An antiseptic smell permeates the air at Marietta, Georgia's Town & Country Veterinary Clinic. A chaotic symphony of barking dogs and ringing phones resonates through the halls.
Dr. Michael Good is used to it, though — he thrives off of it. Every day, he works to help a number of animals in need of care or shelter. While many owners bring their injured and ailing pets to Good’s office, good Samaritans also bring in a number of stray animals each day.
Good, 58, specializes in helping those stray animals. Not only does he provide highly discounted veterinary services, he does his best to ensure they find a new home. In an area that — by his estimations — euthanizes around 100,000 stray cats and dogs each year, he tries to save as many lives as he can.
About 14 years ago, Good volunteered to help out as a “de facto medical director” at a run-down animal shelter in nearby Fulton County. At the time, the shelter was severely overcrowded, and according to Good, resembled a “Doggie Auschwitz.”
He remembers his first day — the day when he had to euthanize 40 to 50 stray animals “just because they didn’t have a home.”
“I could see it in their eyes each time,” Good says. “I kept thinking, ‘I’m really sorry I have to kill you because you’re homeless.’”
Good says that he swore an oath to find a better solution that day. Since then, he’s started the Homeless Pet Foundation in hopes of utilizing word-of-mouth and social networking to find homes for stray animals — many of whom, he says, may have just gotten loose from their homes.
“Let’s say you go on a three-day business trip,” Good says. “A lot of communities have a rule where they can euthanize stray animals after three days. If they don’t have any records on file and your dog isn’t wearing any kind of ID, you may think everything’s fine, but you get back and your dog has been euthanized.”
Good’s foundation also helps facilitate the adoption process for abandoned animals. Often times, he says, when owners neglect to spay or neuter their pets, they end up with a litter of puppies or kittens that they can’t care for. Without services like his, many would end up on the streets and could eventually be euthanized.
Unfortunately, the Atlanta area’s large animal population makes it difficult for shelters to house all the strays, so many get put down. That’s why Good started the “Underhound Railroad,” another service that helps move stray animals from overpopulated shelters to areas around the country that have fewer strays.
“There are shelters in other parts of the country that are really good, but they don’t have big populations of animals around them,” he says. “For $50, I can take a dog that would have been euthanized around here and put it in a facility where it will get adopted. That’s worth it.”
Good estimates that, through both of his non-profit endeavors and his veterinary clinic, he assists 7,000 to 10,000 stray animals each year. None of this would be possible, he says, without the thousands of clubs throughout the country that sponsor his animals and help spread the word to get them adopted.
But Good doesn’t just see these clubs as helpers — he says they are keys to fixing a problem that sees thousands of stray animals euthanized each year.
“We try to give these people a sense of what the world’s about and why they should respect it,” he says. “We don’t want them to be a club that just rescues animals, we also want them to be developing quality citizens.”
Whether it’s a local Girl Scout troop or a group of business executives, when one of these clubs sponsors an animal, they’re encouraged to visit them at the shelter. According to Good, that’s the key to finding them a new home.
“I tried to create a relationship where school clubs and business clubs were sponsoring dogs and could feel good when they visited them,” he says. “Now, these animals are healthy and happy because they’re in a place where they get care and food. If they’re in a high kill shelter, you can see it — they know the clock is ticking and they look depressed.”
“When the community gets involved, it’s a better experience. We’re trying to change how people think about animal shelters, in general,” he adds.
Even though each of Good’s endeavors has grown in both reach and size throughout the years, he still doesn’t make any money from them. He says that’s OK, though, because he was never concerned about the money.
“I don’t need to take anything out of it because that was never my mission,” Good says. “My number one mission from the beginning was to do this for all those animals I had to euthanize back on my first day at that shelter.”
“I made that oath,” he says.
This story originally appeared in our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store.