As Coweta County continues to grow, putting more and more pressure on animal services and local humane societies and rescue organizations, the idea of an “adoption center” is on the rise again. discussed.
Adoption centers are different from animal shelters or dog pounds and are designed to be more welcoming to potential adopters.
Several local animal welfare volunteers recently appeared before the Coweta County Board of Commissioners asking for support for a future adoption centre.
This is not a new idea; having an adoption center has been discussed a few times in the past.
An adoption center was mooted at the 2021 Coweta County Commissioners business session.
During the business session, County Administrator Michael Fouts said the county is outgrowing its current facilities and the county needs to discuss establishing an adoption center – possibly in partnership with the city of Newnan.
There could also be a public-private partnership.
Currently, the county is working on two major projects. One is to turn the former AMC theater into a county administration annex, which would house election materials, election offices and a satellite beacon office. The second is the long-awaited and needed expansion of the Coweta County Jail.
Once those plans are underway, “staff will seek advice from council on other proposed facilities, including an adoption centre,” said Coweta communications manager Catherine Wickey.
A more welcoming environment
Angie Whitlock, president of the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society, was the speaker at the recent meeting, supported by members of several different animal welfare groups.
“Coweta County Animal Services is one of the best in the state, in my opinion,” Whitlock said. The current facility was built in 1999 and expanded in 2012. “However, that’s not enough for a growing county like this.”
A few years ago, there was talk of building an adoption center in the shelter’s lower parking lot, Whitlock said.
She asked the commissioners how many had passed through the shelter, and most had.
Due to the large dog population, walking through the dog zone can be a very noisy experience, with often overwhelming barking when a new person enters. Other dogs are kept in the outside part of the dog enclosures.
“It’s very stressful; people don’t want to go there,” Whitlock said. “It’s clean, but it’s depressing. An adoption center wouldn’t be depressing. It wouldn’t be so noisy, and therefore the adoption would happen more quickly; they would happen more frequently,” she said.
Local relief organizations are overwhelmed, she said. She said the groups would like to start the discussion this year on moving the adoption center forward.
“We believe we have the support of the Guardian and Coweta Animal Services. And we ask for your support and consideration as well,” Whitlock said.
Retired director Bill McKenzie was in the audience and the Tim Lassetter Commission recognized him. “He and his staff have done a great job with animal services over the years,” Lassetter said. And the Holland Ware Foundation and others have helped make the facility even better.
Commissioner Paul Poole recalled that when he started as Commissioner 17 or 18 years ago, local humanitarian organizations could not work together.
He remembers having to meet four distinct groups. “We’ve come a long way – a long way – since that,” Poole said. Animal Services is doing “an excellent job in a difficult situation and I appreciate you all working together as it makes things much better for the animals”.
With an adoption center, adoptable animals that have already been spayed or neutered and checked by a veterinarian would be transferred to the center.
Some adoption centers are in malls or other commercial areas, where people are more likely to be.
“It would be almost like a store with a manager and employees who are nice customer service people,” Whitlock said after the meeting. It’s almost like an old fashioned pet store.
Local organizations already host regular adoption events at PetSmart and other locations. Often, “the public is more inclined to visit PetSmart to adopt it than to go to the pound,” she said.
Whitlock said the NCHS and other organizations would “work very hard to help raise funds” and other things that may be needed to keep the adoption center running. “Our mission is to support animals that come through animal services – and to make sure we don’t go back to euthanasia lists like we used to.”
Years ago, animals that weren’t adopted were routinely euthanized. But these days, euthanizing adaptable pets is extremely rare — even if it means some dogs can spend years in the shelter.
There are many grants available for these types of projects, Whitlock said. “We believe the county should seek funding from a variety of places, and not just rely on taxes or the public,” she said. “We hope they will see the benefits.”
Release the pressure
The shelter runs around 85% capacity most of the time, said Coweta associate administrator Eddie Whitlock. A few years ago, the shelter took in even more animals, keeping some dogs in wire-mesh crates. But when the Georgia Department of Agriculture changed its rules in 2019, dogs could no longer be housed in crates.
The shelter is a reception center more than anything else. “An adoption center could take some of the pressure and volume off of the foster facility,” he said.
The adoption center would be a less stressful environment not only for the people who visit it, but also for the animals themselves. The shelter often receives dogs who have shy personalities, and noisy and overwhelming areas for dogs can be difficult for them, Eddie Whitlock said. “We are working with humanitarian and rescue companies to get them out of this environment as soon as possible,” he said.
Some dogs can handle the environment very well, but others can’t, and that often seems to be breed-specific, he said.
Gail Lustig of Hearts ‘N Homes Rescue said Coweta Animal Services does more than any shelter in Georgia. “No shelter in Georgia has dogs for two years,” she said. And the shelter recently began administering the “slow kill” heartworm treatment to dogs with heartworms. “Nobody does that,” Lustig said.
An adoption center would be a nice extra step.
An adoption center might have someone whose job it is to reach out to rescue organizations to find homes for dogs and reach out to the public.
At adoption centers there may be staff or volunteers who will talk to people to find out what type of pet they are looking for and what their life is like and help them find the right pet for them. and that they can take care of. “They make sure it’s a good game,” Lustig said.
“You make it more people-friendly,” she said. “It’s a more welcoming establishment.”