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Local animal nonprofit might be forced to close

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

SUWANEE -- If only there were more France Sinkwiches.

That's the plea from Georgia's Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Suwanee's 3-year-old nonprofit organization precariously near closing because of financial straits.

Sinkwich, a Sandy Springs resident whose car wasn't running some 18 months ago, came in a limousine to adopt one-eyed terrier Gabriel. She's donated $1,000 most months since.

"When I saw him on the Internet, I knew he was it," Sinkwich said. "I knew, I knew, I knew I had to have that dog -- that day."

Sinkwich has been a benefactor, but unfortunately for the SPCA, there are too few like her. The modest facility at 1175 Buford Highway, which houses an estimated 100 dogs and cats awaiting adoption, increasingly is strapped for the $25,000 Operations Manager Jane Stewart said it needs each month to survive. A major cable television company had been a grant sponsor, but economic challenges curtailed even its annual funding of about $75,000.

The only funding lately has been each animal's $250 adoption fee, which includes shots, spaying or neutering, microchip injection and 30 days of health insurance. What little comes in doesn't last long, and one wall's commemorative collage of pictures from adoptive parents doesn't pay the bills.

"I don't remember everybody and their dogs, but I do remember France," Stewart said. "She's one of the most giving people we've ever dealt with."

The SPCA is seeking homes for its abandoned and abused animals, even those displaced by the recent floods. Of the roughly 30 dogs, about seven were rescued from fighting rings. Another, from a puppy mill, was so deformed it has no hind feet. One of the cats, less popular than the dogs, was rescued from a shelter and its microchip traced to Holland.

Increasingly, though, the SPCA is inundated with animals that owners no longer can afford.

"More owners are surrendering pets because they simply can't take care of them anymore," said Joan Sammond, the organization's director. "We're seeing more animals just dropped off."

Last year, the facility nearly was forced to close because of money problems, but survived. This time, though, struggling to last even to expiration of its lease in July, the facility is considering closing after the holidays. Its staff of 10 has been slashed twice, and the four who remain scrape by on about $10 an hour, toiling at their labor of love.

Sammond said people erroneously assume the New York-based American SPCA helps the Georgia organization. Actually, she said, the two are completely unrelated.

"Most states have SPCA agencies, and Georgia is ... one of the worst states plagued with pet overpopulation," Sammond said. "We rely solely on the public to keep us operating."

Carmelo Quinlan, like all the facility's adult and child volunteers, fears for what might come of their animals if it closes.

"If they go to Animal Control, that's a death sentence, I think," Quinlan said. "It's stressful enough seeing them every day in cages. It breaks their spirit."