Atlanta Humane Society Passing Over Atlanta’s Shelter Pets While Importing Animals

The second part of the local Fox affiliate’s investigation into the Atlanta Humane Society aired last night.  Reporter Randy Travis delivered another outstanding piece, this time looking at where AHS gets its animals.  With 50,000 pets killed each year in Atlanta area pounds, there surely is a need to get animals pulled from these places and rehomed.  Despite a claim on the AHS website which leads people to believe that its animals are local pets in need, Mr. Travis found out that AHS pulls only 7% of its pets from metro pounds.  It gets most of its pets from other states and even the Bahamas.

Screengrab from the Atlanta Humane Society website (click to enlarge). It reads, in part: "But most of all, when you adopt a rescue dog, you have the ability to bond with one of Atlanta's forgotten and neglected animals."

Remember the VP of Operations, Richard “Look – a puppy!” Rice, from the last report?  He’s in this one too – well, his back, mostly.  Mr. Travis learned that Richard Rice was taking trips to New Orleans regularly to supervise the transfer of pets from shelters there to his facility.  Donors give nearly $4 million a year to AHS and those donations presumably paid for these N’awlins junkets.  Mr. Rice is reportedly on administrative leave right now, pending an internal investigation at AHS.  I suppose donors are picking up the tab for that too.  After AHS gets done playing Mardi Gras and investigating itself (Gee, I wonder what the result will be?), maybe it can pull some pets off death row at the local pound.  I mean, if there’s any money left over.

If you are on Facebook, show the reporter some love by commenting on his story.  He’s earned it.

24 thoughts on “Atlanta Humane Society Passing Over Atlanta’s Shelter Pets While Importing Animals

  1. Fulton County Animal Services is only only a couple of miles away from the Atlanta Humane Society. I went to both places yesterday to help a family member pick out a dog to adopt. It is truly a shame if they are not pulling from kill shelters in their own neighborhood.

  2. Rescue dogs and cats make the best pets if you are thinking of adopting. They sense you selected them and are just looking for a forever home. Guests love our innkitty Moose!

    1. No. They don’t. It depends on the family and their needs. The guilt-tripping needs to stop. Shelter and rescue dogs are great, but are NOT for everyone. Purebreds exist for a reason and there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a dog from a responsible breeder. Flat statements like yours really do nothing to advance the cause of shelter animals.

      1. And your reply is a great example of the kind of divisive, brutal nastiness that doesn’t help get your point across in a positive manner. You did nothing to advance the cause of anything. Thanks so much to turning someone who already cares about animals off learning more about what she can do in the future.

      2. Thank you, Kate, for saying so well what I was thinking. My first thought about foxstudio’s post was “angry breeder”! Not sure where the anger is coming from, but I agree with what you have said. Lost opportunity to make a positive point.

      3. Personally, I’d take a Heniz 57 from a shelter any day over a pure breed. Greedy breeders have cross-bred so much for looks, genetic defects are generally expected in them today.

        Shelter dogs ARE grateful & they do understand they are chosen because you care, not because they look perfect. I know that first hand many times.

      4. Why would you need to get a purebred dog from a breeder? There are TONS of breed rescues out there and tons of purebreds in shelters! We get purebreds in all the time – so feel free to bpass those breeders and find your purebred puppy in a shelter or a rescue!

      5. As I read the other 4 replies here, I read divisive slurs of anyone or any dog that is not from a shelter. Is that what this is really about? It’s about the source of a dog rather than the dog?

        I was under the mistaken impression that every dog deserves a good home-no matter the source. No matter if is a Heinz 57 or a mix of two purebreds acquired from a breeder, shelter, or at some adopt-a-thon whereby the shelter is competing from a prize from ASPCA. I was under the impression that dogs feel safe and secure when someone treats them with kindness, feeds them, and provides clean and comfortable shelter. Perhaps I was wrong.

    1. As I read Shaheen’s statements, he’s claiming AHS complied with disease reporting requirements, while at the same time saying, “From now on, we’ll make sure the reports are actually received.” He doesn’t address the fact that AHS was not listed on the forms that the reporter, Randy Travis, saw. So IMO what he’s really saying is that, yes, they failed to report contagious diseases in their shelter.

