Savannah Morning News Column: Savannah Morning News Column

Re-homing Your Pet Assistance

Savannah Morning News – August 25, 2017 Karen Harper, Pets for Life Coordinator

We love our pets and consider them to be part of the family, so when we face a heart-wrenching decision like finding a new home for our pet, it’s not one that’s made lightly. Before you consider surrendering or re-homing your pet, it’s helpful to assess the major reason why. Does your pet have behavior issues? Are there housing problems? Are you having trouble affording pet care? Don’t give up! The Humane Society for Greater Savannah’s Pets for Life program provides a stress-free means of keeping pets with families, where they are already safe, healthy and loved. To speak with our Pets for Life Coordinator about a list of services and resources, please contact our helpline: (912) 228-8010.

Once you’ve exhausted all resources and determined that rehoming your pet is the best option, here are some proactive strategies you can use to increase your chances of finding a home for your pet without them ever leaving your side.

  • Take a good color photo of your pet. If you already have a good photo, make it readily available for use. If not, take one which shows your pet’s best side!
  • Prepare a brief description/biography. List any training your dog or cat has had: house-, crate-, and/or obedience training. Include the type of home your pet would do well in, as well as his/her funniest behaviors and any likes or dislikes. Give some background on your pet and talk about your pet’s favorite toy. The most important thing is to be honest. Full disclosure will help you find a new home.
  • Prepare your pet for a new home. Make your pet more attractive to potential adopters by having your pet spayed or neutered, up-to-date on vaccines, and groomed. Pet Fix Savannah has affordable, low-cost options for your pet. Please contact (912) 354-6265 for more information!
  • Leverage your social network. Email friends, family and co-workers. Post on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram, and ask your friends to share. Facebook has sites made just for re-homing pets in the area you live.
  • List your pet on our website. Submit a photograph and bio of your pet to our re-homing page on the Humane Society for Greater Savannah’s website. People who are interested will contact you directly to learn more and visit your pet. Animals will remain on the website for at least 30 days. To view the site, please go to


As a last resort, the Humane Society for Greater Savannah is a managed, open admission shelter. We will accept owner surrendered pets by appointment which can be made by calling (912) 354-9515 or by visiting

Don’t miss the “Big Blow Out Sale” at the HSGS Pick of the Litter Thrift Shop this Saturday August 26 9-12noon.  All shoes and purses will be $2; necklaces for a quarter and bracelets for a dime; belts and scarves for $0.50!  All proceeds benefit the Humane Society for Greater Savannah.

HSGS Transport Vehicle Fundraiser

Savannah Morning News – August 11, 2017 Kerri Polanski, Development & Marketing Manager

Did you know that one of our goals for the next year is to solve the pet overpopulation problem in coastal Georgia by being both proactive and reactive? But, in order to do that we need a transport van. Fix Georgia Pets has generously offered to donate $15,000 towards the purchase of a van but only if we’re able to raise $15,000 to match their donation. You can help us achieve this goal.

A dedicated transport vehicle would help us save more lives in two ways:

  1. Supply & Demand (reactive): A transport van would be used to move homeless pets to areas of the country where there was higher demand for them and a higher likelihood that they would be adopted. Pets like Belle, a sweet adult tabby cat, would be transported to a region where she wasn’t in competition with as many similar cats.
  2. Access to Pet Services (proactive): A transport van would also help us reach those who we wouldn’t normally be able to assist. Transportation is a barrier to those living in poverty. By eliminating this barrier, we can provide spay/neuter and other veterinary services. Our Pets for Life program would use the transport van for community wellness events where we would take services directly to low-income neighborhoods.

You’d be helping a dog like Bugsy. Bugsy had essentially lived his whole life in ONE room with all of his siblings. Last winter, they were turned in to Chatham County Animal Services. We transferred Bugsy to our shelter, but unfortunately, we found that because of his socialization issues we could not provide the behavioral resources he needed to find a forever home. HSGS partnered with a breed specific rescue to help him overcome the challenges he faced in order to find a home, but the rescue was in Florida. We figured out how to get Bugsy to Florida, but having a transport vehicle would have allowed us to move Bugsy more quickly to the resources he needed. We’re happy to report that Bugsy has since been happily rehabilitated and has found his forever family.

Wouldn’t you like to be a part of saving more lives in our community? You have that chance! But we need you to act fast! We have to raise $15,000 before August 15th in order for Fix Georgia Pets to match the $15,000. Visit to donate now. Your gift will help us save more lives.

Alternatives to Declawing Your Cat

Savannah Morning News – July 28, 2017 Kerri Polanski, Development & Marketing Manager

There is no denying that cats have claws and they like to scratch things. But, there are ways to help prevent cats from turning your antique dining room table leg into their scratching post without declawing your cat.

