The Gwinnett County's animal shelter is dangerously close to capacity, which means staff must euthanize several dogs to make room for more. The shelter relies on rescue groups to take many dogs and give them a fighting chance at adoption.
CBS 46 caught up with one particular rescue as it pulled out two dogs, and planned for a third.
Gwinnett County jail's "Jail Dogs" program chooses dogs most people overlook, the ones usually at the front of the death row line, so to speak.
Certified trainer Tricia Hall chose a scared and abused adult Chihuahua and an abandoned puppy Pit Bull mix Wednesday. She also said she'd be back for a white American Bulldog that had such a big scar on her back people often dismiss the dog, despite her being "very sweet and gentle."
"What we do at Jail Dogs is we see the beauty in all dogs. So let's give her a chance," Hall explained.
Hall teaches carefully-screened jail inmates how to work with the rescues. They assign each dog two handlers and keep 20 dogs at a time in the jail. The inmates then train and help strengthen the dogs so their chances of getting adopted increase.
Programs like this help the municipal shelter cut back on the number of animals it's forced to put down. Gwinnett County euthanized 2,467 animals last year.
"It's beneficial for everyone because the staff here really love the dogs and they wanna do the best they can to get the dogs out and safe," Hall said. "Our guys are very, very caring and gentle with the dogs. So, it's great for them and great for the dogs as well."
Jail Dogs just celebrated it's fourth year. The jail recently created a similar program for cats they rescue from the animal shelter. The female inmates train and nurture them.
The Gwinnett County animal shelter facility is forced to put down dogs when it's at capacity and the animal control director tells CBS 46 the place fills up about three times a week.
They take in hundreds of dogs each week and put thousands of them down each year.
The dogs range from stray or abandoned dogs to unwanted litters and dogs their owners no longer want.
"The fact of the matter is the building gets full," explained Chip Moore, manager at Gwinnett County Animal Welfare and Enforcement. "And we have to allow for the other animals that are coming in, we have to make space. And we do everything within our power not to euthanize."
Moore said puppies get adopted easily. It's the older and larger dogs who have trouble getting new homes. But really, they're all at risk every few days.
"There's no set formula. I can't tell you we have a dog and then two weeks from now it's gonna be euthanized. That's not the way we operate," Moore said. He added, "it's based off of how much interest the dog's been getting, how long it's been here."
He also stressed that putting down the pups is a job no one at the shelter enjoys. "It's never easy. It's very, very hard on the staff. I've seen grown men, 6 feet 4 inches crying their eyes out because they had to euthanize one. It's never easy."
That's why adoption is top priority for the shelter. The facility has bonding areas where you can spend time with a dog you're considering, because as Moore pointed out, it is a huge decision. After all, they do become members of our family.
"There are people who'll get a puppy not realizing that puppy's gonna grow up to be a 100 pound dog," Moore said. "Definitely adopt. But think about it and make an educated decision."
You can adopt a dog for $90 in Gwinnett County. They come spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and vaccinated. They update their website here daily with pictures of available dogs.
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