Shelter Medicine Symposium

by Amanda Newsom

This February, I attended the University of Georgia Veterinary Medicine’s Shelter Medicine Symposium, which is organized by UGA CVM Shelter Medicine Club students. This conference is meant to “provide educational resources to those outside of a university setting to further veterinary education as it relates to animal health in shelters.” 

I came with my shelter background in mind to see what kind of information I could bring away that would be useful to Classic City Paw Print readers as well as shelter/rescue volunteers and workers, and these are some of my big takeaways:



Dr. Staci Cannon, Medical Director of Nashville Metro Area Animal Care and Control, packed a lot of good info into an hour, starting with this stat: less than 20 percent of strays in the United States are returned to their owners, as a national average. [Do I really need to make another PSA about microchipping your pets and making sure they always wear a collar with an ID tag?]

She discussed a five-question protocol for medical advisors to ask themselves of each animal in a shelter on their rounds to help uncover any potential issues. While they seem simple and obvious, it’s a nice habit for even volunteers to get in the habit of when visiting the shelter:

  1. Who are you?
  2. How are you doing?
  3. Are you where you should be?
  4. Do you need something today?
  5. Do you need something scheduled?

She also discussed some strategies for lower the hold times of animals in shelters, with some terms I hadn’t heard before. First, the adoption hold: placing pets on stray holds in areas where potential adopters can still see the animal and let staff know that they are interested in adopting them if their owner doesn’t come forward. Second, managed admission: scheduling intake from owner surrenders or found pets so the shelter isn’t as overwhelmed and can plan better for that animal. Last, intake aversion: applying for grants that provide vouchers to give rescues incentives to accept adoptable pets into their programs, which avoids intaking the animal at animal control to help manage their population.

Last, she explained the five freedoms of animals in shelters and rescues:

  1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
  2. Freedom from discomfort
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
  4. Freedom to express normal behavior
  5. Freedom from fear and distress


The Healthy Hug

Like people, more than half of pets in the United States are overweight, and our view of a healthy pet weight has become skewed. Dr. Ainsley Bone, Veterinary Communications Manager at Nestle Purina North America, talked about optimizing nutrition in shelters while answering: how much they should weigh, how much to feed, how often to feed and when to feed. Again, her tips are excellent for practical use from any pet owner in addition to shelter staff and volunteers. 

How much should your pet weigh? 

There are body condition score charts that you can review online that show what the pet should look like from side and top views, which should include:

  • An hourglass figure from the top
  • A tuck under their waist
  • Be able to easily feel ribs when touched

There is also a muscle condition score, to determine not only if the pet is a healthy weight but if they have adequate muscle mass. WASAVA has online charts for dogs and cats to refer to for this score, and Dr. Bone also had an interesting hand trick to use to check the muscle along the side of the spine. Here’s my layman interpretation of that trick: in between your thumb and index finger is too squishy, the pads along the inside of your hand nearest your fingers is ideal, and the top of your hand means there isn’t adequate muscle mass.

What to feed? 

Look for the “complete and balanced” statement on the pet food bag, and get a type of food that’s appropriate for the pet’s life stage. Larger breed dogs may even follow puppy guidelines until they reach a year and a half while small breed dogs may only require puppy guidelines until 6 months, but the general rule is to feed puppy or kitten food until the animal reaches their first birthday.

How much to feed? 

I know, this seems obvious: feed the recommended guidelines on your pet food bag or can, or follow instructions from your veterinarian. But many people miss one important part of this, which is to follow the recommended amount of food for your pet’s ideal weight, not necessarily their current weight (they may be carrying around a few extra LBs.) Lactating animals need more food than normal, and pets that have been spayed/neutered may need less. Fun fact: cats require 40 essential nutrients while dogs only require 36.

How often to feed? 

Feeds dogs once or twice a day, cats twice a day, and puppies and kittens at least three times a day until they’re six months old. Cat food aversion may be useful to not only better monitor how much your cat is eating, but to be sure they are eating adequately if there are other cats or pets in the home. Food aversion simply means teaching the cat to eat when you present their food, which is learned when you remove the food bowl after they have eaten.



Again, like people, antibiotics have become overused in the veterinary world, so International Society for Companion Animal Infectious Diseases (ISCAID) is supposedly preparing to revise their recommendations in the next two to three years for antibiotic usage in pets to reduce the duration of treatment as well as recommending stopping treatment when symptoms resolve. There’s also a general trend in veterinary medicine to reduce prescribing antibiotics so often and trying other treatments that may be just as good if not better for the animal’s health.



What's Luck Got to Do with It?

by Sherrie Hines, AthensPets

Wilma is hoping for some luck of her own at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. Photo: Susan Hawkins

Wilma is hoping for some luck of her own at the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. Photo: Susan Hawkins

Volunteers and staff at shelters everywhere are often asked why a certain animal has been at the shelter so long. "Is there something wrong with them?" we'll often hear potential adopters ask. Many people assume that if a dog or cat has been at the shelter for a number of months, it means that the animal isn't desirable for some reason, but the reality is that luck often has more to do with it than much of anything else. Many times otherwise-wonderful animals get stuck at the shelter for a long time because they had the bad luck to come down with an illness. Dogs who are positive for heartworms may stay with us for two to three months while they receive heartworm treatment. Since they aren't allowed to exercise much while they're undergoing treatment, it can make it hard for them to interact with potential adopters. Cats, and even young kittens, can come to the shelter with ringworm, which is easily-treatable except that it takes a long time. A friendly six-week-old kitten who ends up with an upper respiratory infection or ringworm may spend one to three months just trying to recover, through no fault of their own. 

But outside of illness, luck still plays a huge role in the outcomes for our animals, even in something as simple as where they are housed during their stay at the shelter. A dog in a kennel on the front side of the shelter will likely have more exposure than a dog placed in a back kennel. We've noticed that cats in the bottom kennels seem to be overlooked more often than those at eye-level. It's one of the reasons that we move cats around sometimes, to give the public a better chance to view them. This is especially a problem for our black cats; they all but disappear in the darker bottom kennels, so we always try to place them higher if possible. 

The most important element of luck, though, comes down to who happens to come in the door on any given day. When we have that one special person come in looking for a bonded pair of cats, that's when our long-term kitties like Meatball and Oprah finally find their perfect home. When we have a family looking for a devoted pup to join their family as an only pet, that's when our more selective dogs find a home. Sometimes our pets get adopted because they were lucky enough to go to an outreach event, and that one special someone was there to meet them, too. Even more of our pets find their homes because one of our Facebook followers happened to share their profile, and one of their friends has a friend who was looking for a new furry family member. Networking makes such a difference for our pets.

At the end of the day, we know that all of our shelter animals have the potential to thrive in the right home. They just need a little luck to help their perfect family find them. Still think that there's something wrong with an animal who's been at the shelter for a long time? Well, we also hear stories time and again from our rescue partners where they've rescued some of our long-term pets, taken them straight to an adoption event and had them adopted into good homes within a day or two of leaving the shelter. It's one of the many reminders that no matter how long our animals have been at the shelter, it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with them. 

So take a moment to help our shelter animals improve their odds. Share their information with your friends, stop by and see all of the animals (not just the cutest ones at the front), and take time with the ones that may not catch your eye immediately. With a little luck and a lot of love, we know that our shelter animals have a bright future ahead of them, and we know that while they may not be able to make their own luck, you absolutely can. 

WCAC Working to Keep Dogs Warm

by Amanda Newsom

Starla is one of the pups looking for a forever home at WCAC, and her fav thing is a warm blanket on a cold day! Photo: William Wise

Starla is one of the pups looking for a forever home at WCAC, and her fav thing is a warm blanket on a cold day! Photo: William Wise

It’s been a cold winter thus far, which means animal control facilities have been inundated with calls from concerned citizens about outdoor dogs having adequate shelter for the chilling temperatures and icy wind. William Wise, Walton County Animal Control’s (WCAC) director, submitted a memo recently to the Walton County Board of Commissioners to address their work in response to these cold weather complaints.

Working with limited resources and within legal restraints, winter weather-related calls started coming in during early December, where they received 15 calls on just one of those first days. Leading up to the first winter advisory of the season, WCAC preemptively began issuing warnings and distributing informational pamphlets about the proper tethering ordinance, and they have maintained an on-going updated list of addresses to recheck those animals during other declared winter weather advisories. 

To demonstrate the work they’ve done for animals during these cold weather spurts, when a winter advisory was issued on January 16, one officer stayed late to answer calls until 11pm while another officer came back in to work overtime to address those calls. That day alone, they visited over 20 residences, issued 15 citations and two warnings, and rechecked dogs that had been reported during previous advisories. 

Keep in mind that when Walton County animal control officers respond to complaints about dogs outdoors during cold weather, they must follow laws and procedures regarding humane treatment as outlined below:

The Ordinance: Walton County revised the ordinance to include a “proper tethering” section in 2013. The current Walton County Ordinance makes it illegal to tether a dog during any declared weather warnings, advisories or emergencies (see Sec. 10-19e). We utilize the National Weather Service’s website to track these warnings ( Because of the way the ordinance is worded, it is only during these advisories that we can issue a citation that will stand up to prosecution in court.

Complaints Received in advance of Official Advisories: We often receive complaints in the couple days leading up to a winter weather forecast. When we receive complaints of tethered animals outside of an official warning, we issue warnings and provide special pamphlets to dog owners advising of the law. We also place the address on a list to recheck during a future weather advisory. We have also published information regarding the winter weather tethering law on local television and social media sites.

Complaints During Advisories: During declared advisories as posted by the National Weather Service, our officers respond to new calls and follow up on the previous complaints as time allows. Each circumstance is handled case-by-case depending upon severity and previous complaint. In many cases, citations are issued if previous warnings have been issued. Typical fines are $250 but can go as high as $1000, being misdemeanors.

Complaints received while animal control officers are off duty: In order to issue a citation for tethering during a declared weather advisory, an animal control officer must view the violation. However, as in the latest incident, the county is on shut down and our officers are not patrolling. In those cases, or other cases that occur outside of our normal hours, citations can still be issued.

If a citizen or other law enforcement officer witnesses an animal tethered outdoors during a declared advisory, they can email a photograph of the animal tethered during the advisory period and an animal control officer will issue a citation once normal hours resume. The witness providing the photo will be subpoenaed to court.

While assumptions of all kinds go around about animal control, the work they do behind the scenes is impressive and commendable, not to mention physically and mentally exhausting. The next time you see an animal control officer, in any county, please take a moment to show them some love and thank them for the grueling work they do to help both pets and their owners.

