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Looking for a four-legged friend? Now might be the best time to adopt a shelter cat or dog
Humane society extends adoption promotion to help pets find ‘fur-ever’ homes
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Samantha Lawson, animal care and enrichment manager for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, prepares an excited dog for outdoor playtime Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at the West Ridge Road animal shelter. The shelter has extended its "Empty the Shelters" promotion until May 15. - photo by Scott Rogers

Amid an ongoing vet shortage and risk of overcrowding, the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia has extended its Bissell Pet Foundation-sponsored “Empty the Shelters” campaign to Sunday, May 15, to help furry critters find their forever homes.

According to the humane society’s chief philanthropy officer, Samantha Threadgill, the two issues come hand-in-hand, as the shelter has struggled to retain veterinarians for two to three years. Relief vets provide aid regularly; however, the shelter has no full-time vets on staff at this time — a void that spans at least two months. 

The shelter is “heavily interviewing” one candidate, Threadgill said, and searching for two more.

Humane Society of Northeast Georgia “Empty the Shelters”

What: $25 adoptions through Sunday, May 15

Where: 845 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville

Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday

Info: 770-532-6617 | humanesocietyofnortheastgeorgia.org

“In order to run everything the way that we currently do, we need at least two (vets) on staff; three would be ideal,” Threadgill said. “We’ve gone through five different vets in the past year; they’ve all decided to either go to private practice or to go fully to relief vet work. 

“Shelter medicine is very difficult, different than private practice — it’s 24/7 and quite a lot more animals than a regular vet’s practice. A lot of the time we have vets that will come in and realize what they’ve gotten themselves into and that’s why they end up leaving.”

While research shows little evidence of widespread workforce shortages in the veterinary field, the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges noted there are sectors of the U.S. experiencing an unmet need for vets. The sectors reportedly vary state to state.

Threadgill cites the disparity between the number of accredited veterinary schools and accredited medical schools as one potential factor.

According to AAVMC, only 32 colleges of veterinary medicine are accredited or pending accreditation in the U.S., and the National Library of Medicine noted that 14 veterinary schools offered shelter-specific learning experiences. By contrast, the nation housed 142 accredited medical schools as of fiscal year 2020, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“The vet pool is very small, and the shelter vet pool is even smaller,” Threadgill said. “The vet pool has not caught up with our love for animals.”

As a result, the humane society is only able to spay and neuter incoming animals once a month, which has led to overcrowding in the shelter’s holding area as animals await the operation, which is legally required in order to process their adoption.

“We’re overcrowded because we don’t want to turn animals away, but they’re sitting in our holding area until they can be spayed and neutered, and sometimes that’s an entire month if the timing isn’t right,” Threadgill said. “When we have a vet on staff, they can come in and out of the building within a week; now, they’re waiting two to three weeks, maybe even longer. We don’t ever send an animal out of the building without being spayed and neutered legally, or at least with a voucher to come back and get it done for free.”

The humane society has a capacity for 200 animals — dogs and cats primarily, but the shelter also takes in the occasional bird and gerbil. 

There are 90 animals at the shelter now, Threadgill said, and over half of them are in the holding area waiting to be spayed/neutered. An additional 40 animals are in foster homes across Hall County via the humane society’s foster program.

To mitigate overcrowding, the shelter is extending Empty the Shelters, as last week brought fewer adoptions than hoped: 15 animals. According to Threadgill, the shelter usually sees about 30 adoptions in a given week; she wasn’t sure what may have contributed to the drop.

Until May 15, residents can adopt a new four-legged friend from the humane society for a $25 fee.

“This ‘Empty the Shelter’ event is serious — we’d like to empty it completely,” Threadgill said.

According to Threadgill, HSNEGA has also built up its relationship with Hall County Animal Services, as about 25% of the humane society’s adoptable animals are initially picked up by the county’s animal control officers.

“We always tell people if you don’t find an animal here to adopt, always check animal control in your area,” Threadgill said. “They’re one of our biggest partners, and we’re working together to make Hall County a better place for all animals in general.”

For information on the humane society’s adoption process and available pets, visit humanesocietyofnortheastgeorgia.org/adopt

Hall County shelter and adoption information can be found at hallcounty.org/279/Adoptions.
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Samantha Lawson, animal care and enrichment manager for the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia, prepares an excited dog for outdoor playtime Wednesday, May 11, 2022, at the West Ridge Road animal shelter. The shelter has extended its "Empty the Shelters" promotion until May 15. - photo by Scott Rogers