Now that the elections are over, we can all breath a collective sigh and begin working together to solve some of Manatee County's most pressing problems.
One such challenge is the fulfillment of the 2011 pledge to become a No Kill Community. This was not a promise we could keep overnight. Indeed, it was acknowledged that success depended on the involvement of the community.
Many of us eat, sleep and breathe animal rescue and are familiar with the challenges. For those who are not, the easiest explanation of the path to No Kill is to think of a simple equation: fewer pets entering shelters and rescues plus more going out. More than 5,500 pets are impounded each year, averaging 15 per day at the county shelter alone.
Bishop SPCA, the Humane Society of Manatee County, Nate's Honor Rescue, Underdog, Moonracer, Canine Castaways, Forget Me Not and many other rescues collectively house thousands more. That is a lot of dogs and cats! Space is limited and the resources of all our shelters and rescues are stretched thin.
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There are some simple things we can all do to improve the situation and achieve our collective goals. First and foremost, please protect your own pets by ensuring they are always wearing their Manatee County tags. Florida state statute and Manatee County ordinance require that all dogs and cats over 4 months of age must have their anti-rabies vaccination and be registered with the county.
Here's the great thing about complying with these regulations. If your pet is ever lost and is wearing its license tag, the Animal Control officers will give your pet a free ride home. The tags also provide good samaritans who find your pet a way to contact you. That's quite a great insurance policy for just $15!
Joel Richmond, Animal Services enforcement supervisor, reports that 157 pets have been returned home through the free ride program from January through October of this year.
To purchase a pet license tag or to look up a tag of a lost pet, go to PetData.com or call 855-332-4646.
Keeping your pets "out of the system" helps everyone. It keeps your pet safe, frees up space at the shelters and rescues and saves you a lot of anguish and expense.
The other component of the equation that deals with having fewer pets coming into the system is spay and neuter. Free and low-cost options are available. Many counties in the United States have enacted mandatory sterilization; however, Manatee County has not. That means it is up to all of us to voluntarily do the right thing and not contribute to the homeless pet population.
Scores of kittens pour into the shelters and rescues each week and hundreds are available for adoption. Dogs of every size and breed are available for adoption and face uncertain futures.
If we are truly committed to becoming a No Kill Community, we must each take responsibility and license our pets and ensure they are not breeding.
If you love animals, I urge you to do your part. Be part of the No Kill equation by fostering, volunteering, adopting and/or donating. Help the members of Manatee United 4 Pets as they fight the good fight and bring Manatee County closer to becoming a truly sustainable No Kill Community.
Debra Starr, is marketing and public relations manager for the Animal Network and a member of Manatee United 4 Pets. Website: animalnetworkinc.com.