Atlanta animal shelters keeping pets occupied during extreme heat

Atlanta pet shelters working to keep animals cool
Published: Jun. 15, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The extreme hot weather is forcing animal shelters to switch up their daily routines. Long afternoon walks are on standby. Instead of the regular physical activity, staff and volunteers are getting creative with playtime.

On a normal afternoon, one of the many outdoor play areas at the Atlanta Humane Society would be filled dogs getting their exercise. But with temperatures reaching into the upper 90′s this week, volunteers are finding other ways to keep them occupied.

Retirement gave Laurie Dodorico extra free time, so she volunteers at the shelter twice a week.

“Whatever they’ve gone through before they come here, they just, you can see how much they appreciate the love and care and the attention that they get,” said Dodorico.

This week all that attention looks a little different. Those daily, long walks outside are being scaled back due to the extreme heat. A tiny pool is a welcome addition to one of the shelter’s outdoor play areas.

“We try to avoid the hot pavement. Luckily here most of the play yards have trees so there’s some nice shade,” said Dodorico.

On any given day the staff and volunteers are caring for hundreds of dogs and cats, many of which have behavioral and a variety of medical needs. So, the added pressure of a heat wave creates added concern.

“Making sure there’s plenty of water. So, there’s water bowls all over. Making sure the animals are spending as much time inside with enrichment. So, we got a lot of frozen treats for them,” said Christina Hill, associate vice president of marketing and communications at the Atlanta Humane Society.

Playtime inside happens under massive air conditioning units. Every kennel-space is kept cool. In each stall with the dogs is plenty of fresh water, and a variety of stimulating toys.

“It’s really important to limit the time outside with your pets. You know, we have these fantastic outdoor runs, but you know, we’re limiting a lot of animals – their run time. And we’re really trying to stimulate them mentally with enrichment toys,” said Hill.

Volunteers are trained to be on the lookout for the signs of heat stroke in dogs. They watch for; excessive panting or difficulty breathing, excessive drooling, and bright red, gray, purple, or bluish gums.

For Dodorico, one of the nearly 1,000 volunteers at the shelter, she says she just loves to give back and encourages other to do the same.

“Especially when you see certain dogs really transform and know that you’ve been a part of it,” said Dodorico.

To volunteer at the Atlanta Humane Society you can visit their website here - Atlanta Humane Society