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Donations help Hall County Animal Shelter provide Thanksgiving meal for animals
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Lauren Allen feeds several dogs a Thanksgiving meal Saturday at the Hall County Animal Shelter. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Hall County Animal Shelter
Where: 1688 Barber Road, Gainesville
Phone: 678-450-1587
Adoption fees: $85
Website: www.hallcounty.org/PublicSafety/animal_shelter.asp

Even the dogs and cats of the Hall County Animal Shelter have something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season.

The 250 cats, dogs and bunnies currently under the shelter’s protection were served a chicken and rice dinner Saturday in celebration of the holiday, courtesy of volunteers and members of the public who heeded the shelter’s call for donations.

“(The dogs) have loved it,” said Susan Allen, the volunteer coordinator at the shelter. “By the time we went through one row, (the dogs) had already scarfed everything down, so they’re enjoying it.”

The inaugural dinner was a success for animals and humans alike.

When volunteers at the shelter decided they wanted to do something special for the homeless pets on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, they didn’t expect the outpouring of support from the public. After posting on the Hall County website and Facebook looking for donations of money and food to provide for the pets’ holiday feast, Allen said the cause “went viral.”

The shelter collected $167 in donations from PayPal alone, and another $100 was called in directly.

It allowed the volunteers to cook so much chicken and rice, they plan on using the leftovers for another special occasion.

“This went off so well that we may have enough left over to just freeze it and do it again for Christmas,” Allen said.

The holidays are an especially important time of year for the shelter, which sees a drop in volunteers to help care for the animals.

“Everybody is busy, especially (foster care providers), because they’re out of town,” Allen said. “They can’t take any animals in, and people are busy getting ready for their own families, so unfortunately the animals are the ones that get overlooked.”

A number of volunteers turned out to help donate, cook and distribute the food to the shelter pets.

“All of these are homeless pets, so especially when around the holidays we’re all getting together with friends and family and feeling loved, they don’t have anyone,” said Amber Mull Cahill, a veteran volunteer who turned out to help distribute food. “They’re stuck in the shelter.”

The shelter is always looking for volunteers to walk dogs, fill water bowls and help with adoption events. Anyone who volunteers with the shelter in any capacity can be a lifesaver for a pet in need of a home.

“A lot of the time, (the animals) may be cramped in there for days, and when people come by to look for a potential dog to adopt they are so hyper they think ‘Oh, this dog is too wild for me,’” Allen said. “But if you get them out for 10 minutes, they really calm down a lot. It makes them more adoptable.”

The chicken and rice dinner is just one way local volunteers are making life better for animals that may be facing a holiday season inside a cage rather in the arms of a loving family.

“You never know what’s going to be their last meal, unfortunately, so this way they have this one good meal and it’s not kibble,” Allen said.

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