For more information regarding winter weather advisories affecting animals outdoors, please contact the animal control facility in your county or in the county which you are requesting more information or reporting a complaint.

Love Stories in Honor of Valentine's Day

Aerys was neutered before being adopted by Alyssa Grabski through COFAS. Photo: Evelyn Lett

Aerys was neutered before being adopted by Alyssa Grabski through COFAS. Photo: Evelyn Lett


February may be the season of love, but it shouldn’t be for your pets!

Ahh, February. We’re glad you’re here! Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and that means love is in the air. Everyone’s buying chocolates and planning for a fun evening with their special someone. We here at AthensPets hope that you’ll skip the chocolate (it’s not good for your pets anyway), and that you’ll take your furry special someone (no, we don’t mean your somewhat hairy husband!) to be spayed or neutered. February may be the month of love for us humans, but for animals, it’s Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. 

Right now, cats and dogs are already breeding and getting ready to kick off our animal shelter’s toughest season of the year—kitten and puppy season. While it sounds cute and cuddly (who doesn’t love the idea of being covered in cute, fuzzy kittens and puppies?!), shelter staff and volunteers know that inevitably it will lead to a high number of kittens and puppies who won’t make it out of the shelter. Our shelter often receives litters of kittens and puppies who are far too young to have been separated from their mothers. While shelter staff and our rescue partners do everything that they can, these orphaned litters are highly susceptible to disease and typically require around-the-clock care to have a chance of surviving. 

But through a single act of love, you can help us save lives and give your own pet a chance at a longer and healthier life. Here’s a quick look at the benefits of spaying or neutering your pet:

Your pet will actually live a longer and healthier life! What better gift could you give your pet this Valentine’s Day?

Female animals, especially if they are spayed before their first heat cycle, are less likely to develop uterine infections or mammary tumors. Mammary tumors, as reported by the ASPCA, are malignant in approximately 50 percent of dogs and a shocking 90 percent of cats. While rarer, male cats can also develop mammary cancer. This cancer typically spreads rapidly in cats and is often fatal, so spaying your female cat early is especially critical.

The ASPCA reports that male animals that have been neutered avoid the risks of testicular cancer and some prostate problems.

Animals that have been spayed or neutered roam less since they’re no longer searching for a mate. This greatly reduces their impulse to be an escape artist and their chances (once freed) of being hit by a car or getting in a fight with another roaming animal. 

You’ll also avoid common behavioral problems associated with unaltered animals.

If your dog has aggressive tendencies, those are more likely to subside after he’s been neutered. A neutered dog is also less likely to attempt to hump other animals or humans.

Unaltered animals are more likely to mark their territory, so by altering them early on you can avoid unwanted marking behavior inside of your home.

Cats in heat will yowl loudly to attempt to find mates, something no one enjoys listening to at 3am. 

Also, altered dogs usually fit in more easily in public gatherings with other animals, like on a visit to the dog park or on a crowded brewery night.  

Most importantly, you’ll be helping to ensure that your pets won’t have any unintentional or unwanted litters. Many people don’t realize how early animals can go into heat and are surprised when their six-month-old “puppy” or “kitten” ends up pregnant. This is one of the number one ways that kittens and puppies end up at the shelter, so please spay and neuter your pets early on so that you can contribute to the solution of pet overpopulation rather than being part of the problem. 

Remember, if you are feeding stray cats that are not altered, it is essential to get them spayed and neutered. Otherwise you’re just helping them stay healthier so that they can reproduce more quickly and have larger litters. Many well-meaning folks started off by feeding one or two cats on their property only to find themselves overwhelmed with a colony of 20 or more within just a year or two. 

The good news is that there are a lot of resources out there to help you, whether you’re looking to alter your personal pet or help a cat that’s decided to call your house home. Contact us at AthensPets (, and we’ll be glad to help direct you to resources that are available in the Athens area. 


Lily Belle and Brittnee. Photo: Brittnee Thirkield

Lily Belle and Brittnee. Photo: Brittnee Thirkield


I adopted my two cats, Lily Belle and Waylon, from the Athens Area Humane Society on June 10, 2016. At the time, I was battling depression and looking for a way to learn how to nurture again. Turns out cat therapy was just what the doctor ordered. 

I saw Waylon’s picture online and thought he was cute as a button. When I arrived, the adoption coordinator explained bonded pairs to me and introduced me to about three or four pairs. The cats I would bring home two hours later were the last ones I met. If they could speak English, here’s what they would say:

Lily Belle: Hi. I’m Lily Belle aka Nike aka Queen Lilz. I’m a 3-year-old tortoiseshell cat (tortie). On the day we were adopted, I was very interactive. First of all, no one puts baby in a corner, and no one puts me in a shelter for several months without me having an exit strategy. I decided it was time for us to find our own home. The world needs to know of my greatness, as I was named after the Greek goddess of speed, strength and victory. True to my name, I raced around the interaction pen, elegantly of course, climbing the walls, scratching the post, meowing. I didn’t care who saw it or what they thought. I’m the queen. Brittnee was kinda cool... for a human. She was more interested in my son, but I’m the one who makes the final decisions around here. Basically, she fell in love with him on the internet, but I sealed the deal! I wanted to go home with her but didn’t like it when they put me in the carrier, so I jumped out of it, twice… Again, no one puts baby in a corner, and no one puts me in a carrier. Once home, I explored a bit while Waylon hid to see if the new place was safe. I decided it was and claimed the home as mine, forever. Talk about a victory!

Nowadays, I’m extremely vocal. B says I have a large vocabulary letting everyone know when I’m displeased, happy or bored. I’m even teaching her some cat speak. Since she insists on fostering kittens for a local shelter, I’m the self-appointed cat etiquette instructor for the little rascals. I’m more than willing to share my home, but they have to respect the queen first!

Waylon: Hiya! I am 2-year-old ginger and though a full adult in cat years, Brittnee sometimes describes me as a 15-pound kitten. On the day we were adopted, I was stand-offish and watched from behind a cubby. When I got bored of watching her play with my mom, I quietly peered out the window and ignored them both. I like seeing outside but prefer to be nestled safely inside. Having lived in shelters most of my short life, I didn’t know what to make of the car ride. I followed behind my mom when she explored the new place. I found a safe place and watched B from the top of the staircase for hours. Once she shared some food and treats with us, I knew I would love her.

It’s been a year and a half since we came home with B, and I am fairly vocal. I pride myself on being the time keeper for meals and head of the welcome committee for the foster cats and kittens. I’m still a bit shy around strangers, but I come around quickly.


Madi and Aerys cuddling. Photo: Alyssa Grabski

Madi and Aerys cuddling. Photo: Alyssa Grabski


LOVE is a four-legged word!

We rescued Madi from Circle of Friends almost exactly one year ago! Madi had about five different places to stay before she found her furrever home with us. We put a lot of love and patience into helping her understand how to be a carefree dog. We gained her trust, and now Madi loves giving kisses, going to daycare at Mutty Paws and learning new tricks with Lucky Dog Training. After some convincing by Matt, we got Madi a four-legged sibling named Aerys. When we met him, we knew his bold personality would mix well with Madi (who often forgets her own size)! Aerys is extremely social and wins over the hearts anyone who meets him. He loves watching the wildlife outside, and WE love watching his little belly swinging side to side as he runs all over the house. Madi and Aerys love hanging out together—whether it’s naps, tearing up paper bags or chasing the Roomba. While they don’t always see eye to eye (literally), I think they can both agree the four of us make one happy family!

When Failure = Love

by Evelyn Lett

Joyce, the loving product of foster failure. Photo: Evelyn Lett

Joyce, the loving product of foster failure. Photo: Evelyn Lett

As a rescue dog foster parent, one comment that I often hear goes something along the lines of, “I could never foster, I would fall in love with every one of them!”

Well, yes you will... but that’s the point! All of those precious, abandoned, neglected dogs sitting in animal control facilities who, at risk of being euthanized, are yearning for one main thing: love. Some of these pups have never experienced love, some may have lost love, others are just too terrified to realize that all they need is love. 

In the rescue community we have an affectionate term coined “foster failing.” It has nothing to do with your fostering performance but everything to do with your heart. There are those special fosters that will give you all the feels and you can’t possibly imagine your life without them, but I guarantee you won’t feel that way about every foster. Plus, if you do end up adopting your foster pet and embrace them as your next furry family member, everyone wins!

In honor of our February “love issue,” I thought I’d share just one of my foster fail love stories...

One Saturday morning I was driving to an adoption event at PetSmart with foster #46 in tow—an extremely timid, submissive, unsocialized beagle named Joyce. 

As soon as I merged onto the loop, my nose was assaulted by an awful stench coming from the backseat. I had my fingers crossed that it was just a gassy toot but with a quick glance, I was horrified to see a big ol’ pile of stink. Due to the traffic and nowhere to pull over on the highway, I had no choice but to keep driving, holding my nose to keep from retching. As we continued along our drive, desperately looking for anywhere to stop, I glanced towards the back seat again only to witness poor Joyce vomiting on top of her prior spell of diarrhea while trembling uncontrollably from nervousness. By this point I was gagging uncontrollably and literally thought my nose might fall off from squeezing it so hard. After what seemed like hours, I was finally able to exit the loop! By the time we made it to the nearest gas station, she had eaten about half of everything in the seat. I was crying and felt utterly disgusted, defeated and at a complete loss. What was I ever going to do with this dog?

Joyce’s history is completely unknown since she was turned into animal control. Due to the lack of information, all we knew was that she was extremely timid and had learned to not trust humans at all. Fostering Joyce was challenging. For the first two weeks at my home, it was heart-wrenching trying to coax her out of her crate for anything other than pottying, and I spent many hours simply lying next to her crate reading aloud to her softly. Everything from the television to our overhead fan terrified her, but slowly and steadily, and with a ton of patience, you could really see her learning how to be a pet companion. After about six weeks, I decided it was only fair to give her a chance at finding her very own forever home and was so excited to take her out to meet potential adopters!

Attempting not to panic, I exited the car and tried to figure out the best way to clean my car seat off while holding two dogs with no supplies and trying not to barf. It was right there in the middle of that gas station parking lot, experiencing the grossest moment of my life, that it hit me: I decided to adopt this little girl. I knew that I had to protect her from ever having to suffer from fear again. 

The most important thing as a foster parent is to have an open mind and to trust yourself. If you feel confident about who adopts your foster dog, then you should be able to visualize how much love they will bring to their new family. You can’t be selfish with love! But occasionally, even if you never dreamed in a million years of having a fifth dog (especially a beagle, of all breeds), you will know in your heart that the best way to love your foster is to “fail” at being a foster parent and to succeed at being an adoptive one. 

