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Humane Society raising money for expanded, improved play areas for dogs
The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia plans to expand the play areas for dogs on its property off West Ridge Road in Gainesville.The dog play areas are in need of repairs, and an anonymous donor will match donations up to $10,000, which would be added to the group’s $30,000 fundraising goal. - photo by J.K. Devine

The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia is closing in on its fundraising goal for the Howard-Oliver Bark Park, which will expand and improve the play areas for the group’s dogs who are up for adoption.

The shelter’s fundraising page had raised $23,525 out of its $30,000 goal as of Sunday afternoon.

“It's been a dream for long time and we could not be more grateful that it's finally on it way to coming true thanks to the community,” said Humane Society spokeswoman Sam Threadgill.

Executive Director Julie Edwards is asking people to donate a $35 foot of fence to help the group reach its goal. Just a few weeks ago, an anonymous donor also agreed to match every donation up to $10,000, turning the total into $40,000 if the goal is met.

“With the extra money, we hope to add some things to make the area more enriching for the dogs and more attractive. So colorful flowers, sun canopies, agility equipment, toys, etc.,” Edwards said.

Part of the park was sponsored by the Howard and Oliver families, in honor of Rebecca “Becca” Howard, who died of cancer and loved dogs, and Mary Lou Oliver, who adopted two dogs from the Humane Society and died last year.

“These families stepping up has made a 5-plus-year dream a reality,” Edwards said.

Right now, the shelter’s play areas are in a state of disrepair.

“The new area also should be much more attractive and visible when potential adopters pull into the grounds, so hopefully it will entice people to go over and watch the dogs play and lead to more adoptions,” Edwards said.

The current three play areas will become four areas with double the space, stretching to the unused asphalt area in the shelter’s parking lot.

Two yards will be 50 by 30 feet, and two will be 30 by 20 feet. A 6-foot retaining wall and walkways made of concrete will also be added.

Some of the fencing needs replacing due to erosion. The yards were built on a slope, and the fences are now much shorter than they used to be. Since the fences are so short, dogs can jump them, and volunteers have slipped and suffered sprains, twists and broken legs from the slope.

“Between the slope and the erosion, the area is simply an unsafe mess,” Edwards said.

Not only that, but the yards aren’t being used to their full potential. The shelter’s rescues spend 22 or more hours in a kennel each day, which isn’t good for their physical and mental well-being.

Volunteers take the dogs out every day of the week for exercise and socialization.

“We want those few precious hours to be as enriching and happy as possible for the rescues in our care,” Edwards said. “As our volunteer said so well, we want to create a ‘utopia’ for them. Because really, they deserve it.”

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