Sarah Johnson and three coworkers at the Stokes County Animal Shelter euthanize pets every day, but they said it never gets easier emotionally.
"I don't think everybody is aware of how big the problem is and the pain it causes," said Johnson, a life-long florist who became an animal control officer at age 54.
Records from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture (view PDF) show Triad shelters put down more than 45,000 dogs and cats in 2010, the latest numbers available. That averages to one animal every 12 minutes.
Statewide, nearly 250,000 animals were euthanized at shelters in 2010.
Johnson, who said the animal control job has become her life calling, said they try their best to save every pet's life.
"When we do the put to sleep list, there will always be one that one of us wants to hold back and if we have room we do. If we don't have room, we can't," Johnson said, crying.
Johnson made it her mission to get as many pets adopted as possible. She turned to Facebook and created a page for the shelter.
The page has picked up more than 2,000 followers in the past two years, as well as thousands of others who share the photos. The adoption rate has jumped from 10 percent to 17 percent, despite the down economy, all thanks to Facebook.
Adopters are not only from the Piedmont. They are from as far away as Ohio, Arkansas and even Canada.
"The friends on Facebook keep it motivating, but seeing them leave out the front door instead of the back is even more motivating," Johnson said.
Johnson has an art exhibit currently on display at the Stokes County Art Council's Apple Gallery on Main Street in Danbury. The exhibit will include some of the thousands of pictures she's taken, as well as work from local and national artists.
A reception takes place Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., and artwork will be auctioned off there. Proceeds will go toward shelter improvements, as well as education programs to teach others to spay and neuter pets.
In the video at the top of the page, Chad Tucker goes deeper into Johnson's story. Below, you will find information and links to other shelters.
Help paying for pet spaying and neutering: http://ncagr.gov/vet/aws/fix/
More on pet overpopulation: http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/
Triad animal shelters on Facebook:
If you want to volunteer, you can contact your local animal shelter for any volunteering opportunities.