20 dogs scheduled for euthanasia saved at overcrowded Clayton County shelter

Twenty dogs at Clayton County animal shelters faced the prospect of being euthanized this week. But the pooches were spared because of an outpouring of rescues, animal control officials announced Thursday.

“There has been an amazing turnout from citizens and rescue groups to assist our animals here in Clayton County,” a department statement said.

Animal control issued an emergency plea late Tuesday, saying the agency’s headquarters and adoption center, where stray and owner-released animals are housed, were overcrowded. At least 20 dogs in animal control’s care were in jeopardy of being put down Friday if no one committed to adopting or rescuing the animals, officials said in a news release.

Not only were all 20 dogs saved from that fate, the shelter said a record number of animals were either rescued, adopted or returned to their owners over a 48-hour span between Tuesday and Thursday. According to Clayton police Capt. Jodi Turnipseed, who oversees the animal control division, 36 dogs and 1 cat found homes over that time.

“If it wasn’t for the media groups and everyone pushing that message out, I don’t know if we could’ve done that,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a phone interview. “It helped us out tremendously because obviously, none of us want to have to euthanize dogs. We’re all animal lovers here.”

While the 20 dogs slated for euthanasia will get their freedom rides, Turnipseed said the facilities received 20 new animals over the same two-day span, and she reiterated the need for animal lovers and rescue groups to continue stepping up.

Officials said they’ve seen a deluge of pets adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic returned by their owners, many of whom sought companionship when they were out of work or had to work remotely.

“Now, people are finally going back to work and not having time for the animals,” Turnipseed said. “So we’re having this huge influx of animals that we didn’t have before.”

Without additional help from the community, the shelters’ 3% euthanasia rate is likely to increase.

Officials said some of the dogs that faced being put down this week have been at the shelters for extended periods, while others have special needs that could no longer be accommodated. A few were at great risk of becoming ill, according to animal control.

The county said it regularly asks rescuers for help with their most urgent cases, putting out a weekly list of dogs that have been at animal control facilities the longest. This week, Clayton set a hard deadline of 1 p.m. Thursday for the 20 dogs on the urgent list.

By Tuesday, there were commitments to save six of the dogs. An additional eight were checked off as “safe” as of 12:45 p.m. Thursday, and a statement issued by Turnipseed later that afternoon indicated all 20 dogs on the list had been spared, and then some.

“These animals are constantly being released by their owners to roam the streets freely, failing to have them spayed or neutered, thus allowing them to breed freely and over populate our communities unnecessarily,” she said in the statement. “We urgently need owners to step up and take responsibility for their pets. They are your four-legged children for the remainder of their lives, not (to be) discarded when they get sick, injured or (when you) no longer have time for them.”