Talk of the Town - Animal house October 07 2004

Renovated Canton farm gives canines a second chance

North of Marietta, in the mostly rural community of Canton, Jolynn VanCamp, her husband and volunteers from Second Chance Animal Rescue and Adoptions, have renovated an old-fashioned farmhouse where the VanCamps live, including the various barns and animal pens that surround it. Rather than devoting these spaces to the typical cows and horses, however, the farm houses dozens and dozens of dogs — not to mention a goat and a rooster — all rescued from death row at Atlanta-area animal shelters. To date, Second Chance has rescued more than 2,000 dogs and placed them in loving homes.

Creative Loafing: How do you find the dogs who need your help?

VanCamp: I go to the shelters and say, “Give me who you’re killing today.” We’ve gotten to be really well known as the group that takes the dogs that no one else will take. Forty percent of the ones the shelter kills are gorgeous, fantastic dogs whose owners have given them up. For example — and I wouldn’t have believed this if I hadn’t seen it — a lady had gotten a dog, and it would no longer fit in her sports car, so she was giving it up.

I was at the dog park in Piedmont Park this summer, and several of the dogs who’d been adopted from Second Chance all had celebrity names. Do you name all of your rescued dogs after celebrities?

We do. I was on my way home from the shelter years ago, and Captain and Tennille came on the radio, so we named one dog Captain and the other dog Tennille. Then we had Sonny and Cher, then Tony Orlando and it just grew from there. All the younger volunteers have started giving the dogs names like Britney Spears, Orlando Bloom and Harry Potter.

How many dogs do you have right now?

We have around 100. They’re in the barn and in the chicken coop, and the rescued goat from satanic worship is up behind the feral cat barn. He had his ear cut off. The rescued rooster from cockfighting is in with him — they love each other.

When we walk through the ancient barn to visit them, both animals are sitting in a plastic igloo together, like some offbeat animal friendship described in children’s books.

Would you say that it’s important to see pet ownership as a privilege?

It is. When people give up their dogs because they’re dying, I take the dog to see them one last time and we’re all crying. But then I see someone who takes their dog to the shelter because they want to travel, or the kids have lost interest. There has got to be a distinction, something that doesn’t allow owners to give up dogs so easily.

To volunteer or adopt a dog from Second Chance, visit www.secondchancedogs.org, or call 770-751-1704.