Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett Gladiators players Rylan Galiardi, left, and Ryan Donald, right, pose for a photograph with Rick, a Lab mix dog during a press conference on Friday, to announce a partnership between the Gwinnett Gladiators, the Gwinnett County Police Department and Homeless Pet Clubs to increase pet adoptions at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- The Gwinnett Gladiators want to introduce you to Rick, an adorable brown and white dog.
He needs a home.
The hockey team is among the first in Gwinnett to sign up for a new program intended to help dogs and cats at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter to find a home.
The partnership with the Homeless Pets Foundation allows organizations -- from Girl Scout troops and classes to law firms and Sunday School classes -- to sponsor animals and use their networking to find homes. Email blasts, Facebook posts and even word of mouth can help spread the word about a dog or cat ready to make a great pet.
"It's fun, effective and free," said veterinarian Michael Good, the foundation's founder, who has partnered with shelters across metro Atlanta. "Not everyone can adopt, but everyone can tell a story. The idea is to keep passing this on until someone walks in the door."
Good said the program has transformed the Cherokee shelter, where it began, to a place where animals are rarely euthanized.
"I'm so happy that Gwinnett County has embraced this concept of social networking to save these dogs and cats," Good said. "With the support of great groups like the Gladiators, I know it is going to have great success."
Gwinnett's shelter director Chip Moore said the county has made strides in decreasing its own euthanasia rate, but it's still at about 43 percent in 2012.
To boost adoption over the holidays, the shelter is offering animals for only the price of the $30 vet fee, which includes spay/neuter, vaccinations and a microchip.
In addition, shelter leaders chose 11 animals for Homeless Pets sponsorship, promising that the dogs would not be euthanized. Already two have been adopted.
Good said the program is effective in helping kids or even seniors feel like they are saving animals, even if they can't give one a home. After the animal is adopted, Good encourages the new owner to bring the dog to meet its sponsors, having a thank you party with the school class, assisted living home or business. At the schools, a shelter worker comes along to help educate the kids about dogs, which cuts down on issues like bites.
"Children love animals, and they want to be a part of it," said Claudine Wilkins, the program's shelter coordinator. "It's changing the kids and their minds, and it's going to last forever."
If he isn't already adopted by then, hockey fans can meet Rick at an upcoming game, where a portion of the proceeds will benefit homeless pets and a host of animals will be available for adoption. Tickets for the 7:35 p.m. Jan. 18 game against Orlanda are available at a reduced price via the homelesspetclubs.org website.
Any group interested in sponsoring a homeless pet can go to homelesspetclubs.org and click "Start a Club!" On the drop down menu for sponsor shelter, select Gwinnett County Animal Welfare/Enforcement. Call the Lawrenceville shelter at 770-339-3200 if you have questions.