Cats scratch for a purpose not out of spite. Their scratching removes the outer shell/worn part of their nail. Their claws are the natural way they navigate terrain, mark their scent, relieve stress and stretch the muscles in their paws. There are many ways to discourage your cats from destroying your possessions while also satisfying their natural need to scratch and sharpen their claws.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, other national animal welfare organizations and the Humane Society for Greater Savannah oppose declawing cats for convenience.   There are several ways to make your furniture unattractive to your cats that don’t include high-risk, unnecessary surgery. Try these alternative methods instead:

  • Scratching posts are widely available in stores or on, as are ramps and door hangers of all shapes and sizes.
  • You can even make your own variety of textured surfaces “from scratch” (pun intended) like we do, with disposable cardboard pieces (they are disposable for sanitary purposes at the shelter).
  • Interrupting their scratching on your couch cushions and transporting them to a scratching post or nearby toy makes it more obvious to them where that behavior is acceptable.
  • By spraying the surface of their favorite targeted spots with an unattractive scent they will stay further away.
  • Lay down blankets to protect upholstery or a vinyl runner with the knobby side up.
  • There are nail caps you can also adhere to your cat’s claws and they last about 4-6 weeks.
  • And, at the very least, keep your cat’s nails trimmed!

Be aware that while declawing your cat may seem to be the quick solution for saving your stuff, it creates severe trauma for your cat that can affect them both physically and behaviorally. Cats who have their claws removed may stop using their litter box because of the discomfort on their paws, and resort to biting as a defense mechanism where none were present before.

Solving one problem to start another is never really the answer.

Dog Training At Home

Savannah Morning News – July 21, 2017 Allisia Vroom, Dog Training Coordinator

Bringing home a new dog can be an exciting time for the whole family. While you are planning all the fun things you are going to do with your new four-legged friend, your dog is trying to adjust to their new home and new family. Whether your dog is a puppy or a senior, it can take 6 to 8 weeks for them to adjust to their new life. The dog you have now may not be the same dog you first brought home and that can be very frustrating to owners. Most people wait until a problem arises to seek help from a trainer when the reality is it is much more efficient to prevent the problem before it starts. Creating a strong foundation for good manners will result in a healthier relationship between you and your dog and a more harmonious household.

The top three benefits to dog training are:

  1. Builds a Positive, Rewarding Relationship

Building a relationship with your dog is more than just having cuddle time and playing with them. It is understanding how to communicate with your dog in a positive way and teaching them to look to you for guidance. If my dog does not understand what I am asking them to do, I can’t get mad at them for not responding the way I expect them to. This will lead to frustration and confusion on both ends of the leash. Dog training helps to elevate and improve your relationship by facilitating stronger communication and understanding between you and your pet.

  1. Teaches Life Skills

Living in a human world can come with certain pressures that dogs are not naturally ready to handle. Early training will help prevent anxiety and stress related behaviors such as destructive chewing and inappropriate barking that can make home life difficult. Creating and implementing your own set of ground rules from the moment you bring your dog home will help them adjust more quickly to their new surroundings. If basic home rules are not clearly established, it’s unrealistic to expect your new companion to know and follow them. Some examples of basic rules include alerting you when they need to go outside or not jumping on the counter .

  1. Prevents Behavior Problems

Training your dog builds a common language between you and your pet and prevents problem behaviors that can stem from a lack of understanding. Many dogs are punished for behaviors that they simply didn’t know were “bad”. By teaching your dog positive behaviors and reinforcing them, you prevent the unwanted ones. Once a dog is regularly displaying a problem behavior it can take more time to modify the bad one.

People who take the time to teach their pet  will lead more fulfilling lives with their canine companions. The training process does not have to be costly or intense and the more enjoyable it is for the both of you, the better the results will be. If you are interested in training your dog, check out the Dog Training Program at the Humane Society for Greater Savannah. You can visit our  website for more information at or email if you have any questions.

Bite Prevention

Savannah Morning News – July 14, 2017 Kerri Polanski, Development & Marketing Manager

With summer vacation in full swing, children are out enjoying the sunshine and perhaps the company of their best four legged friend or the neighborhood dog.  When I’m out walking my dog, a common question I am asked is, “Does he bite?”

It turns out all dogs can bite and will bite under certain circumstance.  But there are some common sense things that parents can teach their children about interacting with dogs and that dog owners can do to prevent their dog from biting.

