He was caught in a barbed-wire fence and was taken away by DeKalb County animal control after she called for help.
“They said, ‘We’ll put a citation on the owner’s door. By five days, the dog will be put down,” Guinn said. “I was horrified. I became obsessed, calling every day.”
She said there were about 400 dogs when she visited on the fourth day, and nearly all of them were gone when she returned the following week.
“They had euthanized them all over the weekend,” Guinn said. “Coming back and seeing the empty shelter actually changed my life. I said, ‘I need to do something about this.’”
Then, in 2002, Guinn, a lawyer at the time, founded the Avondale Estates-based nonprofit LifeLine Animal Project, which just took over as the manager of the Fulton County Animal Shelter in northwest Atlanta earlier this month, replacing Barking Hound Village.
LifeLine signed a five-year contract with the county, and costs taxpayers $2.4 million annually, which is the same cost as Barking Hound.
“In 2001, almost 100,000 animals in the 20-county metro area [were euthanized]. … That’s one every six minutes,” she said. “In doing research, I had this idea for an organization to work to change that.”
Guinn is confident in LifeLine’s success with the shelter, and said its mission remains the same: “to one day end euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals.”
“We’ve created a really strong network of a lot of grassroots volunteers groups that help us and the animals,” she said. “We’ve done a lot of work behind the scenes to be poised to do this in Fulton.”
Fulton County Animal Services Director Lara Hudson just moved from Hattiesburg, Miss., where she worked for Southern Pines Animal Shelter, in what she said was a similar situation to Fulton.
She said the release rate of animals there was 30 percent, which is the national average, as well as Fulton’s rate. But after working there for two years, she said the release rate was 60 percent, and credits that to community involvement.
“I want the Fulton County Animal Shelter to be a place where people come and know there are wonderful, healthy adoptable animals, and come here instead of going to store,” Hudson said. “There are so many pets — face-licking, tail wagging animals that need homes.”
Hudson has outlined missions she wants to accomplish in her new position.
She said one goal is to create a humane housing environment, which she actually thought would be a lot worse.
“I have seen literally pits of hell animal shelters. Fulton County is not bad,” Hudson said.
But Rebecca Guinn, director of LifeLine Animal Project, which earlier this month took over as manager of the Fulton County Animal Shelter, said one of the shelter’s main problems is its “antiquated” facility, which was built in 1978 to house just 80 animals.
Currently, the shelter has about 300 animals, she said.
“They need a new shelter, really,” Guinn said. “That’s not something LifeLine can do. It’s something the county has to do. It’s certainly the biggest obstacle.”
Hudson said another shelter goal is to reach out to the community and educate.
“We want to reach down into different districts, in underserved areas, … [and] increase the information available about spaying and neutering animals so we don’t have this pet over population explosion,” she said.
Guinn agrees, and said LifeLine is experienced in community outreach.
“Given the limited capacity of the shelter, we need to do a lot more in the community,” she said. “If they’re choosing between feeding families and feeding animals, we want to help. It’s a community problem and it needs a community solution.”