DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — It was a doggone good weekend at metro Atlanta’s public animal shelters.
A period of free dog and cat adoptions at Fulton and DeKalb county’s shelters proved successful in curbing serious overcrowding at the facilities, with hundreds of animals finding new homes.
LifeLine Animal Project, the organization that manages animal services for Fulton and DeKalb, said there were over 1,000 dogs and cats in its facilities near the beginning of the month, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last week.
During the promotion from June 7 to 16, a total of 807 animals were adopted: 560 dogs, 246 cats and one rabbit.
“Both employees and volunteers were crying tears of joy over the weekend, as some of our longtimers and overlooked animals finally went home,” said Karen Hirsch, a spokeswoman for LifeLine.
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About 475 of those animals came from the Fulton shelter, 265 from the DeKalb location and 68 from the Dog House and Kitty Motel in Avondale Estates.
LifeLine initially said its goal for the promotion was to get 100 animals adopted. The weekend ended up being so busy, staff members were unable to take breaks, so some volunteers supplied them with meals, Hirsch said.
The adoptions were completely free last week, including spaying/neutering, microchipping and vaccinations. It was about a $300 value, LifeLine said.
The facilities were overcrowded in part because of a rise in intake that usually happens at the beginning of every summer, Hirsch said. Normally, the Fulton and DeKalb shelters receive about 30 animals a day, but that can rise to as high as 60 during the summer.
“Since the shelters aren’t really built to hold that many animals, we work as hard as we can to get every single animal placed,” she said.
The Fulton shelter, built in 1978, was designed to house no more than 120 animals, but had about 380 dogs and cats last week, Hirsch said.
Also, as a public entity, LifeLine cannot close its doors and turn away people who want to drop off a dog or cat.
In Fulton's case, the shelter is also woefully undersized. There were eight dogs to a kennel and, with no space designed for cats, the felines were stacked in a separate trailer, the AJC reported in May. County commissioners agreed to spend a quarter-million dollars to find a site to build a new shelter. They estimate they'll spend $25 million on the project.
LifeLine has also committed to minimizing the number of animals who die in its shelters, which led to more dogs and cats needing homes.
The year before LifeLine took over, about 40% of the animals that came into the Fulton shelter were adopted. The other 60% were either euthanized or died of other causes. Last month in Fulton, 90% of the animals were adopted or placed with an animal rescue group, Hirsch said. That lifesaving rate in DeKalb was 95%.
There’s no time limit for how long an animal can stay at the shelters. The LifeLine website says it only euthanizes an animal when it is medically necessary or “when an animal behaviorally is not safe in the community.”