Teresa Reynolds, owner of Evelyn’s Place pet rescue in Gainesville, said she feels like rescuing pets is what she was meant to do.
“I don’t know that I had a choice. Sometimes the dogs would find me. ... I can be out to eat and somebody brings their dog to dinner, and that dog ends up coming to my table,” she said.
Her rescue, housed behind Gainesville Janitor Supply on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, usually has about 50 cats and dogs. When Reynolds hears that other shelters are becoming overcrowded and may have to euthanize a pet, she steps in and takes the pet, with the goal of keeping it alive and finding it a new home.
Reynolds said she has been rescuing pets most of her life, and she gained her love for animals from her mother, Evelyn, who rescued animals herself. She said there is a shortage of spots at shelters in Hall County and surrounding areas, and there isn’t always a place for pets who need a home, a situation that can arise for a variety of reasons.
“Everybody runs out of space. You could get a divorce, you could have to go into a personal care home, somebody dies,” Reynolds said. “I’ve seen where they’re having estate sales and they’re selling down to the pictures on the wall, the rugs on the floor, the sofa, the lamps, and then there’s the old cat over there, ‘free to a good home.’”
Mike Ledford, manager of the Hall County Animal Shelter, said the county shelter only accepts animals from within the county. Some residents bring in strays or surrender their own pets, and animal control staff answers calls and brings stray animals to the shelter. The county shelter cannot turn away an animal from Hall, he said.
Ledford said the shelter can hold about 330 animals at a time. In 2017, the shelter took in 5,520 animals and 2,914 were rescued, adopted or returned to their owners. In 2018 so far, as of Thursday afternoon, 3,961 pets had been taken in, and 1,701 had been rescued, adopted or returned.
Ledford said when the shelter gets crowded, staff double down on efforts to get pets adopted.
“We have to rely on adoptions, rescue groups, outside events to promote and get the word out that we have plenty here at any time,” Ledford said. “If you’re looking for a pet, this is where we want you to come and try to find one.”
The decision to euthanize is “the most difficult decision that anybody in any shelter has to make,” Ledford said.
The public can help overcrowding at shelters by making sure pets are spayed and neutered, he said.
“When cats and dogs are out there indiscriminately breeding and they haven’t been altered, they’re having puppies and having kittens and they end up here,” Ledford said. “They have to go somewhere, and this is it. We’re the only shelter in Hall County that is open admission.”
Throughout August, all senior dogs older than 6 can be adopted free at the county shelter, and all large dogs are available at a reduced cost of $25. The shelter is open for adoptions 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
The Humane Society of Northeast Georgia gets its animals from euthanizing shelters in Hall and other counties, as well as from rescue groups that may not have their own buildings and have limited capacities, according to Julie Edwards, the Humane Society’s executive director.
The Humane Society typically has about 100 to 150 animals at any given time, Edwards said. According to its policy, the Humane Society does not consider euthanasia for an adoptable animal and will not euthanize because of a lack of space at the shelter.
If an animal has been at the shelter for a long time, the Humane Society staff makes an extra effort to promote that pet to the public, Edwards said.
“When we know that an animal has been here awhile, we’ll start focusing more on them on social media, posting videos and extra photos and maybe even doing a blog post about that animal. ... We’ll really turn our marketing attention toward that animal,” Edwards said.
The Humane Society is also looking at a program that may launch in the fall to let people take a pet for the day and get to know it better.
“It would give an opportunity for people to see animals in a different light outside of the shelter, in a more normal, home, day-to-day type setting, whereas they’re being seen in a kennel,” Edwards said.
The Humane Society’s No More Litters program aims to help with pet overpopulation, Edwards said. If a pet has an unexpected litter, the Humane Society can provide shots for the young animals, spay the mother for free, then take in the litter after the family temporarily houses the young animals.
When the Humane Society’s shelter is full, the pet is referred to either the county shelter for where it is from, or a local rescue group.
“We do try to provide resources to people, but unfortunately we have a limit to our capacity and if we are full, we have to turn people away,” Edwards said.
Reynolds of Evelyn’s Place said local shelters are in a difficult position, and there isn’t an easy solution. She said she has been told “you can’t save them all.”
She understands that, but that doesn’t stop her from trying.
“I can save this one today. I can make a difference in this one pet today, because I’m keeping it breathing one more day,” Reynolds said.
When: Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday
Where: 805 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Gainesville
More info: 770-503-5402
When: Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
Where: 1688 Barber Road, Gainesville
More info: 678-450-1587
When: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: 845 West Ridge Road, Gainesville
More info: 770-532-6617