Though the Effingham County Animal Shelter has been fortunate not to need to euthanize any animals lately, shelter director Cory Whitfield offers a grim reminder.
“The fate of a shelter dog is day-to-day,” he said. “It’s a sad fact.”
To help animals get adopted, the Effingham shelter recently transferred 19 of its dogs to Atlanta. The Atlanta Humane Society asked for dogs from the Chatham County Animal Shelter, which then reached out to Effingham.
Effingham shelter employees, volunteers and Effingham County Sheriff’s Office deputies gathered early in the morning to caravan to Savannah with the dogs. There, the Atlanta Humane Society loaded up the animals, along with dogs from Bulloch and Chatham counties, into a large trailer bound for the big city.
Transferring the dogs freed up space to house animals that will be brought to the Effingham shelter in the coming days. Also, the Atlanta Humane Society gave a “100-percent guarantee” the dogs will be adopted, according to Whitfield.
“They can back it up with their numbers. We know they’re going to get adopted,” he said.
“It saved some dogs’ lives,” said Bill Cowan, the Effingham County Animal Shelter’s adoption coordinator. “It was a good thing for the animals, to give us space and give them a guaranteed life.”
Animals have no such guarantee at the Effingham shelter. However, the shelter does its best to resort to euthanasia only if an animal is too sick or ill-tempered to be adopted, and not because of space limitations, according to Whitfield.
He pointed out the shelter had not euthanized an animal because of space “in a while,” and no animals had been put to sleep because of illness in the past week. But the possibility always exists.
“(Euthanasia) is always a factor here,” Whitfield said. “Just because we were OK on space today, who knows what it could’ve been on Friday? We don’t know if 20 dogs could come in tomorrow.”
Moving a group of dogs to Atlanta also helped fill a need for the humane society there. In the nation’s ninth-largest metropolitan area, the Atlanta Humane Society has difficulty meeting the demand for pets to be adopted.
“They don’t have as many animals per people looking. They just don’t,” Whitfield said. “We have way more animals and less adopters. That’s just due to our rural location.”
The oldest dog the Effingham shelter transferred to Atlanta was 4 years old. The youngest were a litter of five puppies, estimated at 9-12 weeks old, left one night in the shelter’s drop-off pen.
They were among the dogs the shelter staff selected as the “most adoptable” – meaning they didn’t have any trait or condition that might hinder them in being adopted, such as being hyperactive or having bald spots.
“And that’s sad to say,” Whitfield acknowledged, “but we wanted to give the Atlanta Humane Society something for the holidays they were going to get right out of the door, which is what they were looking for.”
Whitfield described the dog transfer as “a huge deal” for the Effingham shelter, especially since more animals are being brought in now that the weather is getting colder. Because of the lower temperatures, Whitfield wants the shelter to be able to house animals as long as it can.
“If we see an animal outside, we want to be able to bring it here,” he said. “I know people think dogs and cats, they’re animals, they’re used to it, but they’ve been domesticated so long they’re just not built for it anymore. They’re not going to make it in this type of weather.”
The dogs were certainly warm in the caravan from the Effingham shelter to Chatham County. The dogs rode in either ECSO Humane Enforcement Division trucks, which have heated dog stalls, or in sport utility vehicles driven by shelter volunteers.
Cowan put out a call for volunteers to drive some of the dogs to Savannah, and received a good response. More than enough people showed up early in the morning to help.
“It was great,” Whitfield said. “What more could you ask for?”