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Volunteers Dedicated to Homeless Dogs

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Sara Hartman says she is tired.

Hartman is a teacher and a mother, who just received her Ph.D., but those aren’t the only things she takes on.

Hartman is a member of “Friends of the Shelter Dogs”, a non-profit dog-rescue program.

The organization takes responsibility for buying dog tags and locating good homes for the animals.

And that effort is paying off. 

Hartman says the percentage of dogs in the county being euthanized was at 83% in 2003 before her organization started.

Now, after 9 years of the organization’s work, that kill rate is 7%.

You’d think the county would do everything it could to support their work, but here’s why Hartman is tired.

Dog tags are costing the non-profit a pretty penny…$14 a tag.

Hartman says she has approached the County Commissioners repeatedly to ask them to reduce the fee for the organization-each time she was refused.

Now she says she’s exhausted by this battle.

Friends of the Shelter Dogs works to rescue dogs from the Athens County Dog Shelter by finding homes.

The organization buys ads for the animals in the Athens Messenger and pays for temperament tests to match the dogs with potential owners.

Other costs incurred by the organization include vet visits, transportation, and the upkeep of their website.

Then there is the dog tag fee required by the county commission.

The group is asking the county to reduce the $14 fee per dog. 

Tuesday, County Commissioner Larry Payne told Hartman and Friends of the Shelter Dogs Treasurer, Anne Cornwell that they want to work to find a solution.

“We don’t want you to pay more than the group can afford, and secondly we do appreciate what you do. We have rules and regulations we need to find balance of,” Payne said to Hartman and Cornwell.

The commissioners said the minimum the county could charge for the tags is $3.

Hartman and Cornwell said that they could live with that number, but said they would need more help in the long-run to sustain their program.

“I don’t want to be doing this five years from now. I would like to see a no-kill shelter in the future, where dogs are adopted and they don’t reproduce,” said Cornwell.

Cornwell says that she and Hartman are just two of the core members devoted to this organization.

She said they have spent many days and nights fundraising in places like Baker Center and Palmer Fest, but they have been unable to cover their costs. 

Cornwell speaks highly of Hartman.

“No one could replace the connections that Sara [Hartman] has made. The rescue centers we send dogs to trust that we have treated them properly first,” Cornwell added.

The time and effort that the women have put into their volunteer work are never ending.

Cornwell says she’s always answering phone calls and emails, even on Sunday.

“I have many other things that take my time and that’s why it is upsetting when things like this take so much of my time because I feel like the county should be working on solutions without us having to be constantly asking for them,” says Hartman.

Hartman and Cornwell say they think it is important to give back to the community. 

“They are residents; they should care about this and make a workable situation for all of us,” says Cornwell about the County Commissioners. “Most importantly, we are a voice for those who can’t talk.”

“The dogs depend on us,” she says.