No-kill column: June 25, 2013 | Happy Tails - Community action at work

June 25, 2013 

Manatee County is striving to become a no-kill community and we have made great progress. Yet, every day brings new challenges as the shelter at Animal Services fills up with homeless and lost dogs and cats.

As the numbers climb, cages designed to allow dogs to have an indoor and outdoor space are instead doubled up to house "inside" and "outside" dogs, and health and well-being comes into play.

To alleviate overcrowded conditions, harsh decisions have to be made, contrary to our wishes, as we work toward maintaining a no-kill status.

The simple truth is that we can't do it ourselves.

Fortunately, we have been getting some help from outside sources.

Palmetto High School Future Farmers of America has joined our fight to help abandoned animals. Julie Tillett, FFA adviser and agriculture teacher, brings her students to help wash, walk and vaccinate dogs. They also come in to cuddle cats. Students learn valuable veterinary skills and make life a little better for pets waiting for forever homes.

Committed to making a difference, Tillett took her efforts a step further. In April, the FFA chapter fostered Sammi, a 1-year-old American bulldog mix with severe dermodex, a form of hair loss caused by mange mites. Her serious skin condition gave Sammi slim chance at adoption, but students were determined to save her life.

Sammi is undergoing treatment for mange and

becoming quite the socialite. She even does a few tricks!

Determined to do more, the FFA recently took in JC, a pit bull mix, and her three puppies: Toby, Keith and Ellie Faye -- all found in a gutter. Nursing dogs and cats are particularly challenging for the shelter and the FFA is helping save four lives with its efforts.

This is just one of the programs Manatee County Animal Services has available for businesses, individuals and schools to help save lives.

The One to One program allows "off-site" fostering and encourages volunteers to take dogs out on the town wearing "Adopt Me" vests. Volunteers spend time with the dog, the dog gets exercise, and hopefully, a new home. One by one, this innovative program is making a difference.

We need you to help make a difference, too. If you are able to foster a cat in your business or home, we have the cat for you.

We have a critical need for medical foster homes for dogs with heartworms, which is a treatable condition caused by a mosquito bite. Treatment will be paid for through a medical funding source.

The process requires treatment in a home environment, away from the shelter, due to the noise and potential for excitability. We have wonderful dogs, like Jake, Onyx and Ewok, who deserve a second chance but need your help.

If you have ideas or resources you can share, please come by, call or e-mail us. The homeless pet problem in Manatee County is explosive and it will truly take a community effort to provide the love and care these pets deserve.

This Thursday through Saturday, we have dogs and catsavailable for no adoption fee. Manatee Countyresidents will pay$15 for county license certificates and tags. This special is available at our locations in Palmetto and downtown Bradenton.

Please contact animal.services@mymanatee.org with suggestions or to get involved.

Check out Manatee County Animal Services on Facebook. Like us and share us with all your friends.

Our website is mymanatee.org/pets or call 941-742-5933 for information.

Kris Weiskopf, chief of Manatee County Animal Services, writes this weekly column for the Herald.

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