History of Athenspets

Athenspets.net was started in 2001 by an intrepid volunteer named Allyson. She created a webpage to advertise the dogs at the shelter in the hope of finding them adoptive homes or rescues before their time ran out. (At the time, the Athens Area Humane Society handled the cats.)

Over the years, other volunteers joined Allyson so that more of the dogs (and later the cats) could be photographed and publicized on a timely basis. In addition, the volunteers began collecting sponsorship pledges for the dogs and cats to help rescues afford to pull them, and funds to pay for the extraordinary medical expenses of a few of the impounded animals.

On January 30, 2015, a volunteer named Lisa formed Athenspets, Inc. as a Georgia nonprofit, tax-exempt corporation (and shortly thereafter got it licensed by the GDA as a rescue group), to better help the animals at the shelter by allowing more efficient fundraising. Despite this change, much has stayed the same: We are still an all-volunteer organization that devotes our time, love, and money to helping the needy pets of the Athens area and the people who love them. To this end, in addition to publicizing the impounded animals and expanding the medical care available, we work to reduce the future population of homeless animals by providing free or greatly subsidized spay/neuter surgeries for pets referred to us by Athens-Clarke County Animal Services staff, one of our rescue partners, or that we identify as needing help. If you or someone you know needs help with the cost of spay/neuter surgeries for owned or community animals, please email us at spayneuter@athenspets.net!

In 2020/2021, we partnered with the University of Georgia School of Law to develop the innovative Community Interventions program, in which we provided progressive vetting and exposure to new people over a 6-month period of time to the animals from a community we identified as disproportionately producing medically and socially neglected dogs at the shelter, while providing information to their owners on legal requirements and best practices for pet ownership. We are hopeful that this pilot program can continue and are actively looking for funding for it and believe that data-driven community programs are the future of animal welfare in our area.

We are proud that this website has greatly increased the number of animals rescued and adopted from Athens-Clarke County Animal Services year after year, as well as reducing the number of neglected animals in our community. No cats or dogs have needed to be euthanized at the shelter because of overpopulation in our area since February 2021 but we need YOUR help to keep it that way, whether as an adopter, foster, volunteer, rescue partner, donor, publicist, or simply by thanking our corporate partners!

We greatly appreciate the Athens-Clarke County Animal Services staff. They are wonderfully supportive of this website and our programs and they make all their shelter volunteers feel welcome and appreciated. Their compassion for the animals in their care, their professionalism in running the shelter, and their outreach work to promote responsible pet ownership is amazing. The people and pets of Athens are very lucky to have them.


RELEASHED Dog Training Program

Dog Training Programs are an evidence-based initiatives designed to help low risk inmates — Returning Citizens —  and at-risk dogs in communities across the country. These programs have been proven to improve the mental health of Returning Citizens and decrease the likelihood that they will reoffend. They also allow the dogs to get out of the crowded shelter and learn skills that make them more likely to be adopted!

The RELEASHED Dog Training Program is a partnership between Athens-Clarke County Animal Services, Athens-Clarke County Department of Corrections, and Athenspets. Dogs from ACCAS are brought to live in a specialized enclosure on Corrections property. There, they are trained and socialized by pairs of Returning Citizens under the supervision of Tricia Hall, of Bone-A-Fide Dog Training. Once the dogs are ready, usually after three to four months of training, they become eligible for adoption!

By adopting a dog from RELEASHED, not only do you get a happy, healthy, trained pet but you get to help animals and people in your community.


Adoption Process

The Athens-Clarke County Animal Services shelter is a municipal, open-admission shelter. This means that it takes in owner surrendered animals from Athens-Clarke County residents and stray animals found by county residents or found in Athens-Clarke County limits whether or not there is available space (owners looking to surrender animals may be asked to schedule an appointment to do so but if you cannot hold onto the animal until the scheduled time, let staff know--they will work with you).

At Athenspets we are firm believers in having open-admission shelters; animals without another safe place to be need a place they can go instead of being left to wander and struggle to survive on their own or being hastily given to someone who will not have their best interests in mind. However, this means that critically injured animals, terminally ill and suffering animals, and aggressive animals are admitted and generally euthanized. In addition, because animals are admitted even when there is no available space at the shelter, at times they euthanize healthy, nonaggressive animals, including those that would make great pets but that are struggling in the high-stress shelter environment.

