Giving Unconditional Love
BY ANITA TODD-WHITAKER
The doggie doors are always open at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Florida, headquartered in Lakeland and not just for canines. In 2012, the organization went down in history by happily breaking two records. They broke the month high record by adopting 450 dogs and cats into new homes and, for the year, they adopted out 3,690 dogs and cats into forever homes, 41 more adoptions than the previous high set in 2010.
“Florida faces a serious dog and cat overpopulation problem,” said Sean Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer, SPCA Florida. “By fully educating and engaging the community about animal overpopulation and offering solutions like affordable, accessible spaying and neutering for dogs and cats, Cat Cafés for community animals, and training and relinquishment intervention programs like Open Paw® to keep animals who have homes in those homes; SPCA Florida keeps animals healthy, increases compassion and decreases the need for traditional shelter capacity.”
In addition to placing dogs and cats in homes at record numbers in 2012, the SPCA Florida completed 8,961 spay and neuter surgeries through their adoption center and medical center.
These numbers are what the organization is all about. Founded in 1979, according to their website (www. spcaflorida.org), SPCA Florida exists to eliminate animal suffering and to enhance the human-animal bond by engaging the entire community in the welfare and wellbeing of animals.
“We are thrilled about breaking those records but we are also focused on emphasizing programs to prevent animals from entering our door,” said Jessica Lawson, Manager of Media Relations, SPCA Florida. “We would much rather prevent unwanted litters through spay or neuter efforts, and work with dog and cat guardians to keep their existing animals through training and solutions like ThankDog!® Bootcamp.”
The for-profit organization is an open admission facility which means they take animals no matter what breed or age and once the pets are there, the time they can stay is unlimited. SPCA Florida receives animals from owners who relinquish them, strays, and from other facilities. Upon arrival, they are examined and given several medical tests to ensure they are healthy but that’s not all. Open Paw® recently began being incorporated into SPCA Florida’s care and training program.
“In short, (Open Paw®) is a system that emphasizes not just training, but lots of enrichment for animals (including cats) to maximize not only their chance of getting adopted, but their chances of becoming a true member of the family who adopts them,” said Rowland Stiteler, an SPCA Florida volunteer.
Yogurt became a member of Eleni McDaniel’s family almost immediately. The 7-year old is a “one-eyed Min Pin with a big heart and attitude to match,” McDaniel said. “I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety since I was a little girl, and having an older dog that will love you when the world is falling down around you is one of the best feelings in the world. Yogurt is my ‘furry Prozac.’”
Additionally, SPCA Florida is helping community cats who live on Florida Southern College’s campus by creating a Cat Café program. The cats will be humanely trapped, examined, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and permanently identified by SPCA Florida veterinarians. They will then be sent back to their home at FSC to be cared for by students. Houses and feeding stations, Cat Cafes, have been built to help in their care.
“Science tells us that managing community cats through humane trap-neuter-return programs is solution-oriented to limiting uncontrolled cat populations, and we know that trapping cats and euthanizing them at shelters only creates a vacuum in the local ecosystem to attract more cats,” Hawkins said.
SPCA Florida recently extended the Adoption Center’s hours in order to increase the number of adoptions. Potential new owners, who must complete an Adoption Application, are encouraged to bring their families and current pets to interact with the possible new family members. Adoption fees vary by species, breed and age.
Jillian Zielinski has adopted three pets from SPCA Florida who have taught her ‘remarkable life lessons.’ “Even though some people think they are doing the animal a favor, it is the animals that end up doing us a favor,” Zielinski said.
SPCA Florida organizes and participates in numerous fundraising events and programs every year, works with other organizations to get animals adopted, provide a variety of pet care resources, veterinary services, and is always looking for foster families.
Lawson is an employee but also a foster parent. “Becoming part of the foster program is the best invitation I ever accepted,” Lawson said.
Leave your doggie door open.