For more information, contact:
* Humane Society of Forsyth County animal shelter, (770) 887-6480 or www.forsythpets.com
* Forsyth County Animal Shelter, (770) 888-2500 or www.petfinder.com/shelters/GA269
The economic downturn may be to blame for an increase in dogs and cats taking up residence at the Humane Society of Forsyth County animal shelter.
But by the same token, society president Tim Link said, adoptions and the number of foster families taking care of abandoned animals also have risen.
"We're kind of an anomaly in the fact that our adoption numbers have actually gone up this year and the number of animals that we have taken in has gone up as well," he said. "Unlike a lot of my colleagues at other rescue groups, their (adoption) numbers are kind of down because of the economy."
Link said the society's no-kill shelter is always at peak capacity.
"The shelter holds a little over 20 dogs and a little over 30 cats at any given time, but our foster homes have doubled in the past year which means we've grown," he said.
Link said the shelter has gone from having about 30 foster homes for dogs and 30 for cats to having about 60 foster homes for dogs and 100 foster homes for cats.
Although it is illegal to just drop animals off at the shelter, Link said last month someone left a dog and six puppies on the society's doorstep. About a month before that, three cats and a litter of kittens were abandoned.
Link said the shelter receives 15 to 20 calls a day from people wanting to drop their animals off or asking about having them placed in another home.
"If it is a situation where we're just full, which is usually the case, we'll put them on a waiting list and then what we'll do is try to help the family maintain the animal," Link said.
The society provides food and medical care until the animal can be placed, which Link said "seems to help a little bit."
Forsyth County Sheriff's Lt. David Waters said the animal control unit hasn't seen a significant increase in abandoned pets.
"We do have issues with abandoned animals, but it's more when a tenant gets evicted. You can associate that with the economy I guess," he said. "But we've not experienced any type of increase with that."
Waters said if animal control is called out to pick up a stray dog or cat, the animal is taken to the Forsyth County Animal Shelter.
If information is available, staff will try to contact the owners. If not, the animals are put up for adoption.
Animals not claimed or adopted from the county shelter are eventually euthanized.
Unfortunately, not all animal hardships end in abandonment.
The Forsyth County News has received several reports recently about alleged animal cruelty.
A caller last week offered an emotional account, saying she witnessed someone push a dog out of a car on Browns Bridge Road. Within minutes, the dog had been struck and killed by another vehicle.
Waters was not aware of that particular incident, but said he hopes the resident reported what she saw. It could be a case of animal cruelty, which his department takes seriously.
"If we ever see any type of animal cruelty, they're prosecuted to the hilt," he said.
In a separate incident, a teenager who lives on Keith Bridge Road reported Dec. 12 that a neighbor had shot her dog.
According to a sheriff's report, the girl said she heard the gunshot and looked out from her porch where "she saw the family dog in the next door neighbor's yard, running back towards her house."
She then saw her neighbor leave in his pickup truck.
The deputy noted that the dog was a yellow Labrador mix and the wounds, on its right hindquarters, appeared to be from birdshot from a shotgun. The dog's right ear also was injured.
The neighbor was not home when the deputy went to his house to investigate the incident, the report said.
Animal control also deals with creatures like bears and snakes, which wouldn't likely be kept as pets.
"We do have coyotes in this area, but not more than any other county," he said, adding that occasionally animal control is called to northern Forsyth when horses and cattle get loose from farms in the area.
The economic downturn has hit the horse community particularly hard. On average, owning a horse costs at least five times as much as taking care of a dog.
And while a dog or cat always can be taken to an animal shelter if necessary, there is no convenient place where someone can simply drop off an unwanted horse.
Financially struggling owners can be charged with neglect if they keep a horse on their property, but stop paying for feed and veterinary care.
Cheryl Flanagan, director of the Horse Rescue, Relief and Retirement Fund, a Forsyth County nonprofit group, has taken in about 100 horses.
She has said her priority is making sure that horses are safe, and she won't turn away one that's in a dire situation.
Debbie Gilbert of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.