COVINGTON -- Animal shelters and pet rescue centers in the area are encouraging residents to think about Christmas in July and adopt a pet.
Although Newton and Rockdale animal shelters are not filled to capacity at this time like many other area shelters are, they still need more residents to adopt the pets they do have available.
During this time of year, pet rescue centers and shelters get overloaded with kittens and cats, and the down economy has even pushed a heavy volume of dogs into this year's equation.
"This time of year it picks up," said Ciji Baker, manager of the Rockdale County Animal Shelter. "It is kitten season because in mid-March, cats start breeding and having kittens."
Although the Newton and Rockdale county animal shelters have 30 cats or less now, the lower number of adoptions around this time of year could fill them up even more.
"Many people are looking for a pet around Christmas, and that's not when we have a lot," said Teri Key-Hooson, director of the Newton County Animal Shelter. "They need to think about Christmas in July."
Both shelters said residents often drop off pets either because they cannot care for them any longer due to financial reasons or other factors, and some residents bring in pets that they have captured in traps or otherwise.
"We're stretched," Key-Hooson said. "It has been more significant this year. We have noticed an increasing amount of people giving up animals."
Covington resident Katy King now owns several animals that pet owners have abandoned near her home and she has worked hard to adopt out a kitten that she found last week.
"The problem is everyone is at full capacity at the no-kill shelters," she said, adding that she turned to family members to take the kitten when she couldn't find a shelter to take it. "The problem (is) not enough funding for these nonprofits, and they are full."
As a teacher married to a fire department employee, she said they as a family are dealing with pay cuts, but still try to find homes for animals that she either finds on her own or from others coming to her. Sometimes that home might be her own.
"This does not stop me from caring about these thrown away animals," she said. "In May, I adopted two New Zealand bunnies from a student who had a family tragedy and because of this she had to get rid of all her pets. ... I did not want the student to worry about her bunnies with everything she was going through."
Baker said his shelter workers try to give options to pet owners who feel they can no longer keep their animals.
"We focus on education and counseling," he said.
The Rockdale County Animal Shelter will give those types of residents information about training methods, guiding them to places that offer help with discounted food, vaccines and supplies and looking for other ways for them to not turn in their pets.
The animals that end up at the local shelters are adopted out to residents for low costs or given to rescue groups in the area who adopt out pets.
"To come to the shelter, it's a smart thing to do," Key-Hooson said. "We have an overabundance of animals as it is."
Although the county animal shelters are required to keep pets for only three business days before they can euthanize them, they usually end up keeping them longer.
"As long as we've got the room to hold them, we will, maybe for a week or a month or more," Key-Hooson said. "We try to adopt them all, but most rescue groups are full, and we have a limited number of cages."
Baker said the adoption rate for January and February in Rockdale County was in the 80 percent range but has leveled out to the 60 percent range over the past few months, which is normal. Key-Hooson said about half of the 5,000 animals that the Newton County shelter takes in each year end up being euthanized.
"It has gotten better," she said.
Baker said making sure pet owners are aware of spaying and neutering their pets also could help with overcrowded shelters. Low-cost options and vouchers are available, he said.
In Newton County, residents interested in adopting a pet from the animal shelter can visit it at 210 Lower River Road in Covington from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. The phone number is 770-786-9514.
Cat adoption fees are $10, and dog adoption fees are $25, which does not include vaccines.
In Rockdale County, the shelter at 1506 Rock Bridge Road in Conyers is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
Dog adoptions cost $30 for in-county residents and $35 for out-of-county residents, and cats cost $20 for in-county and $25 for those outside of the county. The prices include shots and a low-cost voucher for spaying or neutering and a rabies vaccine. While supplies last, the shelter also is giving away a month of Advantage flea and tick medicine and an adoption package to adopting families.
"You're definitely getting your money's worth," Baker said.
Low-cost vaccine clinics are given monthly at the Rockdale County shelter. The phone number is 770-278-8403.
"We encourage people to adopt from animal control or rescue organizations before they buy (from other businesses) because so many local animals are in need of a home," Baker said. "You are truly saving a life."