Two puppies eagerly wait to be held and played with outside, jumping up and down in their newspaper-lined kiddy play pool kennel. Athens Area Humane Society saves lives, literally.
“I truly believe there is no reason an animal should be put down if there is nothing medically wrong with the animal,” Intern Roya Robati said.
Puppies from the shelter enjoy play time and some sunshine. Photo by Kathryn Reeves.
AAHS is a private, non-profit organization that provides care for more than 1,000 animals each year that are in danger of being euthanized. The no-kill shelter seeks to find responsible, loving homes for the animals as well as providing low-cost vaccinations to animals.
“Our mission is to cut down on the number of healthy, adoptable animals that are euthanized at animal control or turned into animal control,” Executive Director Jane Stewart said. “We do that by offering a safety net for people.”
AAHS is a no-skill shelter, which means there are few reasons it would euthanize an animal, such as having a painful injury or illness. “If it’s hurt, we would euthanize it because it’s the most humane thing to do,” Office Manager Leah Trotter said.
To be able to function as a no-kill shelter and to help prevent overcrowding, AAHS fosters animals. Willing volunteers take care of the pets in their homes until the animal is adopted. Robati fostered mother Winnie and her eight playful, tiny pups. “In just one week these puppies have developed little personalities,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful experience to help raise and watch these puppies grow.”
Additionally, AAHS has an on-site spay and neuter center. The center helps prevent litters of unwanted puppies and kittens. This ultimately prevents the euthanasia of these animals. AAHS provides the surgeries at a low cost to make spay and neutering an option for all pet owners.
To also achieve its mission of reducing pet overpopulation and the euthanasia of these animals,
AAHS developed The Food Bowl. The program provides temporary pet food assistance to individuals who could not otherwise afford to feed their pets due to unforeseen financial, medical or employment hardships. “We try and help provide them food so that they can keep their animals,” Trotter said.
With much to be done, AAHS employs about 13 staff members and has a strong need for volunteers. “The biggest challenge is so much to do, so little time,” Trotter said. “They’re aren’t enough hours in the day. You always feel like you could do more.”
Some volunteers are at the shelter several hours a week, while others, like Madi Bennett, prefer to volunteer as type of stress of relief. “Volunteering and playing with the puppies makes me feel happy, lowers my stress levels,” she said. “It makes me feel good because I’m doing something for the animals and the people there.”
Volunteers take each dog out to let them potty and play. “It is important for the dogs to run and release energy that builds up from being stuck in the kennels all day,” Robatti said. Some puppies are not allowed to go outside due to lack of vaccines, and those puppies are simply to be loved on indoors.
Cats can also be taken out of their kennels to play with and hold. “A volunteer’s main job is to provide affection and contact to each animal,” Robatti said.
Although AAHS faces challenges, it is consistently growing and expanding. Stewart is very proud of her staff and their hard work. Last year only 350 animals were adopted, mostly cats. This year the shelter has increased its adoptions significantly to over 800 animals adopted. “We’re hoping to hit 1,000 by the end of the year,” Stewart said.
In her year as executive director, Stewart has made the adoption process not as stringent. “I didn’t want to make people feel like they were jumping through a million hoops to get an animal,” she said.
Trotter is also excited about the organization’s growth and hopes to expand out of the building and be doing 2,000 adoptions in the near future “We’re really proud to be saving so many lives,” she said.