Tomorrow is a brand new year for Manatee's no-kill effort

December 31, 2013 

It's New Year's Eve, a time to reflect on the past and look forward to the future. If your New Year's resolutions for 2014 include doing something charitable for your community, this column is for you!

Manatee County Animal Services looks back at a year filled with many challenges and achievements. We continue to strive toward our no-kill goal. Collectively, this calendar year, we are at an 88 percent save rate.

It has not been easy. Animal Services operates on a tight budget and a relatively small staff. There are usually five care specialists at the Palmetto location charged with the care of an average of 100 dogs and 90 cats. It's a daunting task and as we look back over the year, it is clear that we could not achieve this success without our wonderful volunteers.

In 2013, Manatee County Animal Services has been blessed with volunteers from every corner of the county, and our volunteers have helped us help our homeless impounded pets in so many ways.

Consider the case of certified pet groomer Bill Oser from Ruff Cuts in Bradenton. He made a promise to himself that if he ever got his own grooming shop, it would be dedicated to dog rescue -- and he has made good on that promise. Bill offers $200 of free grooming every month to the local rescue community. Whether it is a two-day job grooming six St. Bernards or removing three-inch mattes of fur from a tiny Shi Tzu, Bill has come through for Manatee County Animal Services.

Bill is also the proud "father" of two rescue dogs of his own, Scruffy and Mann. Bill is truly talking the talk and walking the walk.

Rescue groups have been instrumental in saving pets initially housed at Animal Services. Consider that an average of 432 dogs and cats come through our doors every month. Rescue groups are vital to our efforts. As soon as the hold time is up for the dogs and cats, our dedicated rescues come in and help when they can.

Kudos to all our rescues who collectively transferred 2,065 dogs and cats so far this year, with special mention to the Humane Society of Manatee County which transferred 814 dogs and cats, following by Gulf Shore Animal League, 357 cats; Certified, 125 dogs; Royal Pet, 113 animals; Napier's, 92 animals; Forget Me Not, 90 animals; Honor Animal Rescue, 80 animals; Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 78 animals; Moonracer, 58 animals; Animal Network, 50 animals; 11th Hour, 26 dogs; Bishop SPCA, 21 animals; Humane Society of Sarasota, 18 animals; VIP Rescue, 14 dogs; Canine Castaways, 10 dogs; Tanks, 10 cats; and several other rescues, including our breed-specific rescues.

Forget Me Not, realizing there wasn't a rescue group dedicated to helping the hard-

to-place dogs, formed a 501(c)3 organization to give these formerly forgotten dogs a chance at happiness. Forget Me Not depends on foster homes to continue to help these special dogs. If you are able to foster for them, please contact Joyce at 860-961-6301 or email or post on their Facebook page, forgetmenot. Thanks to these volunteers who take these dogs for rehabilitation and ultimate adoption.

All our rescues are truly talking the talk and walking the walk.

Animal Network, with the active and tireless Sue Kolze, has been an essential part of our success in 2013. The privately funded 501(c)3 has provided an average of $3,000 each month to cover medical treatments for needy dogs and cats. Sue coordinates fundraisers throughout the year and relies completely on donations to save lives of animals. Thanks also to Luke Berglund from Beach Veterinary Clinic, who deeply discounts his medical services to provide for heartworm treatment, skin issues and broken bones. Sue and Dr. Luke both talk the talk and walk the walk.

Thanks again to all our volunteers, dog and cat lovers alike.

The theme for 2014, as you probably guessed by now, is TALK THE TALK and WALK THE WALK. So, if you have an interest in making a difference in your community's animal population, resolve to get involved. It could be as simple as making an online donation or sponsoring an event. Get involved at one of our locations or with a local rescue organization.

Together as a community, let's all resolve to make the new year a bright one for Manatee County's homeless pets.

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

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