Help homeless pets in Manatee

December 10, 2013 

I am on a mission and I am not alone.

Animal lovers throughout Manatee County are joining together with us at Animal Services to try to solve the ongoing problem of our homeless pets.

It is a daunting task.

Consider the numbers. In the average month, Manatee County Animal Services takes in more than 400 dogs and cats -- an average of more than 16 per day!

So far this calendar year, a total of 4,702 dogs and cats were impounded, 1,230 were adopted, 1,905 were transferred to our wonderful and much appreciated rescue partners, 615 were returned to their humans and sadly 608 were euthanized.

We can do better!

The operative word is "WE" for it will take all of us working together to change hearts, minds and our behaviors. The most important individuals can do is to make sure their own pets are well cared for, spayed or neutered. Don't be part of the problem.

If you want to be part of the solution, Manatee County Animal Services has revitalized some programs and initiated new ones.

The One-to-One Program is an innovative program open to anyone who has the time and inclination to help a homeless dog get some much-needed outside exposure and exercise.

This program allows volunteers who have been through orientation class the chance to sign out program dogs for daily field trips. These dogs will sport an "Adopt Me" vest and off you go to the Farmers Market, a local festival, the Riverwalk, a park, or where ever your six legs take the two of you.

This is a great benefit since the program gets the dog out of the shelter environment, helping to socialize and giving them the ability to show their true personality.

They also get exposed to potential adopters. The one-to-one volunteer can also write about their experiences, which we can

put into the notes section for potential adopters to read. Don't forget your camera either. Make it a fun outing and get some photos!

Another program allows your children to get into the act. The Kids' Model Citizen Program is in full swing and our online kennel features adorable photos of youngsters of all ages with our adoptable dogs and cats.

We encourage models to share their photos with friends and family to increase awareness and reach potential adopters and volunteers.

I hope you will join us to take positive steps to create community awareness of the plight of Manatee County's homeless pets. Go to our website to get more information and sign up for our exciting programs. Check our site often for more community programs and events.

Watch for more upcoming events and adoption specials. Don't forget the ongoing BOGO special where you can adopt a dog or cat at the regular adoption fee and get a dog or cat for no adoption fee. Also, any dog or cat in the shelter more than 60 days is available for no adoption fee.

And, of course, we welcome you as a volunteer in any capacity. We do need you, if you can spare some time. Simply go to mymanatee.org/pets, fill out an application and sign up for an orientation class. We look forward to seeing you soon.

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

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