The North Wake Landfill District Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, doesn’t look like a burial ground. It has very fresh and green grass. There are wide paths where families take afternoon strolls. It has biking trails, clean playgrounds and even a picnic area. At one time Landfill Park was used to be an actual landfill and where the bodies of over 25,000 unwanted shelter animals were dumped.
As soon as you enter the park you will see etched in chalk by activist James DeAlto: “This landfill is the permanent resting place of over 25,000 unwanted shelter dogs,” it reads. “If that bothers you, please adopt one today. #AdoptDontShop.”
It’s a truth that photographer Shannon Johnstone knows all too well. In 2010, she started photographing rescue dogs in Landfill Park.
Landfill Park was an active landfill for 14 years, from 1996 to 2008. During this time, Wake County Animal Center (WCAC) brought its euthanized animals there to be dumped. There is an estimated 25,666 dogs buried there.
Johnstone snaps cheery portraits of the WCAC dogs who have the least time left and the ones most at risk of being euthanized. They call these dogs the “Landfill Dogs.”
In Johnstone’s photos, the grassy hill, built on trash, serves as a chilling reminder of just how many unwanted shelter dogs have met a sad and avoidable fate over the years.