Joyce has grown leaps and bounds in my home and is continuing to trust and to learn to accept love every day. However… she still doesn’t go on car rides! 

Emotional Support vs. Service Animals

There are various working dog designations.

by Michaela Gardner

One of today’s most popular “health crazes” has nothing to do with juice cleanses or the latest product intended to get rid of acne overnight. It actually doesn’t have anything to do with physical health at all, but mental health, and that is the explosive popularity of Emotional Support Animals (ESAs). While recognizing the legitimacy of using animals to help treat mental illness is a victory in itself, misunderstandings of the term “emotional support animal” have given rise to an entirely new issue. On one hand, there are people out there taking advantage of the system and faking mental illnesses in order to gain certain privileges, or people who act as though their ESA has the same rights as service animals. On the other, people that have a genuine need for emotional service animals are being taken advantage of due to a lack of accurate, widespread information on the matter.

In order to set the record straight, it's important to understand the definitions of both emotional support animals and service animals. Service animals are described by the Americans with Disabilities Act as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” They are trained to assist the visually-impaired to safely navigate the world, or aid the physically-handicapped with day-to-day chores. ESAs are pets that have received no special training, and they do not perform and tasks or work for their owners—they have been prescribed to their owner by a mental health professional because their presence helps alleviate symptoms of mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and PTSD.

There are only two specific areas in which people with ESAs are given rights over people with other pets. With proof from a mental health professional, people with an ESA cannot be denied housing or forced to pay a pet fee. Breed bans and size limitations may also be disregarded, according to the Fair Housing Act. When it comes to air travel, the Air Carrier Access Act allows emotional support animals to travel in the cabin of an airplane with their owner, like a service animal would. The intent of this law is to ease anxieties for those with flying phobias.

Based on these specific laws pertaining to emotional support animals, it’s easy to see how the lines between emotional support and service animals can be blurry to some people. One of the biggest issues for those with emotional support animals is the plethora of internet scams claiming that they must pay fees, many up to $100, in order to register their pet. These websites then typically provide a vest and ID badge intended to prove the validity of the ESA. In reality, the only validation necessary for ESAs is a signed letter from a mental health professional. There are no fees involved in obtaining an official status for an emotional support animal.

On the flip side, many people take advantage of the lack of proper information about the differences between emotional support and service animals, behaving as though they both possess the same rights. This epidemic continues to spread because laws and regulations are unable to keep up with the rapid increase in the use of ESAs. Until recently, there was no need for expanded legislation regarding service animals, but between the misleading information about ESAs and people just flat out lying about their pets being a service animal, many are calling for stricter laws and regulations for service animals. Those that fake the use of a service animal and have pets that misbehave in public give true service animals a bad reputation, causing more grief for people that truly require their assistance. A difficult aspect of laws about service animals is that it is illegal for employees or business owners to question the purpose or validity of a service animal, making it almost impossible to do anything when an animal is suspected to be a fake service animal.

The most important step that currently needs to be taken in sorting this issue out is the dissemination of accurate information about the differences between emotional support and service animals. More thorough research needs to be done by those considering pursuing the help of an emotional support animal, and society as a whole needs to understand the importance of service animals and the negative impact that fake or improperly-trained service animals can have on those that have gone through the proper time, training and channels in order to gain their rights.

Recycled Pet Toys: A DIY Project

by Denise Plemmons

Merfi trying out Denise's DIY pet toys from recycled materials.

Merfi trying out Denise's DIY pet toys from recycled materials.

Pet toys can be expensive and often don’t last very long. But you can save money by making your own toys. You don’t have to be a Pinterest queen to make some simple toys! Here are a few examples:

T-Shirt Rope Toy

Got some old t-shirts you don’t wear anymore? Or even old towels? You can turn those into a great tug toy for your dog. Simply cut it into 2-inch wide strips, and if you want it thicker, just add more strips. You can make them as long or short as you want. Then simply tie one end into a knot, section into three sections, and braid. When the braid is done, tie another knot at the end and you’re done. You can add an old tennis ball to the middle for some added fun!

Water Bottle Sock

Grab an old sock, insert a water bottle, and then close with a knot. Your doggie will love the crinkly noise.

Interactive Treat Puzzle

Get an empty plastic container, and cut a few holes big enough for treats to fall out. I used the treat container itself. Fill with treats, close and let your pet have a blast. 

Toilet paper tubes also make great treat puzzles for cats. They’re free, everyone has them and they can be made into many things. I added some cute Valentine’s stickers for a festive look. Just be sure to secure them so your kitty or doggie doesn’t eat them.

Cork Toys

Cork is a 100 percent natural, biodegradable and renewable resource. But not recyclable in Athens. However, it can be used to make a great cat toy! Just insert some feathers, ribbon, jute or anything else that will attract your cat.

Stringed Straw Toy

Straws are one-time use pieces of plastic that aren’t recyclable, and they seem to be everywhere. You get them even if you don’t want them. Here I found a fun way to put them to good use. Just cut two straws into 2-inch pieces, and string together. It can be a fun toy for a cat or for small critters like birds and rats. You can even put small pieces of food in the straws.

Here’s my test kitty, Merfi. I think her favorite was the straw wrapper.

As with any toy, monitor your pet when they are playing. Toss out any damaged toys.

Denise Plemmons is the Commercial Recycling Specialist for Athens-Clarke County Solid Waste Department. She has also worked with animals at the Athens Area Humane Society. If you have any questions about recycling, you can reach her at or 706-621-2836.

Holiday Gift Guide

by Amanda Newsom & Maggie See

There’s no shortage of talented artists and makers around these parts, and what better way to share the love than to support our own local, small businesses. We hope you will support our advertisers who have made Classic City Paw Print possible this year, as well!

We made a list and checked it twice. Here are some fun and unique ideas for the gift-giving season:


AthensPets Mug

AthensPets Mug

If you want to give a thoughtful gift to someone who is hard to buy for or who already has everything, sponsoring a pet at a local shelter is a win-win gift. Sponsorships help pets gets adopted faster and help bring attention to the harder-to-place pets waiting for their forever homes. So it’s great for the animals, and it’ll give your giftee that feel-good moment that not many other gifts will provide. We’ve listed a few local shelters that you can sponsor pets at, but there are several local shelters that offer similar sponsorships. Some shelters and rescues also have merch, like shirts and coffee mugs, that can you include with your sponsorship gift.


Oconee County Animal Services

Walton County Animal Control



Classic City Paw Print Fan Club Pin

Classic City Paw Print Fan Club Pin

A little self-promotion never hurt anyone... we of course recommend our CCPP fan club pins that are excellent stocking stuffers for your animal-loving friends around town! These cute pins were designed by Maggie See, our resident Artist Spotlight writer who also has her own animal-related art available online and at Atomic!

Classic City Paw Print

Maggie See



Take Your Pick at Lotta Maes Supply Co

Take Your Pick at Lotta Maes Supply Co

There are a few stores around town that we can’t just choose one item to feature no matter how hard we try, so you’ll just have to take your pick! Frontier, Native America Gallery, Indie South Shop and Lotta Maes, which just opened this fall, always have animal-themed items that make perfect gifts... plus, you’re supporting multiple local businesses at once when you shop at these stores!

Lotta Maes Supply Co.

BONUS POINTS: Lotta Maes will make a donation to AthensPets if you mention you saw them in our gift guide when you make a purchase there this December! <3


Native America Gallery

Indie South Shop



Gift cards for doggie daycare time or boarding will give you human friends the needed incentive to take a day trip or short vacation without worrying about their pups if they can’t come along for the ride. We’ve listed a few boarding facilities below, but there are so many awesome options around town, too! 

(Things to consider when picking which facility to gift: whether they already use a certain facility, how close it is to their home, the type of boarding/daycare needed, and amenities or special accommodations.)


Waggin Tails

Classic City Critter Sitters



Athens Dog Biscuits

Athens Dog Biscuits

Who says only humans get to open presents for the holidays? Give some tasty snacks to all the dogs and cats that you (and your friends and family) love!

Athens Dog Biscuits

Oscar Bites


HUMAN Treats

Okay, humans deserve treats, too... There are some cool restaurants around town that offer delicious human treats, but since we feature a recipe in every issue created by local chefs, we’re going to point you to The best part about these recipes is that they are not only delicious, all of the ingredients are compassionate toward animals (i.e., our way of saying “they’re all vegan”). These recipes double as great options for holiday potlucks! 



Colors for Conservation Shadowbox

Colors for Conservation Shadowbox

There is no shortage of cool artists incorporating animals into their artwork in our area—hence our monthly artist spotlight! Will Eskridge not only has some of our favorite paintings, but he also has some cool ornaments right now. Colors for Conservation has dreamy wildlife artwork, with their shadowboxes and necklaces being in our top favs. And we particularly dig the “Only Dog Can Judge Me” print by Lauren Gregg. Check out our artist spotlights online for more ideas at

Will Eskridge

Colors for Conservation

Lauren Gregg



Sugar Cookie Pin Set

Sugar Cookie Pin Set

For the friends who love to show off their pet parenthood, we recommend Sugar Cookie’s cat lady pin set and The Southern Lady’s “Dog Mom AF” shirt. 

Sugar Cookie

The Southern Lady Bug 5



Laura Eavenson Pet Portrait

Laura Eavenson Pet Portrait

One of the most prized gifts you can give a pet parent is a professional portrait or photo of their beloved fur babies. Again, we are lucky to have so many to choose from in the Athens area, but we’re shouting out to the artists and photographers below. Laura paints beautifully-colored portraits, and Anne Yarbrough not only takes some of the best pet photographs we’ve seen, she also donates her time to take photos of adoptable pets (which we heart). The same can be said of Evelyn Lett, who also happens to be our newest CCPP writer for Fostering Hope.

Laura Eavenson

Anne Yarbrough Photography

Evelyn Lett Photography



Classic City Cat Items

Classic City Cat Items

If you need something for the ultimate cat lady in your life, Classic City Cat has you covered. They have tons of cat-tastic items for you to choose from or pair together or add to a basket. We are also in love with the cat dolls by Rainbow Peg Dolls, which are great for humans of any age!

Classic City Cat

Rainbow Peg Dolls



Rinse K9 Wash

Rinse K9 Wash

Dogs can definitely be a bit easier to buy for, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t some special items that we think you’ll gravitate toward on the local front. Tie Dyed Natural Turtle has adorable handmade bandanas, collars and leashes (as well as natural bug spray!), and Rinse Soap in Monroe has natural refreshing spray and cleansers to keep pups spelling nice. 

