The shelter is working on a campaign to publicize the many dogs and cats that are dropped off at the shelter as strays and aren't reclaimed by owners.
Out of the 3,808 strays brought to the shelter in 2009, only 476 were reclaimed by their owners.
So far this year, out of 3,037 pets brought in to the shelter, only 382 have been claimed.
Lori Kekel, volunteer coordinator at the animal shelter, said they're creating posters with photos of animals recently brought in to the shelter. The posters will read "Have you lost your best friend?" and encourage people to contact the shelter if they recognize their pets.
Ms. Kekel said the shelter plans to place the posters in schools, libraries and veterinarian offices.
Part of the problem with the low number of reclaimed pets, Ms. Kekel said, is the lack of awareness about the existence of the shelter on Univeter Road in Canton.
Many people, she said, also think the shelter is synonymous with the Cherokee County Humane Society, as the organization operated the shelter before the county government took over operations. The humane society now has separate offices and a thrift store in southwest Cherokee.
Along with promoting the shelter's existence, its staff is also pushing the practice of implanting microchips in animals.
The shelter began offering microchips in animals they adopt out and to people who reclaim their animals last year, said Sue Garcia, director of the shelter.
The $20 microchipping fee is included in the $75 adoption fee. People who reclaim pets can pay $20 for the service.
The microchip contains the name and contact information of the pet's owner.
When a stray is brought to the shelter, the staff can scan the dog or cat to see if it has a microchip. County animal control officials can also scan animals out in the community when they are called to take care of a stray.
Microchips can speed up the process of finding pet owners, Ms. Garcia said.
Of the 476 animals that were reclaimed last year, 102 were reunited with their owners as a result of microchips. So far this year, of the 382 reunited, the shelter was able to track down the owners of 69 pets due to microchips.
"It's cheaper to microchip (them) than to pay the reclaim fee," Mrs. Garcia added. "It's a much faster way of reuniting you with your pet."
The shelter charges a $50 fee the first time an animal is reclaimed, $100 for the second and $150 for the third time. Mrs. Garcia said the fee is waived if the shelter finds the owner through a microchip.
Chasity Kight said she never thought about checking the shelter for her dog when he ran away just days before she was scheduled to move to another state.
Apollo, a 1 -year-old Shepherd mix, ran away as Ms. Kight was preparing to move to Camp Lejeune, N.C., to be with her husband who was in the military.
Ms. Kight, who was living in Ball Ground at the time, said she spent her last days there searching the streets of northern Cherokee for Apollo.
"I was leaving a couple days later, so I had just given up hope," she said.
She eventually moved to North Carolina, but always wondered what happened to Apollo.
Ms. Kight followed her instincts and looked at the website Petfinder.com to see there was a listing for Apollo.
Sure enough, she found her dog listed as being at the shelter. The shelter lists dogs and cats available for adoption on the website.
She called her mother, Wanda Perkins, who went to the shelter the next day to pick Apollo up.
"I cried harder than when he ran away," Ms. Kight said of their reunion.
Along with microchipping, Ms. Kight encourages pet owners to check the animal shelter if their pet goes missing and to be aware of the services the shelter offers.
"Make it the first place to check," she said. "If they don't show up in the first couple of days, keep checking."
The shelter at 1015 Univeter Drive in Canton is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays. For information, call (770) 345-7270.