Photographer’s Work Saves Shelter Dogs

"Tickles." Photo: Shannon Johnstone.

"Tickles." Photo: Shannon Johnstone.

A picture may speak a thousand words, but can it save a life? North Carolina-based photographer Shannon Johnstone is doing just that with her "Landfill Dogs" photography project. Johnstone is a photography professor who is using her gift to capture the essence of unwanted and abandoned dogs at her local animal shelter.

Johnstone takes dogs that are running out of time at the shelter to a local landfill, where she takes photos of the dogs running, playing, and just being dogs. The concept of photographing unwanted dogs at a landfill is both ironic and incredibly tragic. Her photos are breathtakingly beautiful, capturing the essence of each dog. Her photos allow potential adopters to see the true potential within these otherwise overlooked dogs, rather than seeing them as just another face peering out from behind the bars of a cage.

I have personally witnessed the "freezer" at my local shelter in Georgia where euthanized dogs are kept before they are sent off to the landfill. As a large county shelter serving a huge area, the euthanasia numbers are staggering despite their best efforts to place as many dogs as possible. Bully breeds are especially hard to place, and many of them don't make it out of the shelter alive.

"Karsten." Photo: Shannon Johnstone.

"Karsten." Photo: Shannon Johnstone.

Johnstone's shelter of choice is Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, North Carolina. The overpopulation problem in the United States is very real, especially in the South, and Johnstone's efforts are making a real difference for the dogs at this shelter and beyond. Huge kudos to Shannon and to the many other photographers around the world who take time out of their day to photograph shelter animals. Your work truly saves lives.

Read more or see the "Landfill Dogs" gallery here.


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  • We have an exceptional volunteer professional photographer that's been coming to our rural Georgia humane society taking pictures of our adoptables. If you see these pics, you'll understand why we've had such a great adoption year:

  • JohnR

    Three things Victoria:

    1- What is being done to change the culture at your local shelter? I think it's pretty sad that a lot of rescue groups "up here" are dedicated to rescuing dogs that are being sent up from "the South" (predominantly), why isn't this being taken care of locally? It seems like it would be a lot less expensive and a more permanent fix to the solution. The Gwinnett County shelter euthanizes 10000 animals a year by their own count - this is horrific.

    2- The "overlooked dogs" seem to have something in common....

    3- The county government decides when a dog's "time is up" there are plenty of rescue groups working with WCAS to get dogs out of there, and the culture can change with respect to euthanizing the animals that end up there.

  • Absolutely beautiful, I have 4 shelter dogs and others who have passed, they are the best in the world!! All people should get a shelter dog, but if you're not serious about giving a dog a home, dont do it, they end up at kill shelters!! Adopt a dog for life!!!

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