Tie Dyed Natural Turtle

Rinse Bath & Body Co.



Taylor Custom Science Gifts

Taylor Custom Science Gifts

We love wildlife as much as our domestic friends here at Classic City Paw Print, so we can’t leave them out of the mix! Wild Birds Unlimited opened this year and has your backyard bird needs covered, and we love the felt ornaments and other cute items by Rachel Winters. We’re breaking the rules a bit and featuring an artist that’s not local, but the keychains and necklaces that Chris Taylor creates are too cool not to highlight!

Wild Birds Unlimited

Rachel Winters Sewing

Taylor Custom Science Gifts



For the people in your life who enjoy getting outside with their dogs (or other pets—we have seen some cats on leashes recently!), consider getting them an annual pass to Sandy Creek Park or to Georgia State Parks. Georgia State Parks has a Tails on Trails program that’s a fun way to get outside with your dog and see parks across the state while you’re at it! And of course, keep an eye out to see what cool wildlife you see along the trails.

Georgia State Parks

Sandy Creek Park



Maggie Seee Gifts

Maggie Seee Gifts

If you want a gift you can share with your friends, you’ve got some nice options. ARTini’s hosts “Paint your Pet” nights pretty frequently that also benefit local rescues, and during certain times of year, Circle of Friends hosts Kitty Yoga at Memorial Park and Sweet Olive Farm hosts Baaa-maste Yoga in their barn. 

ARTini’s Lounge

Circle of Friends Kitty Yoga

Sweet Olive Farm

Pets as Holiday Gifts: The Do's and Don'ts

by Michaela Gardner

We’ve all seen the commercials around the holidays of a child’s dreams coming true... that commercial where they come racing to the tree to find a giant box with a big red bow on top and a puppy inside. Commercials that glorify the giving of adorable baby animals as gifts, however, can be dangerous. Who wouldn’t want to see such a reaction on their child’s face when they find the pet you swore you’d never get waiting beneath the tree? As fantastic as this scenario may seem, there is another side to the practice of giving pets as gifts during the holidays. 

I have worked at PetSmart in Athens for almost a year and a half now, and I have seen my fair share of pets purchased on a whim. There is an exponential increase of these instances around the holidays. I know what you’re thinking—”here comes a lecture”—but hear me out. There are many things about pets as gifts that I had never considered before I started working at PetSmart. Guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons, giant fish tanks and rabbits around Easter... these are all examples of pets that suffer due to impulse purchases. 

But fear not, for there ARE right and wrong ways to approach the gift giving season when it comes to animals. To break it down, here is a list of do’s and don’ts to abide by when deciding whether or not a pet is the perfect holiday gift to give this year:



  • plenty of research
  • assess your living situation, and choose a pet best suited to it 
  • add up initial, monthly and annual costs of the pet you are considering 
  • sit down with children and have a serious discussion about the care involved 
  • consult with pet care professionals to seek guidance when deciding which pet is right for you
  • consider adopting your new pet from a shelter!



  • make an impulsive decision 
  • cut corners while stocking up on supplies
  • gift a pet to a child without discussing it with their parents and/or entire family first
  • surrender senior dogs or cats to the shelter in order to make room for a new puppy or kitten
  • purchase pets from flea markets, people’s yards or anywhere else that appears to be selling unhealthy animals (and beware of backyard breeders)


There are few things more joyous than bringing a new pet home. What better time than the holidays to build on that joy? In no way do I wish to discourage anyone from experiencing the happiness that pets bring. Instead, my goal is to educate, and I cannot stress the importance of research. This is going to be the first step, regardless of the pet you are interested in, from puppy to parakeet. No one wants to make an impulsive decision only to get home and realize the puppy they just purchased will grow to be over a hundred pounds, is full of energy, and probably isn’t suited for a studio apartment in the middle of the city. 

Another common misconception I have witnessed at PetSmart is that customers walk in under the impression that they can purchase a new Guinea pig with all the supplies for less than $100. Before you commit, put together a shopping list of the supplies you will need for whatever pet you desire, and browse the internet or local pet stores for prices on each item. From there, evaluate which of those are start-up costs and which will be weekly or monthly costs, and compare this to your budget. Take the opportunity to continue evaluating which pets will and will not suit your lifestyle. 

Another issue we commonly see at PetSmart is returned pets because the child (and oftentimes college-aged young adults) did not realize what all was going to be involved in daily and weekly maintenance for their pet. This is where I stress to parents to sit down and have a grown-up discussion that once Santa brings them that hamster, it’s up to them to take care of it every day. Prepare calendars and checklists for them so that they’re ready for the responsibility. 

If you are still unsure of what pet is right for your family, discuss your options with pet care professionals. I encourage these discussions and quite enjoy them, because at the end of the day, my biggest goal is for the animals and the customers to be happy with the decision made. Be honest and upfront with us, and we will definitely be able to match you with a suitable pet. 

And finally, I encourage everyone to consider adopting from a shelter or rescue. Not only can you find dogs and cats, but Guinea pigs and rabbits oftentimes find their way into shelters because people don’t realize initially how intensive their care can be. One of the many benefits of adopting from shelters is that your initial costs are minimized greatly, as adoption fees typically include full vetting: spay/neuter, vaccinations and a microchip! By adopting from a shelter during the holiday season, not only is your family receiving a gift, but you are giving the gift of life to an animal that deserves a second chance. 

Therapeutic Benefits of Animals: Residents “Thrive” with the Presence of Therapy Dogs

by Michaela Gardner

Living the remaining part of your life in an assisted living facility sometimes means life loses its variety, and routines become the norm. Luckily, there are people that devote their lives to enriching the days of those in assisted living homes, hospitals, nursing homes and other such facilities. One of these devoted people is April Few, the Director of Excitement at Thrive Assisted Living and Memory Care in Watkinsville, GA. While some might say that the residents at Thrive are lucky to have April, she considers herself the lucky one. She works every day to provide residents with “meaningful and purposeful activities that are tailored to their individual interests and abilities.” One of these meaningful activities is regular visits from therapy dog teams. 

Therapy dog teams consist of a dog and its handler. Not just any dog can become a certified therapy dog—testing and evaluation is thorough, and just because an animal is properly trained doesn’t guarantee that it has the proper temperament to succeed. In addition to basic obedience, dogs seeking certification are tested on their ability to tolerate the use and presence of medical equipment, loud noises and other such distractions. They must be socially and physically affectionate, and being able to perform tricks always makes a pet that much more appealing to institutions seeking the services of therapy dog teams. Handlers must also be outgoing, sociable and empathetic. These qualities can make or break an aspiring therapy dog team. 

Aside from the obvious outward benefits of animal therapy, such as laughter and smiles, science has proven that there are internal medical benefits, as well. Animal therapy has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve overall cardiovascular health, reduce pain and stimulate the release of endorphins, thus increasing happiness and pleasure. 

Those suffering from mental illness can also benefit from animal therapy. Children with autism often find it difficult, and at times near impossible, to interact with other people but are comforted by the presence of animals. Sometimes therapy animals are the only other living beings these children are able to engage with. The presence of therapy animals also decreases loneliness, anxiety and depression, encourages communication, and provides general encouragement for people recovering from mental and physical ailments.

Thrive currently has two therapy dog teams that visit on a regular basis, Aussie and Maizie. In April Few’s opinion, “the look of joy on our residents’ faces is the biggest benefit” to having them visit. She describes the dogs as “sweet, gentle and calming,” and their presence offers “a sense of peace and nostalgia” to residents in assisted living and memory care. When asked about some of the favorite activities that residents get to participate in with the dogs, April keeps it simple: “They all enjoy watching the dogs perform tricks, snuggles and [petting] them.”

 April recalls one of her favorite moments involving Maizie; she says that as soon as one of the residents saw Maizie, her face absolutely lit up. “She told us a story about this puppy that she had when she was younger and how her dog was just the sweetest, most gentle friend. She said she loved that dog with all her heart and that Maizie’s face reminded her of her sweet friend.” Aussie gets plenty of love from the residents, as well, and is a regular at Thrive. “He particularly enjoys visiting with one of our ladies because she always keeps a special treat waiting for him,” April explains. She anticipates his regular visits and assures him every time that “Granny is so glad to see you!”

On Monday, October 30, Thrive hosted their “Howl-aween Paw Party,” which involved six therapy dog teams. Of course, Aussie and Maizie were in attendance. The dogs arrived in costume and had the opportunity to Trick-or-Treat with the residents. Each dog received an individually-prepared treat bag, performed special tricks and spent time socializing with all of the residents. April was beyond excited preparing for the event. It’s activities like these that make her job all the more rewarding. As the Director of Excitement, what better way to provide said excitement than cute dogs in costumes?

April was able to enlist the services of Aussie, Maizie and the other therapy dog teams through a member of the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about therapy dogs, becoming a certified therapy dog team, or seeking the services of therapy dogs for your own facility, be sure to visit!

AAHS Takes in Irma Cats

by Amanda Newsom

Photo courtesy of Athens Area Humane Society

Photo courtesy of Athens Area Humane Society

As the Athens Area Humane Society (AAHS) gathered donated supplies for the pet victims of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma emerged as a threat here at home in Athens, GA. Their focus shifted quickly to not only preparing their shelter for potential outages or damages, but simultaneously to taking in an additional 40 cats and one dog from shelters affected by Irma in coastal Georgia and Florida—essentially doubling the number of cats in their care. Because the storm shifted, many shelters that were offering assistance quickly were in need of help themselves, and groups like FurKids and Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) in Atlanta stepped in to coordinate transports from these shelters to others in Georgia and beyond. On October 21, AAHS took in 21 cats from Osceola Humane Society in Florida, and they took in 13 more cats transferred from coastal Georgia via BFAS Atlanta. They also took in one dog that was surrendered by their owner who had fled the storm, and they took in a cat being fostered by a volunteer from Clearwater, FL who was unable to transport the cat back home after the storm.

The foster cat who came from Clearwater, FL. Photo: Amanda Newsom

The foster cat who came from Clearwater, FL. Photo: Amanda Newsom

Jed Kaylor, Shelter Manager at AAHS, said “Everybody is really friendly. We did get pretty much all adult cats—everybody was at least three months or older, and then… I pulled a litter of six sick kittens.” The cats were immediately vetted with rabies vaccines, and they are now being treated for different ailments like upper respiratory infections. They have one cat (the fostered cat from Florida) who needs a special diet because of kidney issues and another little guy had been seemingly bitten all over by ants, but for the most part they were a healthy group of cats and are ready to be adopted.

