Etowah Valley Humane Society marks 20 years

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Continuing the plight to find forever homes for homeless pets, the Etowah Valley Humane Society celebrated its 20th anniversary Tuesday.

“On this day in 1996, we were granted a license to operate as a ... nonprofit,” EVHS Director Bryan Canty said. “So we officially began our existence on this date in 1996. It’s a great achievement marked by great advances in animal welfare in Bartow County. I don’t think that any of our founders — meaning Ed Brush, Dr. Dwain Montgomery and the late Linda Parnes — could have even envisioned probably the level that we’re at now.

“The euthanasia rate now is dramatically low. When I started here, it was one of the highest in metro Atlanta and now we’re one of the lowest. In the last six years, we’ve dropped it from 82 percent down to 25 percent now. ... There have been countless people involved with helping us achieve this milestone from other licensed rescues to volunteers to transporters to people who share the images on the social media page and the advent of social media itself. Then the diligence of the staff in really getting a buy-in in terms of what we’re about.”

He continued, “Also, it should never be diminished the impact of our relationship with animal control. We pretty much function as one organization, even though they’re a separate entity all together. [So] we’re the envy of adjacent counties, because in these times it’s too easy for the humane society and animal control facility to be at odds with each other. ... We have a very harmonious relationship. We work very closely. I have staff at that facility just about every single day. They’re great people to work with. I don’t envy what they have to do, but it is a necessary evil when you have pet overpopulation to the extent that we’ve had in Bartow County.”

Established in the mid-1990s as the Bartow County Humane Society, the Cartersville nonprofit changed its name to Etowah Valley Humane Society in 2006, the same year it opened the 4,928-square-foot shelter at 36 Ladds Mountain Road. Costing about $250,000 per year to operate, the facility consists of two staff offices, a quarantine room, two visitation rooms, temperature-controlled kennel runs, a cat room with about 24 cages, a puppy room with more than 20 cages, outdoor kennel runs and an on-site dog park.

“It has been such a blessing in my life to have been a part of this, because other than ... my children, I don’t know if there’s any other thing that I have been a small part of — because all of us are just a small part of it — that has done so much for so many,” said Brush, who currently serves as the treasurer on the EVHS’ board of directors. “It isn’t just the tens of thousands of animals that have been rescued, but it’s the impact on the lives of the people that have rescued them that makes you feel like it’s been such a wonderful thing for this community.

“I’m very proud of any little bit that I did in it. I can’t thank enough all the thousands of people from all different ... parts of this community that have [assisted]. ... It’s really taken an effort by untold numbers to make it be there for that long. We are truly fortunate to live in a community where we can get the kind of support to keep an organization like this going.”

Striving to eliminate euthanizations in Bartow, the EVHS staff’s efforts are unceasing.

“While being in existence for 20 years is something to be celebrated, the task at hand continues,” Canty said. “Our battle each day is against the ones that are being turned into animal control. I don’t want to judge anybody for their reasons for doing so, but at any rate we still have to engage and work to do our very best to get them out and have them placed in loving, forever homes. So we’ve won some battles, but the war continues. We would invite more and more people in our community to get involved, whether it’s from donations to volunteers to ... liking or sharing our [Facebook] page so that the outreach continues to grow. ... One extra person sharing it amongst their friends could potentially reach hundreds, if not thousands, more than we’re able to through our own network. When I get the Facebook updates, I see some weeks [20,000, 30,000 or] 40,000 people are seeing those posts.

“Ultimately, our goal would be to make this entire county a no-kill [county]. It doesn’t seem [like] it’s going to happen anytime soon, but it doesn’t mean that our efforts are diminished or that we’re going to be discouraged because we’re not there yet. We’ve just undergone a major renovation with new flooring and painting. We have designs on expanding the facility in the near future to be able to accommodate more animals and also to make it a more inviting place for adopters to come and also to allow the animals to be better adjusted to being in a shelter. So those are things that are on the horizon.”

For more information about the EVHS, call 770-383-3338 or visit its website, http://etowahvalleyhumane.org, or Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/EtowahValleyHumane. Bartow’s youth can obtain further details about the organization and responsible pet ownership by attending EVHS’ Animal Explorer Day Camp Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“[The Animal Explorer Day Camp is] an outreach program that started several years ago,” Canty said about the complimentary event that will feature speakers and refreshments. “Although it’s primarily designed for children, we encourage the parents and anyone in the community to come out. I’ll speak to the group regarding our viability in the community. We’ll have a representative from animal control. We’ll have a veterinarian, trainers, groomers and the police K-9 unit, as well as a pet nutritionist to really emphasize what it takes to be a responsible pet owner and also make the general public aware of pet overpopulation in our area, because it is a pandemic.

“Although the [euthanasia] numbers are down, they’re still at an unacceptable level. Animal control is taking in 4,000 animals a year. It’s just — no words. Four thousand animals a year — that’s all that has to be said. ... [This event is] our way of giving back and being thankful for the support that we’ve received in our community and to try to remove the perception that every time someone sees us we have our hands stuck out asking for money.”