Courtesy LifeLine

LifeLine Animal Project was started in 2002 to end the unnecessary euthanasia of stray animals. But if adoption rates in DeKalb and Fulton do not increase soon, they may be forced to do just that.

LifeLine received a contract from DeKalb and Fulton counties in 2013 to manage their animal services shelters. There are currently about 1,000 animals in need of adoption across these two counties alone, and DeKalb has over 600 dogs when it should have about 400.

Furthermore, adoption rates have decreased 30% over the last two years. They are currently housing the overflow population in a temporary shelter in Midtown, but the situation is not sustainable.

Heather Friedman, Chief Marketing Officer of the LifeLine Animal Project, attributes it at least in part to the rising cost of care for both humans and animals.

“Whenever humans can’t care for themselves, they can’t care for pets either,” she said.

Atlanta had the fifth-highest rate of inflation in 2022, and the average cost of living is 2% higher than the national average. Part of LifeLine’s mission has been to provide services to low-income communities that make having a pet more affordable.

At their Healthy Pet events, the organization distributes free collars and leashes and give vouchers for free microchipping, spaying, and neutering. Furthermore, they also have volunteers who go door-to-door looking for pet owners to help and can even pick up and drop off a pet for spaying and neutering. Friedman believes these programs are of great importance.

“If we can provide affordable care to our community, then our families can stay together with our pets,” which ultimately keeps them out of shelters, she said.

Friedman also stressed the importance of ensuring that lost pets do not end up in the shelters.

“A lot of people think the best thing they can do is bring that [lost] animal to the shelter, but most dogs are found only a mile away from home,” she said.

Meanwhile, the shelters can be much farther from the pet’s home and the owners may not know they are even there. Friedman advised that anyone who finds a lost pet to keep it for 48 hours and attempt to find the owner. She suggested taking photos and posting them on Nextdoor, as well as asking around the neighborhood.

“Kids always know whose dog is whose,” she laughed.

LifeLine also has pages on what to do if you have either lost or found a pet. They are also part of Petco’s LoveLost, a lost pet facial recognition program which aims to reunite pets with their owners through uploading photos of lost pets.

But the organization needs more help than simply ensuring that more animals do not end up in their care. Ultimately, they need more people to adopt pets. During the summer, they run Free Dog Fridays, where all dogs over 25 pounds have their adoption fees waived every Friday.

Friedman also expressed that they have short-term foster programs as well as trial adoptions and encourages people to “give shelter pets a chance when you’re considering [getting a pet]” as opposed to buying from breeders. All pets in their shelters are spayed or neutered as well as microchipped.

“There is no shortage of ways that our community can come together to save these animals,” Friedman said.

Madison Auchincloss is an editorial intern for Rough Draft Atlanta and a student at the University of Michigan.