It may seem obvious to describe the signs of a dog that may be anxious and therefore aggressive, but there are mixed signals. The more obvious signs are a dog showing its hackles, which is the fur standing up on her neck, back or tail to try and make herself look bigger but she could also try to make herself look smaller. Also be mindful of ‘whale eye’, which is a term used to describe when the whites of her eyes are visible at the spaces on her inner or outer eyes, but sometimes all around as well. Her head will be slightly tilted away from you but her eyes are fixed on something or someone. If you can see the whites of her eyes, and she shows no other signs of distress then she is not likely to act agressively. Her tail may stand straight up, but it might also be tucked between her legs or even wagging. Trying to read the dog’s body language can be confusing, and the dog may be conflicted themselves, but try to avoid contact while they are exhibiting any of these behaviors.

Teach your children to stay away from loose animals. Always ask the owner of a leashed dog if it is safe to pet them but still proceed with caution. Most dog bites occur with children and men, and even with the dogs that are familiar to us. Here are the most basic rules to follow to prevent dog bites from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:


  1. Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog. (“Be a tree”)
  2. Curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck to protect your face.
  3. Immediately let an adult know about the stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.


  1. Approach a strange or erratic behaving dog, or one that is hiding or acting fearful.
  2. Run from a dog.
  3. Panic or make loud noises.
  4. Disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
  5. Pet a dog without it allowing it to see and sniff you first.
  6. Encourage your dog to play aggressively.
  7. Let small children play with a dog unsupervised.

Always teaching and reinforcing these simple rules with your children, regardless of whether or not you own pets, will help prevent the problem before they ever have the chance of occurrence. Remember to follow these rules yourself to not only set a good example, but to keep yourself out of possible harm’s way. It is always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with a dog bite!

Introducing Target Zero

Savannah Morning News – July 7, 2017 Michelle Thevenin, Executive Director

Last week, I was traveling in Effingham and Bulloch Counties with Target Zero, a national organization that provides practical advice to communities who want to decrease euthanasia in their shelters, with a focus on government funded shelters.  We toured facilities, talked with staff and met with the public to share best practices.  It was really inspiring to see the energy and enthusiasm that their citizens, shelter staff and elected officials have for saving more lives in our municipal shelters.

Two important aspects of Target Zero’s support – it’s free to participating communities and it’s based on best practices that have worked across the country, especially in the Southeast.  Carroll County (Georgia), Greenville County (South Carolina) and Huntsville (Alabama) have all seen significant results by implementing recommendations of Target Zero.  But to become a Target Zero Fellow Community, our elected officials have to agree and actively participate in the assessments and recommendations.

The recommendations are not overly costly or complex but they do require some change in thinking and collaboration across the community.  Here’s the model (adapted from the Target Zero website at

  1. Responsible Public Policy: As our foray into animal ordinances this past spring proved – this is an important foundational area that citizens feel passionately about.  There are best practice examples in communities like ours and we should consider adopting them.
  2. Responsible Shelter Policy: Our public shelters were established to protect the public from dangerous animals and animals from dangerous people.  We have many more expectations of them now and it’s not always in the best interest of the animals or fiscally responsible.  Should Animal Control officers be the Uber for community cats to their euthanasia appointment?  Probably not.  And at the shelter itself, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians has established Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters that should be implemented. We’re in the midst of assessing and adopting these standards at HSGS right now and will share our work with Chatham County Animal Services.
  3. Targeted Spay/Neuter:  Spay/neuter those pets most at risk – low-income households, dog breeds most commonly surrendered to shelters and community cats.
  4. Common Sense Solutions for Community Cats: A hot topic in every community but when we find common ground and partner together, we can create a solution that works for everyone.
  5. Surrender Prevention Program:  As I’ve often discussed here and elsewhere, this involves keeping pets in homes where they are already loved and cared for, but just need a bit of support. This proactive approach is far more efficient and humane than admitting these pets to shelters.    The Humane Society for Greater Savannah is taking small steps towards building this safety net for our community pets at risk with Pet Fix Savannah, our monthly wellness clinics and training classes. Soon we’ll be introducing the HSUS Pets for Life program here in greater Savannah once funding is secured.
  6. Live Release Programs:  We acknowledge that some pets will still end up in shelters – our goal should be to get them back into loving homes as soon as possible.  Aside from ensuring that all adoptable pets are spayed or neutered and up to date on shots before they go home, we should lower or eliminate barriers to adoption to get pets into homes ASAP.  This lessens disease spread and stress and allows us to open up a spot for the next pet.

We’re building strong partnerships and momentum in coastal Georgia  — the beauty of all this is that we can start working on these programs without becoming a Target Zero Fellow Community.  And it will better the lives of pets and people when we do.