As a result, adopters and rescues need to act quickly, to help ensure space is available for the animals that need it.

Provided veterinary care

All dogs receive DHPP and bordetella vaccination, basic deworming, microchipping, and heartworm testing on impound. Dogs that test positive for heartworms are only available to rescues for the first 30 days; after that they can be rescued or enter a foster-to-adopt arrangement (apply here) and may be adopted after they are treated for heartworms (at county expense). Most dogs are also vaccinated against rabies and all are spayed or neutered prior to adoption.

Adoption & rescue process generally

Applications for an animal are taken by staff as soon as an animal is impounded. Each approved applicant, regardless of whether an individual or a licensed rescue group, is provided priority in adopting or rescuing the animal on a first-come first-served basis.

Once an animal becomes available (either because the stray hold period has expired or s/he was surrendered to the shelter by an owner), applicants may adopt or rescue the animal if he or she is still at the shelter at the adoption time arranged between you and shelter staff. If you were not given an adoption time, or before you come to the shelter for your adoption time, call the shelter at 706-613-3540 to arrange a time or find out if the dog is still available, as applicable.

Adopters or rescues that are not first in order of priority for an animal should call the shelter at the start of their adoption windows to determine whether the animal is still available for adoption or rescue. If so the adoption or rescue must be completed within the assigned time period.

More information about adopting a dog can be found on the county's website.

Because about half of our adoption applications fall through, it is worth putting an application on the dog of your choice, even if you're not first in line!

Adoption fees

The current standard adoption fees for dogs are:

$150: Dogs under 25lbs and puppies 6 mons old or younger.

$100: Adult dogs over 25lbs and over 6 mons old that have been at the shelter 30 days or less.

$50: Any adult dog in the shelter over 30 days.


Applying to adopt a dog

To apply to adopt a shelter dog, go to the county's listing of impounded dogs. Click on the picture of the dog in which you are interested and complete the application the link reading "Interested in this animal? Click here" leads to. (You will need to scroll up to see it if the page looks blank.) If you do not hear back from staff within 48 hours, call 706-613-3540 to check in.

Not sure who you want to adopt?

If you would like to meet the dogs in person before adopting, schedule a walk-through appointment with staff by calling 706-613-3540. Since many of the available dogs are in foster homes, though, make sure to talk with Nicollette Watkins at the shelter and let her know of any dogs you think might be a good fit so she can make sure they are present for you to meet.

Athenspets hosts drop-in days at the shelter some Saturdays. Watch our Facebook page for announcements or ask shelter staff if there is an upcoming one scheduled! On these days, no appointment is needed to come by and meet the dogs, though only some of the dogs in foster care will be present. (If there is an upcoming drop-in day, let Nicollette Watkins know of any dogs listed in foster care in the shelter's on-line listing know of your interest so we can try to have them there--call 706-613-3540 to speak with Nicollette.)

Bring your dog to the shelter to pick a new best friend

We recommend bringing any household members the dog MUST get along with to the shelter for a meet-and-greet prior to adoption. This includes household dogs (they must be up-to-date on their rabies vaccinations and wearing a current rabies tag), young children, and elderly household members. Staff can help you make a great match!

Rescuing a dog

Athens-Clarke County Animal services makes it easy to rescue dogs! Our rescue partners ensure that there is always space at the shelter for newly impounded dogs that need a safe place to stay until their owners reclaim them or they are adopted or rescued.

In Georgia, only rescues licensed by the Georgia Department of Agriculture can take transfer of animals from a shelter if the transfer occurs in the state of Georgia. If you are an out-of-state rescue interested in helping with out our animals, please email info@athenspets.net for information about how we can help you become a rescue partner.

Georgia licensed rescues interested in helping: please send a copy of your GDA license and a signed "authorized person" form to nicollette.watkins@accgov.com, with information about the types (or specific identities) of the dogs you can help.

There are no pull fees and no restrictions on which animals a rescue may pull, but all rescues and adoptions are on a first-come-first-served basis without preference for either, except where an animal is designated as "rescue only".

If you are interested in rescuing a "rescue only" dog but need help with expenses, email info@athenspets.net to see if sponsorship could be made available. Other animals may have private pledges of sponsorship as well; we can let you know these amounts (we are still coming up with a good way to advertise the amounts now that the shelter is publicizing the animals and will update this section when we can).

More information about rescuing an animal from Athens-Clarke County Animal Services can be found here.