Photo by Curt Yeomans
Partners for Pets co-founders Amy Adams (left) and Maria Durough, pose with “Tux,” a pit bull that they have arranged to be taken in by a rescue group. Their newly formed group has been able to get over 1,000 pets rescued from the Clayton County Animal Shelter in the last six months.
The Clayton County Animal Control shelter in Jonesboro has long been seen by animal lovers as an evil place, due to the fact that animals that end up at the facility usually end up being euthanized if no one comes forward quickly to claim them.
Capt. Mark Thompson, the Clayton County Animal Control Commander, said the fate of animals that come to his shelter is so controversial that he has received death threats from animal-rights advocates. He said it is the only law enforcement unit he has been involved with that caused him to receive threats against his life.
“There is a lot of animosity towards us because of what we do, and that is because pet lovers are really passionate about protecting animals,” Thompson said.
The fates have changed for many of the animals that come into the animal control shelter, however. A new, local group, called Partners for Pets, has been working with Thompson and his staff for the last six months to find homes for pets that come to the shelter.
The group was founded last summer by Clayton County Humane Society Volunteer Maria Durough, and her friend and fellow pet lover, Amy Adams, in an effort to save at least some of them from being euthanized. They line up rescue groups to take pets from the shelter and get them hooked up with new owners.
“Down here, they were putting down 6,000 [animals], so we had to do something,” Durough said. “What we are is [actually] the liaison between animal control and rescue groups.”
Adams explained that, although she grew up in Clayton County, she did not know how severe the number of pets being euthanized in the county was until last year. “When I found out how many were going down twice a week, I was shocked by it,” she said.
Adams added the group has a small army of volunteers that work with her and Durough to get the word out about these pets, to other rescue groups across the country. They use social networking web sites, such as Facebook, to raise awareness of the animals, and they often get interest from out-of-state rescue homes who want to adopt many of the pets.
The group is listed as “Partners with Clayton Animal Control” on Facebook.
“We take pictures, almost on a daily basis, of the animals that are here, and we put their information on our Facebook page,” Adams said. “People from all over the world, really, donate [money] for the dogs, and pay for their boarding, or their quarantine, or their transport — eventually — to wherever they are going.”
The group’s co-founders were able to point out one pet slated for rescue, after another, as they recently walked down a block of dog pens at the animal control shelter. One such pet is a large, healthy-looking, dark brown and white pit bull, named “Tux,” because the color scheme on his fur resembles a tuxedo.
Durough said “Tux” is slated to move soon to a north Georgia foster home. She added he will eventually go to a rescue home in Tennessee. “His owner came back and reclaimed him in February, but he wound up back in here, so we now have rescue for him,” she said.
So far, the group has rescued more than 1,000 pets, most of which were dogs, from the animal control shelter. Thompson said another way to look at Partners for Pets' early success is to think about the “thousands of taxpayer dollars” that are no longer having to be sent every month to bring in veterinarians to euthanize pets at the shelter.
He said the group’s work immediately began cutting down the size of the shelter’s vet bills after their partnership began last August. “Last July, we had what was probably our highest vet bill ever [over $9,000], within one month, they caused our vet bill to decrease by 70 percent,” the animal control commander explained.
Thompson added that before Partners for Pets came along, so many pets were ending up at the shelter that it had created an overcrowding situation.
“Unfortunately, there are so many people that disregard their animals like trash,” he said. “If it weren’t for them [Partners for Pets], I wouldn’t have any option but to call the vet, and have excess animals euthanized. We just have two designated days, Tuesdays and Fridays, as euthanasia days. We were so packed, that we were having to call in the vet four or five times a week.”
Durough said the group will continue trying to find a rescue home to take animals at the shelter right up to the day the pets are scheduled to be euthanized. In some cases, she said, they have been able to pull off the pet version of an 11th hour stay of execution.
“We’ve pulled dogs that have already been given their sedation [at the start of the euthanasia process],” Durough said. “We have had at least four, or five cases, where — at the last minute — we got the call [from a rescue group willing to take the pet].”
They explained that at 8 a.m., on the mornings when pets are euthanized at the animal control shelter, they are given approximately 45 minutes to pull pets for rescue.
“Sometimes, it's 25 [pets] — on a good day,” Adams said. “It’s very a positive sight.”
Adams and Durough said that although they have several rescue groups located out-of-state, or in other parts of Georgia, lined up to take the pets, they would like to get some local people to step up and take care of the pets.
The Clayton County Humane Society is regularly at its own pet capacity, and Durough said Pets for Partners has no Clayton County rescue groups lined up who will agree to take these pets from animal control. Many of the Georgia-based rescue groups that Partners for Pets currently works with are located on the northern side of the metropolitan Atlanta area, in places such as Marietta, Canton and Woodstock, she explained.
“You’re going to be seeing us a lot more at [county commission] meetings, and out in the community,” Durough said.