Between three to four million animals are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year, with around 56 percent of them being dogs. To raise awareness about this national issue, photographer Mary Shannon Johnstone has set out on a project to take photos of shelter dogs in hope of finding them forever homes.

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Johnstone’s project is entitled “Landfill Dogs,” and according to her artist’s statement, the dogs featured “have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home.”

Her project began in late 2012 and will run until early 2014. Each week until its end, Johnstone will bring one dog from the Wake County Animal Control, Care and Adoption Center in North Carolina out to a landfill site that is now a park.

She feels the landfill backdrop offers an important message as this is where un-adopted dogs eventually end up after euthanasia. But the setting also offers some hope, as the park has been transformed into “a place of beauty” and Johnstone hopes that viewers will also see “the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.”

“The dogs are so happy when they get outside to the landfill park,” Johnstone told Mashable. “It puts such a big smile on my face. They run, leap, roll in the grass and some just want to sit and enjoy the view.”

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View photos of Johnstone’s “Landfill Dogs” below, along with short captions about each of them borrowed from the project’s Facebook page.

Pigpen. Impoundment # 85852. Came into the shelter on 3/23/13.

Rose. Impoundment #82564. Photographed 2/16/13. She was adopted 2 days after photographing. She had spent more than a month in the shelter.

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Baby. Impoundment #58412. Came into the shelter on 1/29/13.

Helga Higgins, impoundment #86330. She came into the shelter on 4/4/2013.

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Karsten, impoundment #87239 is just a pup. He is less than 1 year old, and spent the last 80 days living in the shelter (photo posted 7/12/13).

Jumpin Bean (impoundment #90140)


Tickles, impoundment #89256 found a forever home!

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Smokey, impoundment #89468, is a wonderful, sweet lab mix who likes to express himself through interpretative dance.

Tygra Sr, impoundment #89967, is a gentle old guy. At 8 years old, he is well behaved, takes treats very gently, and is grateful for any attention you give him. This poor guy has had a rough life and he is looking forward to spending his senior years with a family who will love him.

Elsie, impoundment #88726, is a kind and scared dog. She needs to know she can trust you before she will enjoy your company.

View more photos of adoptable “Landfill Dogs” on Facebook, and spread the word to help these pooches find their forever homes!

Image source: Mary Shannon Johnstone / Landfill Dogs Facebook