Last year AAHS took in eight dogs and one cat that were very sick from Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina and in February 2016 they took in 47 Chihuahuas from a hoarding case in Barrow County, so this wasn’t their first foray in helping pets affected by disasters. “That’s something that Jane [AAHS Executive Director] and I both have been proud of, our ability to mesh with whatever situation arises... It makes people see that we’re doing something other than just adoptions and spays and neuters; that we’re really in it for more than that, and we are here to help save their lives in any fashion possible.”

When asked what advice he has for people to be prepared for natural disasters in our area, Kaylor said, “If you think you may be evacuating at some time in the future, vet clinics and boarding facilities will house animals for a cheaper cost sometimes, but that’s something that wasn’t really addressed by the vet community here. And many people didn’t know they could board their cats.” He says you can also plan to have family or friends help house you and your pets during an evacuation. “Shelters were inundated, and that’s not something we want to see. Some animals were left behind or tethered to trees, and that should never happen.” 

During the month of September, AAHS lowered all cat adoption fees to $50 to encourage people to adopt a feline friend, and their Black Cat special in October lowers black cat adoption fees to $13 for adults and $75 for kittens (normally $150). If you’ve been thinking of adopting a cat, now is the best time to do so to help take pressure off the number of cats at AAHS, and it’s also better on your wallet… even though we all know they are truly priceless!

If you would like to help the cats affected by Irma that are still awaiting adoption at AAHS, you can make monetary donations to assist with their medical costs or donate in-kind items such as cat crates (the ones that snap together), Purina Cat Chow or Kitten Chow, any brand of cat or kitten wet food, or toys for enrichment. Kaylor also says, “We work pretty closely with Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, so any donations we get, we like to share the love.” For more information, please contact AAHS at

Animal Abuse in the Community: How to Spot and Report Suspected Animal Abuse

by Michaela Gardner

Bojack has a paparazzi moment. Photo: Morgan Solomon

Bojack has a paparazzi moment. Photo: Morgan Solomon

Bojack the 3-year-old Plott Hound never got the chance to enjoy being a real puppy. Toys were a completely foreign concept to him when he was adopted by Lizzie Martin in April 2015. He had no interest in gnawing on bones or engaging in play with his new owner. What should have been a joyous time for Bojack and Lizzie was more confusing and terrifying than anything. Having known his previous owner, Lizzie inquired as to why her new puppy was behaving so strangely and cautiously. Finally, the original owner admitted that on a regular basis, Bojack had been “left alone, probably two to three days at a time even.” During these times of loneliness and boredom, the puppy would tear up trash and furniture—and suffer for it. His previous owner had beaten Bojack “pretty badly,” leading to anxiety and trust issues, particularly towards men. 

With patience, time and lots of love, Bojack has begun to recover and regain his trust in humans. While Bojack’s story has a happy ending, the same cannot be said for most animals that suffer at the hands of human beings. According to the Athens Banner-Herald, at the beginning of August, Athens-Clarke County Animal Control discovered a deceased puppy that had been strangled outside of an apartment on Westchester Drive. Officers determined that the pitbull mix that been tied up and in turn hung itself while trying to escape. The owner of the puppy denied ever tethering the dog, but animal control reported that he had been previously warned not to tie the dog out unsupervised. This is a situation that could have been prevented had neighbors reported any suspected abuse. 

Forms of animal abuse are not limited to the beating or neglect of companion animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) lists dog fighting, puppy mills and animal hoarding as some of the most common forms of animal abuse. Dog fighting pits animals that have been abused and isolated against one another for entertainment, and although “fights are not usually to the death, many dogs succumb to their injuries later, and losing dogs are often discarded, killed or brutally executed as part of the ‘sport,’” as explained on the ASPCA website. They define a puppy mill as “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” Puppy mills can sometimes overlap with animal hoarding situations, which “occur when an individual is housing more animals than he or she can adequately care for.” 

Any of these situations can occur in any neighborhood in any city. Take the situation that occurred in April of this year in Clarkesville, GA, a quiet northeast Georgia town. Over 350 animals were taken from a property that was investigated after a complaint of excessive barking. Dogs, puppies, cats and a variety of livestock were all discovered living in “deplorable conditions,” according to the Now Habersham website. They were denied access to clean water and food. The director of Habersham County Animal Care and Control, Madi Hawkins, was quoted as saying, “We never expected to find such a large-scale operation in our own backyard.” Much of the evidence from the property pointed towards the operation of a puppy mill. Had a concerned neighbor not spoken up, this abuse could have carried on indefinitely and affected hundreds more animals.

So how does one go about detecting and reporting suspected animal abuse here in Athens? According to Patrick Rives, Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Superintendent, “obvious signs are observing someone causing harm to an animal, an animal that is excessively thin, an animal with apparent injuries or loss of body function, etc.” If you have observed any of these indicators, there is a specific procedure to follow and information to provide in order to make a report, taken directly from the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government website:

  • Name, address and phone number of the complainant
  • Exact address of the location of the animal(s)—we must have a street name and number, including the apartment or lot number
  • A specific incident or observation made by the complainant; in other words, the person calling must have seen an act of cruelty occur

Rives says that “the vast majority of cases we investigate are reported to us by concerned citizens. Reporting what you observe helps us intervene effectively.” 

There are also ways to go about preventing animal abuse altogether. The Georgia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) lists several ways to go about this on their website. Other than learning to recognize the signs of abuse, the GSPCA recommends first and foremost treating your own pets with “love and kindness” in order to set an example in the community. Teaching children to respect animals and understand that “animals are living creatures who have the ability to feel pain, joy and sadness” is another important aspect of preventing animal cruelty. 

Finally, adopting from and volunteering with shelters aids in preventing the cycle of abuse by keeping innocent animals out of the hands of abusers and by helping to reduce the prominence of puppy mills. Take it from Bojack’s story: even the abused and neglected ones deserve love and a voice to speak up for them. Be that voice for countless innocent animals that are unable to speak up for themselves.

To make a report of suspected animal abuse in Athens-Clarke County, call animal control at 706-613-3540 or call 911 in an emergency. 

10 Years Since Hoarding Case: September 2007 Marked Athens’ Worst Hoarding Case

by Morgan Solomon

BC (left) snuggles with Gray Cat (right). Photo: Lindsay Porter

BC (left) snuggles with Gray Cat (right). Photo: Lindsay Porter

This month marks the 10-year anniversary of a horrible animal abuse case in Athens, GA. The Athens Area Humane Society had a huge hand in helping the felines in this case, making sure they found new homes for as many cats as possible.

On the evening of September 2, 2007, Athens-Clarke County (ACC) Animal Control entered a home after reports of animal abuse. A neighbor, who was a veterinarian, called animal control after finding a dead cat in the window of the house on Merlin Court. Animal control and police began rescuing cats the very next day. Throughout the rescue, more and more cats were discovered, totaling 51 cats found in the home.

According to Patrick Rives, ACC Animal Control Superintendent, it is one of the worst cases he has seen in his 21 years of working in animal control. When he arrived on the scene, most of the cats were malnourished and becoming feral. They had to use traps to catch some of the cats. The house was covered in waste and feces, making it unbearable to be in there for more than a few minutes at a time. The team of rescuers took turns entering the house.

By the time they finished, they had rescued 48 cats. These cats were kept at the Athens Area Humane Society (AAHS) shelter, which was located on Beaverdam Road at that time, as well as in foster homes. While the shelter did not have the space to house this many cats, they did their best to accommodate them. Of the 48 cats, four were quarantined for rabies after biting rescuers. The rest were dewormed and pronounced healthy by University of Georgia veterinarians.

After investigating the house, it was concluded that the owner left the tub faucet dripping so the cats could drink water. There were around 100 empty cans and bags of cat food and signs that the owner would sporadically return to feed the cats.

On September 14, 2007, the man responsible turned himself in. Wilford Bradford Sims was charged with 51 counts of animal cruelty. Ultimately, he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 days in jail. A neighbor had confronted Sims in May 2007 about how he neglected the cats, and after this, he rarely went to the house.

 AAHS did not have the funds for vaccines or spaying and neutering each cat, but with help from the Athens community, they were able to raise $3,500. With this money they were able to provide care for every cat and hoped that this would also help them get adopted.

The week after the cats were found, only four had been adopted. The shelter feared that they would eventually have to put the rest down due to lack of space and resources. AAHS, the county’s only contracted cat intake shelter at that time, had a policy where an animal must stay in their care for at least five days before being euthanized. Although the cats had been in their care for more than five days, they did not have any plans to euthanize them. In order to encourage adoption, the shelter waived the adoption fees. People could adopt the cats for $1 under a program called “Change their Luck for a Buck.”

Things turned around, and by the middle of September, 33 of the cats had found homes. On October 9, 2007, the last cat found its home. AAHS did an amazing job. They did not give up even in the face of an overwhelming case and were able to find homes for these cats with limited resources.

Lindsay Porter was the only employee of AAHS working when the cats were first rescued. She was able to meet most of the cats and had an integral hand in the intake and initial care process, along with her husband and staff of the University of Georgia Small Animal Clinic who stayed until all cats were processed. She remembers the cats being very scared and the whole experience being frustrating and exhausting. Despite the frustration, Lindsay says it was a rewarding experience to help these cats who had suffered such terrible abuse. She even went the extra mile and adopted three of the cats. 

Black Cat and Gray Cat were considered two of the most feral cats, so Lindsay brought them home to live in her barn. She later adopted BC (short for Boss Cat) after he was brought to the shelter as a stray and the owner did not want to reclaim him. At first BC spent most of his time under the bed, but soon he became her “ambassador cat” who welcomes any foster animal that stays in Lindsay’s home. 

Black Cat and Gray Cat spent eight years as barn cats before Black Cat passed away. Gray Cat then made the transition from feral to friendly when Lindsay decided to bring him inside. It took a while for him to warm up, but with the help and encouragement of BC, Gray Cat now lives a happy life indoors. Both cats are definitely mama’s boys and have come to love each other in their own “bromance,” according to Lindsay. 

Thanks to AAHS and people like Lindsay who were willing to take in these cats as their own, this tragedy was transformed into a story of love and success for the animal community in Athens. 

If you suspect someone of hoarding or other negligent behavior, please contact ACC Animal Control at 706-613-3540.

If you or someone you know adopted any of the cats from this hoarding case, we’d love to hear from you to share your stories, as the adoption records have been lost or misplaced since the case concluded. Please email us at to get in touch.

