Walking into a building full of animals trying to find a home, some who have never experienced the love and kindness of belonging to a family, is enough to make anyone’s heart feel heavy. Volunteers and employees of the Athens Area Humane Society do this regularly. It is because of these kind-hearted people that these cats and dogs have a chance at finding a forever home.
“At first, it broke my heart to see so many animals without a home,” Jessica Strauss, a junior nutrition science major, said, “I have pets at home, so I just kept thinking of my dogs and cat without a family, and it was so sad. But it made me feel better knowing I was making a difference in helping them find a home. It’s a very rewarding experience.”
The Athens Area Humane Society (AAHS) has been active in the community for more than 20 years. AAHS helps find homes for lost and unwanted animals, in addition to providing resources for pet owners such as spay/neuter services, pet food assistance, and various other means of helping animals and pet owners.
AAHS is a no-kill shelter, which means that they do not accept animals from the general public for risk of having far too many animals to care for. Instead, they pull animals from high-kill shelters and place them for adoption.
“Volunteers can help out at any of our locations,” Leah Trotter, office manager for the Athens Area Humane Society, said, “At special events, and pet care clinics.”
AAHS houses all their dogs in foster homes, and has cats in Pet Supplies Plus in Athens and at the Zeus House in Watkinsville. Volunteers are always needed to foster dogs, and can also help with cats by socializing and grooming them.
“Our biggest volunteer need is typically the pet care clinics and dog fosters,” Trotter said.
In addition to helping animals find homes, AAHS provides a pet retention program called The Food Bowl designed to help owners provide for their pets.
“The Food Bowl is a pet retention program where we temporarily provide pet food assistance to those in need so that they do not have to surrender their pets to a kill shelter.” Trotter said.
Applicants must apply for the program and be approved in order to demonstrate their need of assistance. Typical applicants are facing unforeseen medical, financial or employment hardships. The program’s biggest need currently is cat food.
Because they are conveniently located in Athens, AAHS receives many student volunteers from the University of Georgia.
“We have a lot of pre-vet volunteers,” Trotter said, “however, vet students are typically extremely busy and not able to volunteer as much.”
They even offer an externship at their Spay/Neuter Center for UGA vet students to learn high quality, high volume spay and neuter surgery. However, AAHS sees volunteers from all over Athens, and from several of UGA’s departments. It isn’t just vet students that are helping out.
“I have volunteered a few times with AAHS, and every time has been really fun,” Julia Cheaves, a junior and early childhood education major at UGA, said, “I love animals, so it’s always nice to be able to give back and help out dogs and cats in need.”
The easiest way to get involved with AAHS is to visit their website, www.AthensHumaneSociety.org. There are many opportunities to help AAHS and their animals.