Emma, a canine resident at Homeward Bound Pet Rescue’s kennel, receives a much-appreciated belly rub from a volunteer. Abused as a puppy, the dog still carries scars from her past, but thanks to those working at the shelter, she has found a new lease on life and discovered the power of love. Now she is awaiting an adoptive family.Victoria McLaughlin, Daniel Laukka and Christian Couch hold part of a litter of puppies waiting to be transported from the Gilmer County Animal Shelter to the northern United States where they will be adopted.Tommy the cat receives a brushing from Debi Klemens at the shelter. A cat snuggles underneath a pet bed at Homeward Bound Pet Rescue.

Lend a hand. Help a paw!

Heather Strafer, president of Homeward Bound Pet Rescue, describes looking into the eyes of a shelter dog as something that will melt your heart. She then said working with the nonprofit, no-kill shelter, is “an extremely fulfilling experience.” 

“I love the animals. I love being able to help them,” added volunteer Al Cash. “It’s a great pastime for a retiree. It’s a way to give back ... If someone wants to do something rewarding for themselves and for our rescues, this is the place to do it.”

Gilmer County Animal Shelter director Daniel Laukka observed it takes a great amount of “time, energy and passion” to work with rescue animals. He said the strides his volunteers and staff members have achieved in the last year toward improving the shelter statistics come from partnering with rescue groups and regularly transporting animals to states such as Massachusetts and Minnesota where there is a greater demand for adoptable pets. 

Laukka noted, however, that these successes are only putting a Band-Aid on the problem if local residents do not take steps to have their pets spayed and neutered. He then referenced statistics from SpayUSA, which say, “An unspayed female cat, her mate and all of their offspring, producing two litters per year, with 2.8 surviving kittens per litter can total: 12 cats in one year, 67 cats in two years, 376 cats in three years ... 11,606,077 cats in nine years.”


Get involved

After thanking the community for its ongoing support, Strafer said, “We always need volunteers. Whatever they can do, we’re grateful for.”

Homeward Bound is in need of foster homes for dogs and cats, as well as people to help with paperwork, routine walking, feeding and cleaning at the shelter. Volunteers also can work in Paws and Claws, a fundraising thrift store on the square in Ellijay, or spend time giving affection to adoptable animals.  

To learn more, visit www.hbpr.org, send an email to homeward@ellijay.com or call 706-698-4663. 


Gilmer County Animal Shelter by the numbers

As seen by the statistics below, since 2013, the county shelter has seen both a dramatic decrease in its euthanasia rates and an increase in the number of adopted animals. 

Shelter director Daniel Laukka said the causes for the changes are networking and “improving the animal shelter image.”

Animals not included in the statistics left the shelter via rescue groups or owner reclaim. The euthanasias included feral and injured animals and owner requests.



﹣ Incoming Dogs: 993

﹣ Dogs euthanized: 406 (41%)

﹣ Dogs adopted: 40

﹣ Incoming Cats: 811

﹣ Cats euthanized: 713 (88%)

﹣ Cats adopted: 18



﹣ Incoming Dogs: 783

﹣ Dogs euthanized: 226 (28%)

﹣ Dogs adopted: 53

﹣ Incoming Cats: 686

﹣ Cats euthanized: 498 (73%)

﹣ Cats adopted: 30



﹣ Incoming Dogs: 963

﹣ Dogs euthanized: 85 (9%)

﹣ Dogs adopted: 94

﹣ Incoming Cats: 861

﹣ Cats euthanized: 340 (39%)

﹣ Cats adopted: 242



﹣ Incoming Dogs: 1,213

﹣ Dogs euthanized: 47 (4%)

﹣ Dogs adopted: 59

﹣ Dogs rescued: 919

﹣ Incoming Cats: 847

﹣ Cats euthanized: 279 (32%)

﹣ Cats adopted: 193

﹣ Cats rescued: 326


Laukka stressed consistency and dependability are important traits for those wishing to volunteer at the county shelter. Visit the Volunteers Helping the Gilmer County Animal Shelter Facebook page to stay up-to-date on ways to get involved. 

Dogs and cats are available for adoption at the county shelter located at 4152 Hwy 52 East next to the county jail. The facility is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. Adoption fees apply.

Laukka also urged citizens who are missing a pet to call the shelter at 706-635-2166 and emphasized the importance of making sure animals are properly tagged. 


Homeward Bound adoption statistics 

Homeward Bound Pet Rescue took in about 200 dogs and cats in 2016. Of those, 182 were adopted or placed in pet foster homes. 

Since its founding in 2000, the organization has helped rescue more than 6,000 animals. 


Shelter wish list

In addition to monetary donations to cover vet bills, the Gilmer County Animal Shelter also included the following items on its wish list: blankets, towels, bleach, dishwashing liquid, paper towels, canned or dry pet food, equine pine pellets, Kuranda beds, Fabuloso, ziplock bags, hand sanitizer and Lysol. 

Times Courier

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 1076
Ellijay, GA. 30540

Phone: 706-635-4313
Fax: 706-635-7006