Are Your Pets Prepared?: How to Prepare Your Pets for Emergencies

by Amanda Newsom

September is Emergency Preparedness Month, and our pets aren’t immune from that preparation! It’s easy to think of emergency preparedness as anticipating huge disasters like a hurricane, but there are a wide range of emergencies that can affect us even here in Athens. Some of the most common are severe thunderstorms, tornados, winter “ice” storms, flooding, fire, and power or utility outages, though others like terrorism and hazardous material spills are also possible. 

Last winter I vividly remember bunking up in front of the fireplace with our pets to stay warm when we were without power and unable to get out of the driveway because of the thick ice—a clear reminder that we should all always be prepared with the basics. But if something more severe happens and you need to evacuate your house quickly, you need to have a grab bag ready to go for yourself as well as for your pets. Remember, never leave your pets behind when you evacuate! 

When asked why it’s important to include pets in our emergency planning, Athens-Clarke County Emergency Management Director Beth Burgess says, “Simple: they are a part of the family. If you have to evacuate and leave your pet behind, they could get lost, injured or worse.” She also mentions that people assume that if a major disaster occurs, the government will step in and help everyone. But governmental resources are very limited, and having more people prepared takes the strain off of these limited resources for those most in need. 

Pete Golden, Emergency Operations Coordinator for the University of Georgia Office of Security & Emergency Preparedness, says, “If you ask, virtually everyone will tell you that being prepared is important and something that they should do. However, many people put it off until it is too late, or they put together supplies and things expire or they get used up and never replaced.” Some of the items you should include in your pet’s emergency kit include:

  • Water and food 
  • Collapsible bowls
  • Picture of you with your pets (proof of ownership)
  • Current vaccination records
  • ID tags, collar and leash
  • Pet carrier
  • Any medications, including flea/heartworm treatment 
  • Litter and litter box
  • Pet first aid kit
  • Blankets and towels
  • Favorite toy
  • List of nearby emergency facilities that house pets

You can find detailed checklists for pet emergency prep kits online that are specific to the types of pets you have, as well. Keeping your pets up to date on their rabies vaccines is an important part for preparing for emergencies, as shelters that house pets will require this (and some may require additional vaccines typical of boarding centers). And while it’s always a good idea to have your pets microchipped, in the case of an emergency, this will be an extra help to quickly identify your pet if lost or if your ownership is questioned.

Your preparedness kits are also important to keep together in case you’re away from home when a disaster happens. Let friends, family or neighbors know where you keep your kit, and consider having someone you trust that lives nearby keep a spare key to your house or apartment so they can get your pets out if necessary. We recommend putting a decal on your front door or window that lists the number and kind of pets that are inside in case of fire or other emergency situation. You can get these decals at most pet stores or by ordering online.

Many people may not know that not all emergency shelters take in pets, so it’s a good idea to make a list of shelters that will allow you to bring your pets or house them nearby in case of evacuation. Golden says, “In the past, the University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County have partnered to make sure that pets will be taken care of by setting up a pet-friendly shelter at the UGA Livestock Arena. The shelter would be staffed using personnel from the veterinary school and UGA CERT [Community Emergency Response Team]. However, at this time the university has asked to be taken off the state animal shelter list until such time that the new dean at the UGA vet school can determine if that is something that they are still willing to support.” We do encourage you to reach out to the new veterinary school dean to recommend that they continue this previous partnership, as it provides a vital asset to our community if something on a local or regional scale were to happen. 

Once you have your pet preparedness kit together, don’t forget to check it every six months to rotate food and water or other perishable items in the kit. This is a good task to add to your fall and spring cleaning lists!

You can find emergency preparedness resources for Georgia at, and there is also an accompanying app that you can create a profile in that includes you and your pet’s information. National animal-related organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States also have excellent pet preparedness resources online.

The Dogs and the Bees

by Anne Yarbrough, Anne Yarbrough Photography

Photo: Anne Yarbrough

Photo: Anne Yarbrough

I met Tom and Aprilla at the J & J Flea Market one morning about a year or so ago when I bought honey from him. I was new at beekeeping and had just joined Oglethorpe Bee Club where he is the treasurer. We’ve become friends since then, and he has helped me maintain my hives since having my baby. Tom and Aprilla are just neat, nice people, so I decided to write a little something about them:

 On the corner of Booger Hill Road and Highway 29 sits a pretty pollen yellow house on the hill, and that’s where Tom and Aprilla Hankins live with their five dogs and multiple beehives. These high school sweethearts will be celebrating their 50th anniversary in February, and Tom can’t say enough sweet things about his woman. He says, “She’s a great woman. I can’t even make her argue with me! She was a cheerleader in high school... a really good one! Makes awesome blueberry pancakes in the mornings too—y’all should come over and have some!” 

 Tom has been beekeeping now for about four years since they’ve moved to Danielsville. He got into it by shadowing his friend’s youth pastor at his church, David Bailey, and has done it ever since. He loves it. Tom and some of the other club members respond to calls from people about clusters of honeybees around their homes and different places, and they safely remove them. Aprilla even helps him capture swarms. Tom is a natural with bees, and you’ll hardly ever see him wearing gloves. He’ll make you feel completely relaxed around them. 

 On my first visit to their house to borrow Tom’s extractor for my first successful honey flow last year, I walked inside to hear a few shrill barks and scattering of toenails to reveal several small Chihuahuas, a Chinese Crested and a couple of cats wandering amongst them.  They came to the door to alert, then scattered back together to chill on their favorite old couch across from the tv. Aprilla says they’ve always had dogs since they’ve been married... lots. She’s always loved dogs. Their first dog was a Chihuahua mix named Dinker, and the most memorable so far was Rosie. “She just looked at you like she knew you, like an old friend,” she says.

 I asked Aprilla if Tom is as into the dogs as she is, but she says, “He tolerates it because he knows it’s something I like.” One of the reasons she likes having smaller dogs is because they fit better in the bed. They all sleep on the bed—they kiss Tom first, then they come over to her side to settle to sleep. Aprilla remarks with a cute smile, “My quiver is full, but there might be room for one more!”

 You can find Tom and Aprilla and buy some “Bee Happy Honey” from row 8 at the J & J Flea Market on Saturdays, and you can (respectfully) view the beehives at their house on the corner of Highway 29 and Booger Hill Road in Danielsville.

New Animal Control Ordinance Effective September 1, 2017


Athens-Clarke County approved a new ordinance this summer after being approved during the July 2017 commission meeting. This ordinance will be effective beginning September 1, 2017 and will be updated to include cats as part of the ordinance once approved in future commission meetings.


The Commission of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia hereby ordains as follows:

SECTION 1. Subsection (a) of section 4-1-18 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Disposition of impounded animals” is hereby amended by adding thereto the words “to offer the animal for adoption in accordance with Sec. 4-1-22”, so that subsection (a) of section 4-1-18 is: 

“Sec. 4-1-18. - Disposition of impounded animals. 

“(a) If an animal remains unclaimed within the prescribed amount of time, then the superintendent of the animal control division, or his designees, shall be authorized to dispose of such animal in as humane and painless a manner as possible, to offer the animal for adoption in accordance with Sec. 4-1-22, or to donate such animal to a non-profit institution or agency for the purpose of humane placement or rescue.”  SECTION 2. Section 4-1-21 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled 

“Redemption of impounded animals” is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following new section 4-1-21 is inserted in lieu thereof:

“Sec. 4-1-21. - Redemption of impounded animals. 

“(a) It shall be the responsibility of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division to attempt to notify the owner or feral cat colony caretaker, if known, or can be reasonably ascertained, of every animal impounded, by telephone if possible, or by mail or by written notice at the residence of the owner within two working days of the impoundment. 

“(b) The owner or feral cat colony caretaker of the animal may claim and take custody of the animal within five days of such impoundment by the payment of required fees and the cost of inoculations and veterinary services, including microchipping if provided pursuant to subsection (c) of this section. After five days, the animal shall be deemed abandoned and shall be the property of Athens-Clarke County, and disposed of only pursuant to section 4-1-18 or section 4-1-22, as applicable. 

“(c) From and after September 1, 2017, all dogs or cats other than feral cats reclaimed under this section shall be microchipped before leaving impoundment at the animal control division, with the identification number from the animal’s microchip recorded in Animal Control Division records. 

“(d) From and after September 1, 2017, no dog shall be released from impound by the Animal Control Division, more than once unless, prior to release, it is spayed or neutered at the owner’s expense, unless the reclaiming owner:

“(l) shows proof of a breeding license issued by the Georgia Department of Agriculture and all local business permits or ce1tificates applicable to a commercial dog breeding business, or 

“(2) provides written certification from a licensed veterinarian citing a high likelihood that the dog will suffer serious bodily harm or death due to age or specified infirmity if the dog is spayed or neutered and the date, if any, on which such restriction shall end, in which case the owner shall, in writing, agree that such animal will be sterilized within 30 days from such date with proof provided promptly to the animal control superintendent. If timely proof of spay or neuter is not received, the dog shall be subject to confiscation unless prior to the expiration of the agreed period the owner provides an updated veterinary certification as set forth above and the owner enters into a new sterilization agreement under the same terms.

“( e) Any person reclaiming a dog that, after September 1, 2017, has been impounded for the first time, shall acknowledge in writing prior to taking custody of the dog the requirements of this ordinance that upon any subsequent impound, the animal shall not be released unless it is spayed or neutered at the owner’s expense in accordance with paragraph (d) of this section.” 

SECTION 3. Subsection (a) of section 4-1-22 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Adoption of animals” is hereby amended by deleting the words “unclaimed after five days following impoundment” and substituting the words “deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b)”, so that subsection (a) of section 4-1-22 is:

“Sec. 4-1-22. - Adoption of animals. 

“(a) The Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Superintendent may offer for adoption any animal deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b) or any animal that has been donated to the division by the owner.” 

SECTION 4. Subsection (b) of section 4-1-22 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Adoption of animals” is hereby amended by adding thereto the words “In the event that the owner of an animal at the time of impound desires to reclaim an animal remaining in the custody of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division after the animal has been deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b ), the director of the Animal Control Division may, in his or her discretion, permit such prior owner to adopt the dog in accordance with this section, provided however, that no dog shall be adopted by the prior owner unless the dog has been spayed or neutered and microchipped at the owner’s expense” so that subsection (a) of section 4-1-22 is: 

“Sec. 4-1-22. - Adoption of animals.  “(b) An animal may be donated for adoption only by a resident of Athens-Clarke County and may be made available for adoption upon the determination by the animal control superintendent that the animal is of reasonably good health and temperament. In the event that the owner of an animal at the time of impound desires to reclaim an animal remaining in the custody of the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control Division after the animal has been deemed abandoned pursuant to Sec. 4-1-21 (b), the director of the Animal Control Division may, in his or her discretion, permit such prior owner to adopt the dog in accordance with this section, provided however, that no dog shall be adopted by the prior owner unless the dog has been spayed or neutered and microchipped at the owner’s expense.”

