Sunday, February 13, 2011

13 February 1900: The First Meeting of the Athens Humane Society

On this afternoon in 1900, the Athens Humane Society had their first official meeting since their charter was granted on January 30th in a Special Term of Superior Court.

The group had applied for a charter in October, 1899, to form an organization that would work "to prevent cruel treatment to children, protect them from vice and excessive or dangerous labor, and to aid in the enforcement of the laws of said state enacted for the protection of dumb animals from cruel treatment, and the prevention of all cruelty by humane education in the houses and schools and otherwise."

They also asked for power to sue, as well as be sued, and "to do all other acts as are necessary for the legitimate objects of the association." Charter members of the society were E. I. Smith, H. M. Edwards, Rev. Troy Beaty, Simon Michael, Mrs. L. D. DuBose, Mrs. Billups Phinizy, Mrs. E. T. Brown, and Miss Louise DuBose. In the 1900 U. S. Census and the 1889 Athens City Directory, Dr. Orr is listed as the town's Sanitary Inspector.

Though children are mentioned in the charter, it seemed understood that the organization's primary goal was the protection of animals. The day after their charter was granted, the Athens Daily Banner noted that "the attention of merchants and the owners of hacks is called to this organization and they are requested to notify their drivers to be careful in the observance of the laws touching the treatment of animals." 

The paper also stated that "It is expected that this society will exercise a very wholesome influence in Athens."

In their first few months, the organization took a stand against a Clarke County law that required dogs to be muzzled. Especially in hot weather, when there were flying insects about, the committee believed "muzzles would have a tendency to irritate dogs to a point of madness." However, the Council preferred to establish the law, rather than impose a tax on dog owners to register their animals. As the daily papers for 1900 are largely absent after May, it is unclear if they were able to change the law that year. 

Today, Athens is a dog-friendly city, where it is not unusual to see people dining at sidewalk tables outside cafes and restaurants downtown with dogs lying at their feet, happily panting and people-watching. Some establishments, like Big City Bread, offer bowls of water to their canine patrons on their patio. Local companies, such as Pawtropolis and Z-Dog Bakery, cater to the needs of Athens pet population, as well as sponsoring adoptions through their own and the many other rescue organizations in town, such as Athens Canine Rescue and CatZip Alliance, as well as the Athens-Area Humane Society

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