A cute dog or cat can bring a smile to even the angriest constituent.

That may not be the reason Mayor John Ernst decided at the beginning of his term last year to begin each City Council meeting with a photo and description of one of the many animals up for adoption by LifeLine Animal Project, the nonprofit organization that manages animal services for DeKalb and Fulton counties. But it doesn’t hurt.

Mayor John Ernst with his two sons, Jack and Evan, and Great Dane Apollo, in a photograph from three years ago.

“It’s a good starting point for every meeting,” said Ernst, an animal lover whose family includes a Great Dane by the name of Apollo. “It changes things up … and puts everyone in a good mood.”

Ann Marie Quill, the city’s Communications Manager and also an animal lover, is tasked with selecting a pet from LifeLine to highlight at the start of each council meeting. She said she likes to pick one with a sweet description written by one of the agency’s volunteers.

“It started with one of the mayor’s first meetings, and as an animal lover and proponent of rescue pets, it was his idea,” she said. “As LifeLine manages DeKalb’s shelter, we thought they would be an appropriate organization to feature.”

LifeLine has brought a dog to the council chambers a couple of times, and Ernst said he hopes more animals will be brought to future meetings.

“I like the idea of getting your dogs from the animal shelter and Lifeline is trying to make this a no-kill county,” Ernst said. Apollo was not rescued from an animal shelter, but was rescued in bad shape from a breeder.

“LifeLine has lots of great dogs and kitties and we want to help as many as we can,” he said.

Whether or not a pet has actually been adopted by a Brookhaven resident sitting in on a council meeting or watching it online on the city’s website is not known.

“It doesn’t matter because I’d still do it,” Ernst said. “It’s about creating awareness for Lifeline.”

LifeLine manages its own private shelter in Avondale Estates, where it places some 500 dogs and cats each year. LifeLine began managing the Fulton and DeKalb animal shelters in 2013.

According to its website, LifeLine cares for more than 29,500 animals each year. In 2013, lifesaving rates of animals at the shelters were 39 percent in Fulton and 61 percent in DeKalb; currently that rate is at 89 percent, according to LifeLine.

Over 13,000 animals were adopted, rescued or returned to their owners from the Fulton and DeKalb shelters in 2016, according to LifeLine. The DeKalb shelter is an open-admission shelter with an average intake of 30 new animals each day.

The annual Taste of Town Brookhaven is scheduled for May 20 at Town Brookhaven. Participants can taste food from more than 10 Town Brookhaven restaurants and also enjoy adult beverages, cooking demonstrations and live music, all while helping support LifeLine’s mission.

Taste of Town Brookhaven
Benefiting LifeLine Animal Project

Located on the green at Town Brookhaven on Peachtree Road, adjacent to Oglethorpe University, Saturday, May 20, 3 to 7 p.m. Advance tickets $20; $30 day of event.
Info: townbrookhaven.net

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.