SECTION 5. Section 4-1-25 of the Code of Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, entitled “Regulation of dangerous, vicious and potentially dangerous dogs” is hereby deleted in its entirety and the following new section 4-1-25 is inserted in lieu thereof: 

“Sec. 4-1-25. -Regulation of dangerous, vicious and potentially dangerous dogs. 

“(a) The animal control superintendent shall be the designated authority to carry out the duties of dog control officer as provided for in O.C.G.A. § 4-8-22(b) and as provided for in this chapter. 

“(b) It shall be the duty of Judge of the Probate Court to conduct hearings and make determinations concerning the regulation and disposition of potentially dangerous dogs as required in this Chapter and dangerous and vicious dogs as required by O.C.G.A. Chapter 8, Title 4 and as required by this chapter. 

“( c) During the period while classification is pending and during the amount of time that such classification is eligible for or under appeal by the owner, the dog will be impounded at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control unless the animal control superintendent confirms after inspection that all of the applicable enclosure requirements of O.C.G.A. § 4-8-27 and this section have been met. 

“(d) Whenever a dog that has been classified as dangerous or vicious under O.C.G.A. § 4-8-21 et seq. or potentially dangerous pursuant to the provisions of this chapter (together, “classified dogs” and each a “classified dog”) is present in Athens-Clarke County, the following apply:

“(I) Before the dog may be housed anywhere within Athens-Clarke County other than at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control or at veterinarian facility for the purpose of satisfying the procedures required in this section the owner must meet all of the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 4-8-27 and of this section and be issued a certificate of registration.

“(2) All classified dogs must be spayed or neutered and microchipped. The owner must provide written proof of the spay or neuter and the identification number from the dog’s microchip to the animal control superintendent before a certificate of registration may be issued or updated. The animal control superintendent shall be authorized to administer the microchip and, in any event, shall confirm the microchip placement and number by scanning the dog to the extent that such administration or confirmation can be accomplished without risk of physical harm to animal control personnel. The microchip number shall be included on the certificate of registration, and it shall be unlawful for any person to tamper with or remove such identification. 

“(3) The owner of a classified dog shall confine the dog only in a proper enclosure, as set forth in O.C.G.A. § 4-8-27 or this section, that has been inspected and approved by the animal control superintendent. Such inspection shall occur prior to issuance or renewal of a certificate of registration and must be updated if the location at which the animal is being kept is changed at any time, including if a previously classified dog is brought into Athens-Clarke County. The animal control superintendent or his designee is authorized to update it at other times in his discretion.

“(4) If the owner has not already met the requirements for issuance of a certificate of registration at the time the dog is classified or at the time a previously classified dog is brought into Athens-Clarke County, the dog shall be impounded at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control. The owner must meet the requirements for keeping a potentially dangerous, dangerous or vicious dog, as applicable, no later than five days after the date the classification becomes effective or after a previously classified dog is brought into Athens-Clarke County. If the requirements are not met or the dog is not retrieved from Athens-Clarke County Animal Control within such time, then the dog shall be deemed unclaimed and subject to the provisions of section 4-1-18. 

“(5) The owner of a classified dog must renew the certificate of registration annually. The animal control superintendent or his designee shall inspect and approve the proper enclosure for the dog prior to renewing a certificate of registration, re-scan and verify the dog’s microchip identification number, and confirm that the dog has been spayed or neutered to the extent that such confirmation can be accomplished without risk of physical harm to animal control personnel. 

“(6) The owner of a classified dog shall immediately orally notify the animal control division if the dog is not confined in the approved location or by the approved method, if the dog is stolen or missing, or if the dog is otherwise loose, if the dog is transferred, or if the dog is deceased. The owner thereafter must submit within two business days a notarized, sworn statement describing the circumstances of the dog’s death or disappearance, or the name, address and telephone number of the person to whom the dog was transferred. 

“(7) Whenever a classified dog is subject to confiscation, the owner of the dog must submit the dog to Athens-Clarke County Animal Control without delay. A classified dog is subject to confiscation under this chapter if it is not validly registered, not maintained in a proper enclosure, or is outside the proper enclosure in violation of this chapter. 

“(8) No classified dog in the custody of Athens-Clarke County Animal Control may be offered for the purpose of adoption; provided, however, that dogs classified as potentially dangerous may be transferred to an animal shelter licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture if authorized by the animal control superintendent.

“(e) In addition to the requirements set forth above, whenever a dog that has been classified as potentially dangerous pursuant to the provisions of this chapter is present in Athens-Clarke County, the following apply:

“(I) A “proper enclosure” shall mean an enclosure designed to securely confine the potentially dangerous dog on the owner’s property, indoors, or in a securely locked and enclosed pen, fence, or structure suitable to prevent the potentially dangerous dog from leaving such property. 

“(2) The owner of the dog shall post on the premises where the dog is kept a clearly visible sign warning that there is a potentially dangerous dog on the property. 

“(3) Whenever outside the proper enclosure, the potentially dangerous dog must be restrained by a leash not to exceed six feet in length and under the immediate physical control of a person capable of preventing the dog from engaging any other human or animal when necessary.

“(f) Investigations by animal control superintendent; notice to owner; hearings; determinations by hearing authority.

“(I) Upon receiving a report of a dog believed to be subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog as defined in this Chapter, the animal control superintendent shall make such investigations as necessary to determine whether such dog is subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog.  “(2) When the animal control superintendent determines that a dog is subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog, the animal control superintendent shall send by certified mail to the owner’s last known address a dated notice to the dog’s owner. Such notice shall include a summary of the dog control officer’s determination and shall state that the owner has a right to request a hearing from the Judge of the Probate Court on the animal control superintendent’s determination within seven days after the date shown on the notice. The notice shall provide a form for requesting the hearing and shall state that if a hearing is not requested within the allotted time, the animal control superintendent’s determination shall become effective for all purposes under this Chapter. If an owner cannot be located within ten days of a dog control officer’s determination that a dog is subject to classification as a potentially dangerous dog, the dog shall be deemed unclaimed and subject to the provisions of section 4-1-18. 

“(3) When a hearing is requested by a dog owner in accordance with this section, such hearing shall be scheduled within 30 days after the request is received; provided, however, that such hearing may be continued by the Judge of the Probate Court for good cause shown. At least ten days prior to the hearing, the Judge of the Probate Court shall mail to the dog owner written notice of the date, time, and place of the hearing. At the hearing, the dog owner shall be given the opportunity to testify and present evidence, and the Judge of the Probate Court shall receive other evidence and testimony as may be reasonably necessary to sustain, modify, or overrule the superintendent’s determination. 

“(4) Within ten days after the hearing, Judge of the Probate Court shall mail written notice to the dog owner of its determination on the matter. If such determination is that the dog is a potentially dangerous dog, the notice of classification shall specify the date upon which that determination shall be effective.

“(g) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this chapter to the contrary, any dog that causes a fatality to a human will not be released to the owner until the end of any appeals process.”

SECTION 6. All ordinances or parties of ordinances in conflict herewith are hereby repealed.

Advocate for Athens Pets: Your Favorite Volunteer Activity for This Fall (We Hope!)

by Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

AthensPets, the volunteer-run nonprofit organization that supports the Athens-Clarke County Animal Control, has recently started a new volunteer program to promote adoptions for long-term residents or animals that have special needs. The AthensPets Advocate program came about during a discussion started by volunteer Lisa Milot about ways to gain more exposure for these hard-to-adopt dogs and cats, and the other volunteers and staff loved the idea. The dogs and cats included in the program are chosen based on their length of time at the shelter as well as potential medical issues or other reasons the animal may be harder to find a home for.

Lindsay Baker, an ACC Animal Control employee, shared a study by Rebecca Davis at Marquette University entitled Understanding Volunteerism in an Animal Shelter Environment: Improving Volunteer Retention to show that there is scientific support to these kinds of programs. The study demonstrates that “human interaction with shelter dogs is essential for the animals’ well-being. The volunteer task of interacting with the animals can and does assist with the increase of adoptions and the decrease of euthanizing healthy adoptable animals.” 

AthensPets volunteer Ashley Short took on the task of coordinating the program where volunteers can choose one or more pets on order to be their “personal cheerleader.” The advocate is expected to visit with their chosen dog or cat at least once a week and to share public photos on their social media, which are then reposted to the AthensPets social media pages. This not only gives the animal a wider audience through the volunteer’s followers, but it also gives a more personal perspective about the animal’s personality and needs. 

The bond between dedicated volunteers and the animals they’re advocating for is a key component of the program. Volunteers are encouraged to teach dogs new tricks, figure out which toy is a cat’s favorite and generally learn what makes the animals happy to know what kinds of homes would be the best fit for a successful adoption.

When I learned about this program, I jumped on board. I know from personal experience the power of social media in finding a new home for a stray or unwanted pet, so I decided I wanted to advocate for one cat and one dog since I consider myself to be a cat person and a dog person. 

Lil Man stuck out to me because he is such a cute boy and he seems to really have his life together—he’s housebroken, good with kids, good with other dogs, doesn’t make a mess of things or jump fences. He’s essentially a perfect dog for adoption and only ended up at animal control because his owner couldn’t take care of him or his housemate pup, Beauty (also available for adoption). In my first interaction with him, I learned that he is a fan of rope toys and likes to run after balls (but not so much the bringing-it-back-to-you part). It was a hot day, so he would play for a minute and then run back under the picnic table to lay in the shade. I could totally relate—I was hot, too! When we back to his run, he was very attentive as I gave him treats to sit and coaxed him to work on the command “down.” He’s a fast learner, and when he looks up at you with his big eyes, your heart melts instantly.

Penelope was the cat I chose, and she is also the cover model for this issue! She was a bit more difficult for me to make friends with—it wasn’t that usual instant connection that I have with cats. I took her to an interaction room where she sniffed every inch of everything, and although she was interested in playing with the mousie and ball I brought in, I was not on her radar. But I think she’s a perfect reminder that it is a shelter environment, which is really stressful, particularly for cats. Her owner also surrendered her, so she went from living in a home to being in this scary place and not knowing why or what will happen next. She is the kind of cat who needs a home that much faster so she can be comfortable and be herself. She also has made it clear that she wants to be an only pet—the Queen B—in her next home, and who can blame her? 