      Where failing to pull from local shelters is concerned, Shaheen claims that their approach is to view themselves as being the major adoption center for the Southeast. By my reading, he’s thereby acknowledging that AHS does not pull very much from the kill shelters right in their own city. That’s inexcusable.

      Very telling to me are the comments on the FB page for the reporter, Randy Travis. The Atlanta rescue community is weighing in very explicitly about AHS. It’s the same old story. The local humane societies and SPCAs, who have the most money in donations and claim to be the major players in saving animals, are letting their communities down. And the rescue community — composed of small, hardworking, cash-strapped groups — is doing the heavy lifting to save local pets. All the while, the taxpayer-supported pounds are killing animals that they could save if they implemented the No Kill Equation.

      Atlanta could be Anycity, USA.

  3. The Atlanta Humane Society should actually be called the Atlanta Pet Store. They are not about saving pets but about shopping far and wide for the cutest fluffiest puppies to sell to their donors. They have learned that this is what brings in money-donations and adoption fees!

  4. This problem is not limited to Atlanta HS; it occurs everywhere, including in Wisconsin where I live. I am vehemently opposed to importing dogs, especially pit bulls (I LOVE pits), from out of state when dogs die here because of lack of space or their time runs out? What, you can’t find a pit puppy here?

    Certain shelters and rescue import truckloads of dogs on a monthly bases from out of state while other dogs dies every day at WI shelters. It’s a great marketing ploy to say “look, we’ve saved “x” number of dogs from Missouri” but they never say that “x” number were euthanized to make room. The PetsMart Charity Wagon program is a prime example of this. Two shelters in Wisconsin get in 100+ dogs a month,which means 100+ dogs IN Wisconsin won’t be helped.

    Does PetsMart have spay/neuter programs in place to help with pet overpopulation control? No,they just send the problem to other states. PetsMart should be Pet Smart.

    Charity starts at home; fix the problem in your own backyard first. Then go on to save the world. The public needs to wake up.

    1. I can think of some circumstances where importing animals would be a good thing. For example, a puppy mill bust in an area where the local shelter is not equipped to care for the number of dogs seized and other shelters offer to help. But in a general sense, I agree that helping locally is a good place to start.

  5. This identical, controversial practice has been going on in Maine for years. Tens of thousands of dogs and puppies have been imported into Maine for tax-free sale by Maine’s privately-run shelters.

    When did it become the mission of shelters to satisfy the public’s demand for pets?

    When you consider that these same privately-run shelters in Maine supported so much regressive anti-breeder legislation in Maine that the radical Animal Legal Defense Fund now rates Maine’s dog breeding laws as number two in the nation, then you begin to understand the larger controversy taking place here.

  6. Pet Stores have been eliminated as sources for pet dogs. Now the shelters are filling that role. Instead of saving local dogs, they are importing them from out of state & out of country— Encouraging commerical breeders;not encouraging spay
    &neuter programs, not promoting responsible dog ownership.They do this while professing to finding loving homes, but they certainly are making a hugh profit. Warm & fuzzy sells—truth oftens comes across as uncaring, hard-nosed, & self-centered. This is a severe public health issue, a threat to our domestic animals, & to our wildlife. Many parasites & diseases are being shipped into our state that did not exist here. Congrats to the news reporter for having the courage to investigate, film, & make public this valuable infro.

    1. While a number of pet stores have closed, it’s only because of the economic climate. There a a lot of them that are paring their staff, and not vaccinating and doing no health care at all (compared to the minimal things they did in better times), but they’re still around. As soon as the economic picture improves, however long that takes, they will come roaring back because enough shelters are NOT filling that role.

      And your comment about importing dogs being “a severe public health issue, a threat to our domestic animals, & to our wildlife” is absurd hyperbole at best and ignorance of science at worst. The biggest cause of the spread of parasites is global warming, which dogs have no control over. Yes, some dogs will carry ticks when they travel, with families on vacation or relocation, or in transport to other shelters, but their numbers – and the pests they might carry – are not a huge problem. The biggest parasite issue causing a “severe public health threat” in the US today is bedbugs, carried by humans.

