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Friday, August 21, 2009 - 11:16am

Massive Animal Rescue Effort Swings Into Georgia

A coalition of animal rescue groups wants to bring awareness to Georgia’s overcrowded animal shelters. That’s the aim of a massive animal adoption and food drive that arrived in north Georgia on Friday.

Organizers of the Georgia Puppy Caravan say the state is in the top-10 nationwide when it comes to unwanted pets. That’s why they traveled from New Jersey down into Georgia to bring tons of food and supplies for shelters in need, and to begin the process of transferring hundreds of dogs and cats.

On Friday, Lisa Adinolfi and members of the Caravan cleared a Chattooga County shelter of 100 dogs and cats:

"These animals today are going into quarantine and then they will be transported to rescues up-and-down the northeast."

Caravan organizers say theirs is the largest pet rescue mission in the state’s history. As much for pet transfer, the effort is also to bring awareness to the need for people to get their pets spayed and neutered.

Shelters across Georgia are overflowing, especially in rural counties. Susan Fornash is director of Madison County’s Animal Shelter. She says her facility has taken-in more than 600 animals in only the past two months alone.

Fornash points to several factors that have created Georgia’s critical problem of crowded shelters--including a lack of local funding for services and the economic downturn:

“Adoptions are down...surrenders are up. Donations are down, but yet we’re getting all of these animals turned into us that we’re trying to help.”

Fornash says in the case of Madison County, an animal services division opened only a few years ago, but funding only allows for a single officer. She also points to a lack of enforcement of local laws, such as leash ordinances, adding to the problem. But most importantly, she stresses the need that people must absolutely spay and neuter their pets.

Georgia’s Department of Agriculture oversees the Dog and Cat Sterilization Program. It allows for residents to buy special animal-themed license plates. Money collected goes toward spay and neutering services.

David York with the Georgia Puppy Caravan says 200 dogs and cats picked up across the state are ready to be transported north to adoptive homes. The effort will also distribute more than 20 tons of food to shelters across Georgia.