time in a decade, local shelters say they’re being forced to put down adoptable dogs

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Nearly 100 dogs have been euthanized in DeKalb and Fulton County due to overcrowding since June, according to Lifeline Animal Project.

LifeLine animal shelter urges more residents to adopt and foster.

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The non-profit operates the shelters in both counties. This is the first time in the 10 years Lifeline has been operating the shelters that it has had to kill dogs due to overcrowding.

The non-profit has been warning the public this could happen since April, pleading for volunteers.

“We have never been in this situation,” said spokesperson Tamyka Artist.

Right now, DeKalb County Animal Shelter has more than 600 dogs but it is designed to hold about 350. Fulton County’s shelter is housing more than 400 dogs right now, and it is designed to only hold 85.

DeKalb County alone receives at least 15 dogs a day from citizens and animal control officers.

Walking through the shelters, you see dogs in cages that are too small, and some are doubled or triple dup in kennels.

Volunteers tell Channel 2′s Courtney Francisco that there are some dogs that have not been walked since April because volunteers cannot keep up with this amount of dogs.

One volunteer, Andrea Seidl, cried when describing holding a dog as a vet put them down.

“All I could say was, I see you. I love you, and just know I’m with you,” said Seidl.

She said it was a perfectly adoptable dog.

“It is with great sadness that we share these ongoing challenges in our shelter due to overcrowding,” said Audrey Shoemaker, Director of Fulton County Animal Services shelter.   “It is heartbreaking when we have to euthanize animals due to a lack of kennel space.  We do not believe that any healthy and treatable animal should be euthanized, but we need help.  The shelter can only hold so many dogs. Lifesaving is in the hands of the Atlanta community.”

Lifeline said overcrowding can be traced to issues like a backlog in animal cruelty cases.

There are dogs that have been in the shelters for more than a year while the court system decides if they should return to their owners. Some are there because their owners had to surrender them due to breed restrictions in some communities.

Some families are turning in pets due to inflation.

“We have a situation now here, a person had to surrender their animal because they no longer have a home,” said Artist. “That’s the reality we’re looking at that every single day.”

Animal Law Attorney Claudine Wilkins argues shelters must euthanize accordingly.

She explained that the Department of Agriculture sets limits on population. She said overpopulated shelters can leave dangerous animals on the streets.

“When you have too many animals in a shelter, there’s collateral damage,” said Wilkins. “Part of that collateral damage is, not only animals suffering inside packed cages, but you’ve got the public safety of dangerous dogs not being impounded when they should be.”

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Wilkins said the fix involves spaying and neutering pets, building larger shelters, improving adoption and foster rates and moving animals to states that do not have crowded shelters.

Lifeline said it even offers a program where volunteers can take a dog for a day.

Workers said even fostering a dog for a short while can turn things around for an animal who needs some time away from a shelter to decompress.

The organization said more volunteers to walk dogs can help the animals get out of the stressful, noisy shelter to feel relief.  

To sign up to help, click here.

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