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Otis, a new resident of the Athens County Dog Shelter on Aug 30, 2022.

Local animal shelters, rescues near capacity limits

Local animal shelters and rescues continue to receive a consistent, but high, number of animals in need of their care. 

The Athens County Dog Shelter is currently housing about 45 dogs, Athens County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant and Dog Warden Ryan Gillette, said. This number puts them near full capacity, a theme to which the Hocking County Shelter and a non-profit rescue, AARF, in Meigs County can relate.

In Athens County, the shelter did not experience an increase in surrendered animals following the holiday season, Gillette said. This follows a standard yearly pattern, he said. 

“From year-to-year, it seems like typically, our numbers have been pretty consistent up into 2022; 2022 is kind of an extreme year as far as overall statistics,” Gillette said.

In 2022, all statistics increased for the Athens County Dog Shelter, including intakes and adoptions.

Although the Athens County Dog Shelter is currently experiencing a high volume of dogs, they are kept until they can be adopted out or taken on by a private rescue. To date, no dogs have been euthanized due to overcrowding, Gillette said. 

"We’ve had dogs in here for a year and a half. As long as they're happy and healthy and their mental state is not in such a place that would cause them to be exhibiting unhealthy behaviors, we will continue to take care of them and to give them every opportunity to try and get them adopted,” Gillette said.

Most of the Athens County Dog Shelter’s adoption events are facilitated by their partners, which include BARC and Friends of Shelter Dogs. Further, the shelter chooses about 10 dogs monthly that have been there the longest to discount their adoption fee, Gillette said. The fee is reduced from $125 for most dogs, or $65 for dogs over 7 years old, to $50 across the board. 

AARF, a non-profit pet rescue run by Sharon Bushong in Meigs County currently houses even more animals than the county shelter. Currently, AARF has about 140 of both dogs and cats, Bushong said. 

The rescue is funded almost entirely by Bushong and her husband. They do not host adoption events but instead utilize websites such as PetFinder and Facebook to post photos and information about the animals that are up for adoption. 

Although AARF currently houses over 200 animals, they accept any surrendered pet brought to them. 

“I started (AARF) 20 years ago. My passion is Pitbulls. I love the breed very much and I got tired of a Pitbull going into a shelter and then going out the back door dead,” Bushong said. “I really resented that, but a group was able to get the bully breed law repealed here in Ohio, so now the shelters can adopt out pities. That's mainly why we take in any furry friend that needs help.”

AARF is a no-kill shelter and works solely with individuals, requiring background checks which are focused on whether the potential owner has any abuse or animal abuse charges against them. Further, the rescue does not allow pets to be adopted during the holidays to prevent them from being given as presents. 

The Hocking County Humane Society is similar to its Athens County counterpart, currently housing about 30 dogs and cats on average. The humane society has not recently experienced any significant increase in intakes and will begin hosting adoption events in the spring, Lanette Blair, a Humane Agent, said. 

In contrast to AARF, neither the Athens County Dog Shelter nor the Hocking County Humane Society requires background checks for pet adoptions. However, both strongly encourage bringing any people or other pets in the home for introductions to reduce the chance of a return.

Each of the three shelters sees a large number of Pitbulls and Pitbull mixes come through their doors. 

“The law requires that every owner in the state of Ohio, regardless of whether or not they live in town, or live out in the country … has a dog license. The reason why that's so important is because the dog license is what funds the operation for your county dog shelter,” Gillette said. “It takes care of the employees. It keeps the lights on and allows us to be able to have to take care of the dogs that don't have a home.”

To support the Athens County Dog Shelter, Athens County residents can purchase dog tags at the shelter, the Athens County Auditor’s Office or online at until Jan. 31.


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