When Scott and Casey Edwards walked into PetSmart on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, they were not planning on leaving with a new four-legged family member.
“We have been talking about getting another dog for about a year,” said Scott Edwards, a Fort Gordon soldier. “We were just looking for the right time, and the right dog.”
When the couple spotted Stitch, a dachshund mix, his eyes reminded them so much of their other rescue, a beagle mix named Missy, they decided it was the day for a new pet.
It was the second time the couple had adopted from Augusta Animal Rescue Friends Inc., a nonprofit that places Augusta Animal Services Shelter animals. All they knew about Stitch is that he was found wandering on the side of the road.
More than 9,000 cats and dogs a year are picked up by animal control in Augusta, and many are returned to their owners. From 870 to 960 are put up for adoption annually.
Rescue Friends tries to find as many of them homes as possible, although in the last three years, less than 10 percent have been adopted, according to records.
Adopting a rescue pet in Richmond County is not a decision to be taken lightly, officials say. Some adopters might think the somewhat extensive questioning that is required is tedious and unnecessary, but Margie Maccario, one of the founding members of Augusta Animal Rescue Friends, said the questions are meant to ensure the person adopting knows what to expect and leaves with a compatible pet.
“If you have a young child, you don’t want to leave with an older dog,” she said while pointing to a 10-year-old Chihuahua. “You want a younger dog which will appreciate the energy” of a child.
By questioning potential pet owners, Rescue Friends is trying to avoid the cat or dog ending up back at the shelter. Maccario said they ask whether the person has a home or an apartment, a yard or a sidewalk. They ask what the person’s schedule is like. Is there time to walk a high-energy dog three times a day?
Because the shelter sees so many animals each year, Maccario said they do not have time or resources for home inspections, which some shelters will sometimes do.
Claire Heiman, who has volunteered with Molly’s Militia, Inc. for three years, said they will perform a home inspection if the animal requires special care. For example, if the potential owner would like an agile breed, such as a German shepherd mix, Molly’s will make sure the home has a yard with a high fence.
Molly’s also performs a sort of background check through veterinary referrals. If an adopter has pets or has owned pets in the past, Molly’s will call the vet to see how that person cared for their previous pets.
“There are too many animals in shelters,” Heiman said. “The pets will end up back in the shelter again if they aren’t a good match.”
The nonprofit also has a strict return policy and does not refund adoption fees.
“We want people to make a commitment to these pets,” she said. “It is a big decision. We want people to be well prepared so the animals can live a long, happy life with them.”
Molly’s is not a shelter – it’s a group of volunteers who foster animals until they are adopted. Heiman said the summer is when they see the most volunteers and have the most adoptions.
Molly’s and Rescue Friends bring animals ready for adoption to PetSmart every Saturday. New owners are given information that includes a list of veterinarians and coupons for kennels and food. PetSmart also has information on training classes.
All shelters in the area charge an adoption fee, which can be from $25 to $100, depending on the animal and the shelter.