If you are interested in becoming an animal advocate for AthensPets, you can email Ashley Short at for more information and to be you paired with a dog or cat of your choosing!

Read to Rover

by Amanda Newsom

The Athens-Clarke County Library started its Read to Rover program in 2000 to “provide reluctant readers an opportunity to read in a comforting and supportive environment,” according to Evan Bush, ACC Library Youth Services Coordinator. 

Dogs certified by Therapy Dog International are scheduled for the program, and anywhere from 10 to 20 kids show up to each program with their accompanying adults. Each child selects a book on their reading level of their choosing. Bush says, “Ironically, many children select books about cats because they think dogs will be interested in stories about cats.” The children are aware of their audience, and they are all thoughtful in the types of books they choose to read to the dogs. 

When it’s their turn, each child and their adult (or even entire family) will go in to read to the dog. Bush says, “All of the therapy dogs are excellent listeners and enjoy getting petted as well, which is its own positive incentive.” The Read to Rover program benefits children in that it allows them to read aloud in a non-judgmental, comforting setting in order to build confidence in their reading abilities. It also gives them a positive memorable experience with reading so they will be more apt to read on their own more frequently. Parents or guardians can use the same principles from the program at home by having their children read to their own pets. 

Studies show that children who participate in these kinds of programs increase their reading abilities more quickly. Corinne Serra Smith of National-Louis University studied the Sit Stay Read program in Chicago in 2009 and found that children who participated in the program improved their reading abilities by 20 percent more than the control group. Other studies have produced results with similarly consistent findings, as well.

The Read to Rover program also helps to build more compassion and empathy toward animals. This is evident in the children choosing books that they think the dogs will enjoy. It’s also a great way for children who don’t have dogs at home, or who aren’t comfortable around dogs in general, to learn more about them in a calm setting.

The Read to Rover program will pick back up this September and is generally held the third Sunday of each month. The dates and times can be found on the children’s event calendar at

Fighting Brain Tumors

by Morgan Solomon

Image: UGA College of Veterinary Medicine

Image: UGA College of Veterinary Medicine

For the past few years the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine has been working hard to establish a cure that will fight brain tumors in canines and that has significant potential to eventually help humans. Dr. Simon Platt is leading this research where they have created the concept of “magic bullet” implants.

When fighting brain cancers, it is a difficult approach because most cancers cannot be removed surgically, and chemotherapy drugs are not able to reach the tumor due to the blood brain barrier (BBB). According to their research, the BBB blocks 100 percent of large molecules and 98 percent of small molecules from entering the brain—this is true for both canines and humans.

In order to work around the BBB, Dr. Platt and his team have created these implants. The implants are polymeric microcylinders made up off PLGA, a plastic used in absorbable sutures that is biocompatible and non-toxic to the brain. These microcylinders have been created in a way that makes it possible for them to be implanted through stereotactic implantation, which means the procedure is minimally-invasive. The polymer of the microcylinders can be adjusted so whatever drug it contains is delivered over a specific period of time prescribed by the researchers.

The significance of these microcylinders is the fact that they can be placed directly into the cancerous tissue within the brain. This action allows doctors to sidestep the BBB completely, and a high dosage of chemotherapy is delivered into the cancer. Another positive of this approach is that there is not any risk of the side effects associated with high doses of chemotherapy delivered orally or intravenously, such as myelosuppression or gastrointestinal upset.

Glioma is a type of tumor that occurs in the brain and spinal cord; this type of cancer is common in both dogs and humans. Temozolamide (TMZ) is an Federal Drug Administration approved chemotherapy drug used to treated gliomas in humans, and it has also been proven to be safe in dogs with lymphatic cancer. However, there is not a significant amount of research to prove that TMZ is effective in fighting brain tumors in dogs. Dr. Platt and his team plan to study the effectiveness of implanting PLGA microcylinders infused with TMZ and gadolinium in dogs with gliomas. The team’s preliminary studies have proven that these microcylinders containing TMZ and gadolinium are well-tolerated in healthy dogs.

They are now in a pilot clinical trial where they have successfully treated six dogs with this approach. Once this trial is completed, they hope to launch a nationwide clinical trial that will test this therapy in many different institutions.

When asked about the significance of this project, Dr. Platt, the owner of a 7-year-old German Wirehaired Pointer, responded with three things he finds most important regarding this research. First, the project offers a potential treatment for dogs whose owners may not have the resources to pursue any treatment. Second, in the future this could be a part of standard brain tumor treatment in dogs, which means this represents something that could have a major impact on the quality of life for many affected dogs. Finally, the potential that the success of this work could impact the treatment of humans with similar brain tumors is immense, and it is incredible to think that it is a distinct possibility. According to Dr. Platt this research could become part of regular treatment protocol for dogs within five years if successful. The commencement of human clinical trials will most likely follow a similar time line.

In order to help with the progress of this research, there is a Georgia Funder page with a goal of raising $50,000. This funding will support the study by taking care of the financial cost of this treatment for five dogs including MRIs, surgery, bloodwork, hospital stays and more. If you want to contribute, you can find the page by visiting and searching “canine brain tumors” so you can help Dr. Platt and his team get closer to curing brain cancer in dogs, and maybe one day in humans. 

Wait, All Wine Isn't Vegan?

 by Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

Photo: Amanda Newsom

It seemed fitting to have a vegan wine tasting as the first fundraiser hosted by Classic City Paw Print, mainly because, well, wine and food. It was important for us to feature vegan items as the theme because it fits in with the magazine’s mission to promote compassion for all animals, which includes farm animals and fish. Most people don’t realize that not all wine is vegan, or even vegetarian. It sounds a bit outlandish—there isn’t meat in wine, so why wouldn’t it be?

Many wines, as well as some beers and liquors, use byproducts from animals to clarify their wine in what is called the “fining process.” Though most wines will do this naturally while sitting over time (called “settling”), the fining process drastically reduces the wine production time so that we can drink the wine sooner. Sounds good. But here’s the thing: some of the items used during this fining process include blood and bone marrow, fish bladder membranes and fish oil, crustacean shells, milk protein, egg whites and gelatin (made using boiled animal parts). I don’t know about you, but I am not that interested in a side of fish bladders with my glass of wine! 

The good news is that there are some natural options that companies can and do use during this process that are vegan, such as bentonite (a clay-based agent) and activated charcoal. Other wineries choose to let their wines settle, which can increase the labor cost and is more time consuming, but it results in vegan wines that often are also more flavorful.

The not-so-great news is that United States laws do not require wine labels to list ingredients or nutrition facts, so there’s not an easy way to quickly pick out which wines are vegan when you head to the store to make your purchase. Some wine companies are putting this information on their bottles as an ethical decision, and some include icons or verbiage indicating that the wine is vegan or vegetarian. Without these labels though, you will have to do some research to find out what other wines can be added to the list. 

If you can’t find any of this info on the label, there is a great iOS app that you can use as a nice resource called Vegan Xpress. There is a more well-known website and app at; however, in researching wines for the vegan wine tasting fundraiser, Leigh McDaniel of Empire Distribution found so many discrepancies (i.e., many of the wines listed as vegan, in fact, were not) on Barnivore that we don’t recommend using it as a reliable source. We are also lucky to live in Athens where there are several package stores that have knowledgeable staff to help you find more vegan wines, such as Uncommon Gourmet, J’s Bottle Shop and Five Points Bottle Shop. 

For the vegan wine tasting on July 25, 2017 at Heirloom Café, we chose wines that were vegan based on their production from the fining process forward since that is the predominant process that defines a wine as being vegan or not. Two of the wines chosen for the tasting were produced on a biodynamic winery—“biodynamic” meaning a farming process that incorporates animal husbandry into an enclosed ecosystem and relies on the philosophy of creating balance with nature. The process is a bit controversial in the strict vegan world, as some biodynamic farms also incorporate arcane pagan rituals involving animal parts. However, the winery included in the tasting fundraiser, M. Chapoutier, does not participate in any of these rituals and only relies on the manure from cows as a soil fertilizer and on sheep grazing to maintain the rows between wine vines. 

If you would like to try the wines featured in our wine tasting, you can find all of them at Uncommon Gourmet. We’ve also listed the wines and pairings from the event by Heirloom’s Executive Chef, Joel Penn, below:

  • Murphy Goode’s Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc The Fumé (2015): Paired with smashed cucumber, soba noodles, sesame vinaigrette, lime
  • M. Chapoutier Bila-Baut, Côtes du Roussillon Les Vignes De Bila-Haut Blanc (2015)
  • Domaine Bousquet Winery, Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé (2015): Paired with local organic edamame, old bay sauce, fancy salt
  • Murphy Goode, Red Blend (2012): Paired with smoked mushrooms, corn miso sauce, chives
  • Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier, Western Victoria Shiraz Viognier (2015)

Alejandro Ortiz of J's Bottle Shop shares some vegan wine options you can purchase from them below:

  • The Standard: Lioco. Husband-and-wife team and makers of incredibly balanced, lower-alcohol and laser-focused wines from California, they make a fabulous chardonnay, carignan, rosé and pinot noir, all vegan.
  • The Bubbles: Casteller Cava. In truth, most cava, Spanish sparkling wine, is vegan-friendly.
  • The Crisp Rosé: Vin Gris de Cigare by Bonny Doon Vineyards. From California’s enfant-terrible and renegade winemaker. Currently his entire production is vegan and biodynamic. 
  • The Crazy Values: Both Bodgeas Castaño Monastrell and Espelt Old Vines Grenache are excellent, spicy and delicious reds that are perfect for every day and are still produced by the families whose names grace their labels.

Mark Burnett of Five Points Bottle Shop shares some vegan wine options you can purchase from them below:

  • Cantina Zaccagnini Pinot Grigio (white)

  • Chateau de Saint Cosme "Little James Basket Press" White Blend (white)

  • Chloe Chardonnay (white)

  • Revelry Chardonnay (white)

  • Girard Sauvignon Blanc (white)

  • H.I.P. (House of Independent Producers) Chardonnay (white)

  • Loimer Rose (rose)

  • Cline Cellars Rose (rose)

  • Burgess Syrah (red)

  • Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (red)

  • Fiddlehead Cellars "728" Pinot Noir (red)

  • Mollydooker Shiraz "The Boxer" (red)

  • Revelry Merlot (red)

  • Ca de Medici Lambrusco (sparkling)

  • G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne (sparkling)

  • Krug Grande Cuvee Champagne (sparkling)

Special thanks goes to Heirloom Café, Uncommon Gourmet and Empire Distribution for partnering with us to raise money for the dogs and cats awaiting homes at Athens-Clarke County Animal Control via AthensPets.