For the past decade, the homeless dogs and cats of Dawson County have been given a second chance at happy lives thanks to the efforts of the Dawson County Humane Society, which will be celebrating its 10th anniversary June 10.
It wasn’t an easy road to the momentous milestone. The society, which formed in 2002, didn’t open its shelter doors until 2008. After several years of fundraising efforts by the founders and supporters and a search for the perfect piece of property to build the animal shelter, the humane society finally made 633 Martin Road a permanent safe haven for Dawson County’s stray animals.
“It’s been a labor of love,” said society board President Carolyn Bowen. “We have very, very dedicated volunteers and supporters. None of this could have happened without the help of those volunteers and our supporters.”
In 2008, the humane society struck a deal with the Etowah Water and Sewer Authority and the county government. Etowah, which owned the property, entered a contract with the county to lease the land to them. In turn, the land was leased by the county to the humane society. Now, 10 years later, the humane society has purchased the land with grant funds and become the proud official owner of the property.
“We have a major donor who recently became concerned,” Bowen said. “She was investing a lot of money into the land and improvements of the shelter and the campus and she became concerned that we don’t own the land. She encouraged us to go ahead and purchase the land.”
An open house ceremony, ribbon cutting and a blessing of the land and animals will be held from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 at the shelter to celebrate the society’s first 10 years.
“It’ll be fun. It’s a big step. 10 years and the land and then all the improvements and stuff – we’re excited about it, really excited about it,” Bowen said.
Reverend David Jordan from Grace Presbyterian will be blessing the land and the animals at the shelter during the dedication ceremony at 3 p.m.
“Many times he has done a blessing of the animals here for the shelter and he makes really beautiful prayers for the animals,” Bowen said.
Director Jason Hutcherson has been at the shelter for three and a half years and is excited for the community to see the upgrades and renovations that have been completed over the past few years.
“The differences and changes have just been phenomenal,” Hutcherson said. “People have been great and I’m looking forward to the next 10 years.”
The staff and volunteers at the shelter will be offering tours to show off the recent renovations and upgrades. There will also be on-site adoptions for those looking to add a furry member to their family.
“Not only is it good for the animals but it’s good for the people,” Bowen said. “They bring so much love into a family. They become family members and they give so much in return for us giving them homes.”
As of May 31, 2018 the Dawson County Humane Society has found homes for 6,022 animals since the shelter opened.
The shelter is located at 633 Martin Road in Dawsonville, adjacent to Rock Creek Park.
The Dawson County Humane Society has accomplished a lot in the last 10 years. Here is a look back at their biggest achievements through the years:
· The Dawson County Humane Society was formed. The founders recognized a critical need to address Dawson County’s growing stray animal population and wanted to help create a solution.
· After years of fundraising and planning, the humane society opened its shelter doors for the first time in April 2008. They entered into a contract with Dawson County Animal Control to take in all stray animals from the county.
· The shelter sought to become a No-Kill Shelter and began working to meet the requirements. After successfully meeting the requirements for an entire year, the shelter was recognized as a No-Kill shelter in September 2012.
“We’re very proud that we became no-kill in 2011, which is very unusual for a shelter that takes animal control dogs and cats,” said Carolyn Bowen, Dawson County Humane Society board president.
The shelter is still No-Kill to this day.
· In 2012, the humane society established an on-site surgical unit and opened the Puppy House for the youngest fur-legged residents at the shelter.
· The offsite Humane Society Resale Shop & Boutique, located at Lumpkin Campground Road, opened its doors. The store has no paid staff; it is run completely by 35-40 active volunteers. Proceeds from the donated items from the community completely go towards the animals.
· The shelter also paid off the construction loan to Noblin Estate.
· The shelter underwent major renovations in 2016. A roof was added to the outside area of the Puppy House to provide additional shelter for the puppies so they could enjoy more time outside. The floor of the Puppy House was also replaced and stainless steel cages were added.
The outside dog intake area was renovated and expanded from four kennels to 20 and three runs to seven, allowing the shelter to take in more big dogs and providing ample room for the dogs during the 10-day intake process.
· The humane society also originated a no cost spay/neuter program for Dawson County residents that are clients of DFCS and for active military families. They also offer low cost spay/neuter services.
· The humane society played an instrumental part in the passing of the county anti-tethering ordinance in January 2018.
· The shelter expanded its cat rooms by switching the large board room with the small cat room. “We don’t have as big a board room as we did before and a break room but it’s still sufficient,” Bowen said.
The cats now enjoy a spacious indoor area full of toys and comfy beds as well as a new screened in outdoor space where they can soak up the sun and come and go from the inside area as they please.
· The shelter purchased the land from Etowah Water Authority. They also purchased a new adoption van.
· Adoption efforts have also been expanded in 2018 as the shelter now holds adoptions at PetSmart and Petco in Dawsonville and PetSmart in Cumming every weekend.