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Contributed photo / Tessy Kimball, Savannah Harris and Janice Williams, from left, sit with "Perry," the namesake and instigator for Perry's Promise. The nonprofit is on a mission to reduce the stray pet population in North Georgia.

Perry was considered unadoptable. A black pit bull, she had been abandoned, starved and left outside. She was unvaccinated and hadn't been spayed.

Then, Savannah Harris of LaFayette came along and took her in.

"At first I thought, 'Oh gosh, no, not a pit bull,'" Harris said. "I said I'd foster her until we found her a home, but the longer I had her, we made a connection and I didn't want to give her away."

Harris said she was expecting Perry to be aggressive, but that wasn't the case. Faced with her own misconceptions, she helped found Perry's Promise, a nonprofit focused on reducing the local stray animal population.

It'll take a lot of groundwork in communities, said fellow co-founder Janice Williams, and there also needs to be a focus on the ones already in homes.

Along with Tessy Kimball of Chickamauga, the team has been working to bring low-cost spay and neuter to the area for over a year to reduce North Georgia's chronic pet overpopulation.

They have been working with local vets to schedule spay and neuter appointments, and through grants and donations are able to pay up to 50% of the surgery for owners, as well as transport animals to the vet.

"We have a tremendous population of cats and dogs, but when we have [spay/neuter] needs, we have to go to Chattanooga or somewhere outside of Walker County," said Williams, who lives in Rossville.

Harris reported long wait lists for spay and neuter services in North Georgia, leading other nonprofits to utilize groups in Chattanooga and Cleveland.

The team at Perry's Promise is also working with local senior centers and a local Meals on Wheels chapter to provide elderly or homebound pet owners with necessary pet food and supplies. They call this arm of their operation "Wags on Wheels," and have reached over 100 people since launching in August, said Williams.

She said the idea is to assist people with fixed incomes, who may not be able to provide for their pets, so they won't have to surrender them.

"They tell us how many seniors they have that have pets and [the pet's] size and age so that the food would be appropriate," Williams explained. "In a lot of cases, [their pet] is their only companion. There's no resource for them as far as their pets go."

The group is also working with local libraries and elementary schools to host educational events to teach children about responsible pet ownership. The name of the program, "F.R.A.N.'S. Friends," also serves as a mnemonic device: Foster Rescue Adopt Neuter Spay.

"We have dozens of stuffed cats and dogs that we bring in a big wagon," said Williams. "We dump them out and say, 'Everybody gets whatever you want and as many as you want.' And then we ask about the ones that nobody wanted. That's how we get them to understand there are just too many and they can't all get homes, that's why we spay and neuter."

For more information or to donate pet supplies, email perryspromiseinc@gmail.com.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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