After a gift-giving holiday, animal shelters, alas, receive an increase in surrendered pets. Pets require a huge commitment that includes the time and costs of training, food, and medical care. When families underestimate the time and costs involved in pet ownership, they often believe that turning the fur baby over to an animal shelter is their only choice.

The Cherokee County Animal Shelter, however, wants to help pet owners understand their other options. Animal Shelter Director Susan Garcia reminds pet owners that animals depend entirely on their humans to do what’s best for the pet’s future. Because county shelters can be overwhelmed by unwanted or homeless animals, Susan says surrendering a pet to a shelter should be a last resort.

Although the Cherokee County Animal Shelter works to save any healthy or treatable pet that passes a behavior assessment, Susan explains, “Any pet surrendered to a county shelter is at risk of being euthanized.” She and other experts recommend that rather than resort to the shelter, owners should try solutions such as behavior training, dog-walking/play services, re-homing programs, and assistance with veterinary care and pet food, if needed.

Sit, Stay, Fido

When it comes to making themselves at home, new pets and their new pet parents can have a tough time adjusting. The humans that belong to these pets need to respond with patience and some basic pet-training knowledge. The Cherokee County Animal Shelter offers training for any puppy or dog adopted through its facility. Susan says, “The key to training is to train positively and be consistent.”

Teaching dogs basic manners such as sit, stay, come, and potty training are specialties of the nonprofit Georgia Dog Advocates. Owner and full-time dog advocate Lisa Pelletier retired from law enforcement in 2013 to dedicate her time to helping area dogs. “Our organization is happy to help with the basics, and if we can’t help, we refer to a trainer,” Lisa says. “We never recommend aversive methods, prongs, or shocks. A professional trainer who uses reward-based, positive methods and who gets the entire family involved is helpful,” Lisa continues, “but when it’s not affordable, many helpful websites and Facebook groups can assist too.”

Pet advocate and volunteer Kathy Russell has been working to save and re-home animals in Cherokee County for twelve years. She recommends new owners have realistic expectations. Families bringing in a new pet should expect challenges and some disruption to life as they’ve known it.

For the first three days in a new place, a pet feels overwhelmed and uncomfortable and may not be willing to eat or drink normally. It may require as many as three weeks for a pet to “settle in” initially and understand a daily routine. Many pets don’t fully acclimate to a new home for up to three months, during which time pet parents should be closely watching for common behavioral issues to pop up.

Like Lisa, Kathy says that trainers who use positive reinforcement are most effective, but if all else fails, new pet owners should not be afraid to contact the dog’s original rescue organization or breeder for assistance. She also reminds owners to consult a trusted veterinarian to ensure that pet-behavior issues are not related to a medical issue. “We have seen a lot of people make knee-jerk decisions based on one bad behavior episode and regret it after the fact,” Kathy says.

The staff of the animal shelter and local rescues want new pet families to succeed, says Jenn Kandt, a volunteer with Ruff Redemption rescue. “Part of our mission,” Jenn says, “is educating and supporting those who rescue. If you adopted your pet, check your adoption agreement,” Jenn advises. “Most rescues have a policy that they will help families find resources to help keep the pet in the home. But if all else fails, most rescues also require the pet be brought back to the organization they came from versus surrendering it to the shelter or rehoming.”

Walk the Dog; Entertain the Cat

According to the Cherokee County Animal Shelter website, “just fifteen to twenty minutes of play or mental stimulation each day” is enough to curb bursts of energy and limit mischief. Consider family walks each evening with a new dog, and stock up on interesting toys and feeders for both dogs and cats. Pet proof your home, just as you would for a newly mobile human baby, to avoid destroyed shoes, handbags, and lunchboxes. Don’t be afraid to use baby gates or positively crate-train while everyone learns to adjust.

Photo by <a href="">Mark Zamora</a> on <a href="">Unsplash</a>

Photo by Mark Zamora on Unsplash


Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Programs

Contact each for eligibility requirements 

CatSnip Spay Neuter Services of Georgia

Cherokee County Humane Society

Spay-Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-cost sliding scale programs for county residents based on income eligibility.

The Georgia Animal Project
770-704-PAWS (7297)

Spay Neuter Vets

Lower Cost Microchips and Vaccines

These organizations hold periodic free and/or low-cost microchip and vaccine clinics. Check for schedules.

Cherokee County Animal Shelter

Cherokee County Humane Society

Express Vets
678-402-8717 (Holly Springs)
678-493-5288 (Canton)

Pet Shots Express

Pet Food Assistance

Cherokee County Animal Shelter Food Pantry
1015 Univeter Road, Canton
Donations of any brand and size dry cat or dog food accepted. Donations are used to support those with Cherokee County residency having trouble affording pet food. Pets being supported should be spayed/neutered or will be referred to Georgia Animal Project low-cost clinic. People receiving pet-food assistance should not add any additional pets to their home. 

Georgia Dog Advocates  

Pet Buddies

Pet Supermarket, Towne Lake
This Pet Supermarket location accepts new and opened but fresh pet-food donations and distributes them through Never Alone food pantry ( in Woodstock.

Find a Trainer

Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
Click “Find a Dog Trainer” to choose a certified professional.

Rehoming Assistance

Georgia Dog Advocates  

Responsibly Re-home a Pet 

Purebred Rescue Groups

Local Pet Organizations

Looking for pet advice or to foster, adopt, volunteer, or donate? Check out these local pet organizations.  

Amazing Mutts & Wiggle Butts  

Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, Inc.  

Cherokee County Animal Shelter

Ruff Redemption

Considerations Before Pet Adoption  

Lisa Pelletier with nonprofit Georgia Dog Advocates shares the following factors to consider before bringing home a furry family member: 

  • Be prepared for a ten- to fifteen-year commitment. 
  • Understand the size your pet will be when its fully grown.  
  • Research breed characteristics and energy levels.  
  • Be honest about how much time you have to spend with a pet.  
  • Know whether your new pet will need a groomer. 
  • Be aware that many dog adoption centers require that you have a fenced yard. 
  • Dogs need to be walked multiple times a day. 
  • Know whether anyone in your household has allergies. 
  • Understand the budget: an average, medium-sized dog will cost about $1,500 a year for treats, toys, high-quality food, flea/tick/heartworm prevention, and an annual vet visit. Budgeting should also consider the costs for grooming and for emergencies such as ear infections, internal obstructions, injuries, or dental work.



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