      And yes, kudos to the reporter on the investigation. However, the valuable public info that’s being shared is just about the death of local pets and the sleazy fundraising tactics of the AHS. It’s not like dogs from New Orleans and dogs from Georgia would have different kinds of fleas or ticks, and heartworm is endemic to the entire South (and most of the US).

    2. Shelters don’t make “huge profits” off of adoption fees. They barely cover the cost of caring for the animals before they are adopted, and unlike pet stores, most shelters do encourage spaying and neutering and responsible pet ownership. I don’t know what you mean when you say shelters are encouraging breeders.

      I don’t really see what the problem is with “importing” dogs. AHS is the only organization in the Southeast that has both the shelter space and vehicles required to help with large-scale rescue operations. My understanding is that AHS doesn’t usually pull from shelters itself but works with smaller rescue groups who pull from shelters, mainly ones in impoverished areas in the South that are not serviced by an animal control agency or with a small human population that cannot absorb the pet population. Also, as an Atlanta native with shelter experience, I can attest to the fact that the Fulton County shelter is frequented by several of the dozens of smaller rescue organizations in Atlanta, who pull the most adoptable dogs for free and then charge adopters upwards of $250 to adopt from them. Why should AHS take the pit mixes that are left any more than the small rescue groups? And charity starts at home, but the truth is that much of the rural south is poor and uneducated about spay/neuter and basic care. I have seen animals pulled from some horrible situations down here, and I don’t fault organizations for not discriminating based on gerographic boundaries when animals or people are in need. They may not be “Atlanta’s forgotten and neglected animals” when they are picked up in New Orleans, Alabama, Florida, or wherever, but they are once they get here. Nothing is perfect, but I doubt these reports will do anything other than scare people away from adopting a shelter dog, and that’s the real shame.

  7. How has anyone or group managed to have the shelter investigated? I have been trying for months to have an internal investigation of a shelter in my area and just keep coming up against brick walls.

    1. AHS is a private organization, not a county shelter, so other than the inspections it must undergo under the law pertaining to shelters, no, it won’t be “investigated.”

  8. It’s complicated. There were so many animals left behind and homeless from the Hurricanes in NO, and probably all of you posting here, like me, were heartbroken and praying that someone somewhere would be doing something for them. It was unbearable to watch. Now that it wasn’t done and gone in 60 seconds, but has taken place over time we’ve already forgotten, and start calling transportation trips to get more abandoned pets and bring them here, “junkets.” Really? Many times I’ve done what we call “rescue taxi service” for just 3 dogs at a time from one state line to the next, and that was grueling enough — I can assure it was hardly party time. But anyway, I guess now those animals are not on nightly TV anymore so it’s out of sight, out of mind. I’m not saying I endorse AHS not taking local admissions, IF that’s true, but I’m not forgetting what I witnessed and what I donated funds for either. So I’m not going to chastise AHS for following through on whatever commitments it made to the NO animal rescue community. I wouldn’t expect anything less. And yes, rescue groups do pull their breeds from shelters “for free” and then adopt them out for $250 on up. But do you know how much the average rescue dog costs a rescue group? Unlike shelters, a rescue group doesn’t hand you an “as-is” dog and some coupons. If the dog has heartworms, it is treated. If it has kennel cough, it is treated. All preventive tests and all shots to-date are given. The dog is groomed and, if needed mattes and tangles are cut out, wounds dressed and treated, and ticks are pulled, then flea and tick preventive is started. That’s when the dog is ready — and the adopter gets all that for $250. The rescue group I’ve worked with may easily spend $5000 on one dog they picked up from rural GA with a host of problems and a broken leg or, as is increasing common a couple of shot gun wounds, almost always half-starved, but they will not say NO. So stop picking on these places needing some funds to survive. My God, if it helps get the animals they have through to see another day and have 1 more possible chance at being adopted, then that’s good news.

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