By Michelle Boaen Jameson
Photos courtesy HSNEGA
Last year, more than 1,500 companion animals including dogs, cats, birds and small mammals, came through the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
Kyra Phelps, the HSNEGA marketing and communications coordinator, said that is an increase of 16.7 percent from the previous year, or more than 170 animals.
“As the sole selective admission facility (the Humane Society only euthanizes for untreatable illnesses as a humane end-of-life option) in Northeast Georgia, animals rescued by HSNEGA stay with us until adopted,” she said. “Our rescues come from owner surrenders and other animal welfare facilities which euthanize.”
Because it is a private animal welfare facility, Phelps said HSNEGA is legally unable to take in stray animals.
With the addition of a full-time veterinarian a few years ago, HSNEGA has expanded its ability to serve more “hard case” rescues, including participating in a 400-plus animal neglect/abuse case in 2017 from which it rescued 56 dogs.
The local Humane Society was founded in 1913 by Hall County school teacher Bessie Bickers and is one of the oldest animal welfare facilities in Georgia.
“Bessie Bickers, or Miss Bessie to friends and students, bought 5 acres of land and a house with $5,000 earned from her retirement fund,” Phelps said. “She built kennels and runs, and arranged for a young couple to live there rent-free to take care of the animals. The three were often seen before dawn or after dark saving the homeless animals of Hall County.”
After her death, Bickers’ family transferred the land at 845 West Ridge Road to the Humane Society of Hall County, which remains the present location and is now the Humane Society of Northeast Georgia.
“Today, we try to carry on her humane message of creating a caring community for animals,” Phelps said. “Some things have changed but the basic policies and framework on which Miss Bessie built the Society remain.”
The HSNEGA official mission statement is “to establish a community recognized for responsible pet ownership and humane treatment of animals by offering basic pet wellness and spay-neuter services, public education, and rescue/placement of companion animals.”
Unofficially, Phelps said, HSNEGA works tirelessly to be a leader in creating a community known where animals are not abused or abandoned and where no healthy, treatable companion animal will be euthanized for lack of space or other resources.
Currently, the group has 27 team members and about 240 active volunteers, which includes two full-time veterinarians who provide affordable healthy pet and spay/neuter services to the community.
HSNEGA’s Spay/Neuter Center provides low-cost, high-quality surgery for all pet owners with no residency restrictions. Since opening in 2005, it has performed 70,000 surgeries for both owned, public animals and rescued animals from animal welfare organizations.
In addition, the Healthy Pet Clinic has offered services to pets and their people since 2010 and annually serves more than 8,000 pets with the basic care they need to live healthy, happy lives.
Phelps said the vast majority of animal shelter organizations across the country are funded at least in part by public funding with tax dollars through their local, county or state governments. However, HSNEGA is self-funded through donations, grants and service fees and receives no public funding or funds from national humane organizations.
The organization has rescued many types of pets from birds to rodents to reptiles.
“We’ve had people bring us chickens that have fallen off chicken trucks,” she said. “Unfortunately, we cannot keep or adopt livestock so we had to surrender them to the county animal control.”
Phelps said sharing your home with a four-legged friend can be one of life’s greatest joys. Pets give us unconditional loyalty and acceptance, provide constant companionship and even help relieve stress after a hard day’s work.
Adopting a pet, though, is a big decision. Pets require time and money as well as a long-term commitment. Pet ownership can be rewarding, but only if you think through your decision before you adopt a companion.
When you adopt a pet, you are making a commitment to care for the animal for its lifetime, so think before you adopt. Sharing your life with a companion animal can bring incredible rewards, but only if you’re willing to make the necessary commitments of time, money, responsibility and love.
So how can you help out?
“Donations of money or in-kind items are always welcome and needed to support our rescue efforts,” Phelps said. “We have many options for donations including our Animal Care Fund (help fund medical needs for special cases), Adoption Angel Program (sponsor a rescue), Food Bowl Fund (help pay for food for rescues) as well as general donations.”
Sharing, liking and commenting on its social media also helps get the word out in the community about both services and adoptable animals.
“We are active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat,” Phelps said. “You also can sign up for our e-newsletter on our website (www.HSNEGA.org) for the latest news about our needs and how your gifts are helping rescues.”
If you’re thinking about adopting, you are probably a responsible and caring person, but before you make the decision to bring a furry friend into your life, consider the following questions:
• Why do you want a pet?
It’s amazing how many people fail to ask themselves this simple question. Be sure it’s a thoughtful decision. Remember pets may be with you 10, 15, even 20 years.
• Do you have time for a pet?
Animals cannot be ignored because you’re tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care and companionship every day. Many animals are homeless simply because their owners didn’t realize how much time it took to care for them.
• Can you afford a pet?
The costs of pet ownership can be quite high. Veterinary care, grooming, toys, food, litter and other expenses add up quickly.
• Are you prepared to deal with special problems a pet can cause?
Flea infestations, scratched-up furniture, accidents from animals who aren’t yet housetrained and unexpected medical emergencies are unfortunate but common aspects of pet ownership.
• Can you have a pet where you live?
Many rental communities don’t allow pets or have restrictions. Make sure you know what they are before you consider adopting.
• Is it a good time for you to adopt a pet?
If you have kids under the age of 6, for instance, you might consider waiting a few years before you adopt a companion. Likewise, If you’re a student, in the military or travel frequently as part of your work, waiting until you settle down is wise.
• Are your living arrangements suitable for the pet you have in mind?
Animal size is not the only variable to consider. Energy level and age also are factors. Before adopting, do some research to ensure you choose an animal who will fit into your lifestyle and living arrangements.
• Do you know who will care for your pet if you are unable?
You’ll need either reliable friends and neighbors or money to pay for a boarding kennel or pet-sitting service.