Manatee County got some big paws up Feb. 4 at the No Kill seminar with Nathan Winograd in Tampa.
Winograd, author of “Redemption,” the book that jump-started the No Kill movement around the country, spoke at the invitation of Save 90, the Hillsborough County group spearheaded by the Animal Coalition of Tampa.
Manatee was well-represented at the seminar, with at least a couple dozen animal advocates making the trek across Tampa Bay to hear the presentation and offer support to Hillsborough’s No Kill effort. Public Safety Director Bill Hutchinson was there, as was County Commissioner Carol Whitmore. Representatives from groups such as Animal Network, Safe Haven Animal Rescue and Royal Rescue, just to name a few, were among other Manatee Countians who attended.
Linda Hamilton, director of the Animal Coalition of Tampa, gave special recognition to the Manatee County folks, who humbly accepted the round of applause that greeted their raised hands. But the shining stars of the county group were the Manatee County Animal Services folks, who were there decked out in their No Kill T-shirts and graciously accepting pats on the back from other No Kill advocates.
Unfortunately, Animal Services Director Kris Weiskopf could not attend, but that did not keep his voice from being heard. The Save 90 folks came to Palmetto and videotaped Weiskopf, who talked about Manatee County’s commitment to No Kill and then introduced Winograd. The video got a standing ovation, and it was a proud moment for the county group. (You can view the video on Animal Services’ Facebook page.)
I came home from the seminar impressed by one thing: Manatee County has become a leader in the move toward No Kill in Florida. Weiskopf has been contacted by not only the Save 90 group in Hillsborough, but by the Animal Services departments in Miami-Dade and Sarasota, and by Tallahassee Pets Alive, the group working toward making Leon County a No Kill community.
Animal Services has also gotten comments on its Facebook page from other Florida communities, such as New Port Richey and Citrus County; from other U.S. communities, including Sonoma County, Calif., and Maricopa County, Ariz.; and from around the world, including people in Australia (where animal advocates are fighting Breed Specific Legislation), and New Zealand (from a woman who found Animal Services’ Facebook page through Weiskopf’s column in the Herald).
Most of you probably know I grew up in Manatee County, and lived through the years when the old Animal Control was not much more than “the pound.” That is why I am so incredibly proud of Manatee County and its now celebrated Animal Services department.
Everyone involved -- Bill Hutchinson, Kris Weiskopf, the kennel managers and the staff -- deserve the praise. And the community that supports them -- the other local shelters, the rescue groups, the volunteers and the people who donate to the No Kill movement -- deserve our gratitude, too.
As Nathan Winograd signs his books: Never doubt we’ll succeed. Keep the faith, Manatee County. The work continues. And lives depend on it.
M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 941-745-7054.