This year, the Dawson County Humane Society is celebrating two significant milestones: the 15-year anniversary of the shelter’s opening and the shelter’s 10,000th pet adopted out to a new and loving home.
According to Board President Tim Smock, the shelter was started back in 2008 after many years of hard work and planning by several local visionaries.
“One of the visionaries that saw this need was Dr. Brandon Mills with Thompson Creek Animal Hospital; he along with a group of other people in the early 2000s and in 2005 they got together and planned for this shelter,” Smock said. “We opened on April 1 of 2008, so it was about a three-year period where they were trying to raise money and see what it was going to look like.”
In the 15 years since the shelter first opened, he said, the humane society has accomplished a great deal in the community, including helping get an anti-tethering ordinance in the county, opening its resale shop to support the shelter and making community members more aware of the need to spay and neuter their pets.
“Making the county more aware of the need to spay and neuter, especially in a rural community, that has been a significant project,” Smock said. “We’ve had volunteers even go into the elementary schools and talk to the kids about that.”
Another huge task that the shelter has accomplished in 15 years, immediate past board president and current board member Carolyn Bowen said, is gaining the distinction of being a no-kill shelter.
“We’re very proud of becoming a no-kill shelter; we started in 2011 and you have to go one year before you’re fully certified so we were able to say we’re no-kill in early 2012,” Bowen said.
As of the end of 2022, the shelter hit another significant goal: adopting out a total of 10,000 dogs and cats into new, loving homes.
"The Atlanta Humane Society was founded in the late 1800s, Northeast Georgia Humane Society was founded almost 100 years ago and Forsyth County Humane Society is over 40; we’re just celebrating our 15th year so we’re relatively young,” Smock said. “For us being in Dawson, this being our 15th year having a shelter, to have done 10,000 adoptions is remarkable.”
Executive Director Jason Hutcherson has served with the organization for eight years, during which time the shelter has adopted out 6,000 of its 10,000 adoptions. He said that hitting this huge milestone is significant for him and for everyone else involved with the shelter.
“It’s emotional because I’m excited for them to be in their forever homes and live their best lives,” Hutcherson said. “We always love when people come to us at different local events and when people come to visit the shelter or send us pictures of their pets. It’s so exciting and rewarding. There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve done everything you could for these animals.”
Both Bowen and Smock echoed Hutcherson’s excitement at reaching this milestone, recounting stories of long-time shelter animals finally getting adopted and the joy on each family’s face upon taking their new furry friend home.
“I love the joy, especially with off-site adoptions that we do at Petco and Petsmart, when a family comes in and they light up and the dog or cat lights up too when they see them and the family walks out with that animal,” Smock said. “In Dawson County, we’re very blessed to have a very much dog-loving, animal-loving, cat-loving community; we’ve had great volunteers over these years.”
The Dawson County Humane Society is unique, he added, in that it is a nonprofit organization that works with the county, so the shelter takes in animals that are rescued by animal control. Because the shelter is a no-kill shelter, this means that sometimes animals may end up staying at the shelter a little longer before being adopted, but in 2022 alone they managed to adopt out eight of these “long-timer” animals.
Moving forward, the humane society hopes to be able to expand its shelter capacity and services, in order to continue adopting out animals into the community.
“It’s a juggling challenge as far as capacity, so as we look forward the board is examining our expansion options and we have very preliminary plans on what that expansion may look like, but we know that to meet the county needs we need to add kennel space, we want to expand our clinic capacity and capabilities and we need a new adoption center as well as additional office space,” Smock said.
Anyone wishing to help out the Humane Society can consider adopting a pet, volunteering their time at the shelter or the resale shop or donating to the organization.
“Our mission is three-fold–to take in as many as we can, care for them the best that we can and try to find them the best home that we can,” Hutcherson said. “Everybody’s role here contributes to that in some manner, from the pooper-scooper to the adoption team.”
Smock added his thanks to the Dawson County community for its support over the past 15 years.
"To have adopted 10,000 animals into the community, and the majority of the people who adopt are from Dawson County, it’s nice to have that in the community,” Smock said. “We’re always hearing stories from people about the difference in their lives that their adopted animal has made and the joy that their animal has brought into our lives so that’s always meaningful to hear.”