Business Columns & Blogs

Focus on Manatee: Here’s why investing in animal welfare says a lot about a community

What to consider before adopting a pet

The are several places around Manatee County where pets can be adopted. Here's what you need to consider before adopting a forever friend.
Up Next
The are several places around Manatee County where pets can be adopted. Here's what you need to consider before adopting a forever friend.

Some say we can judge a community by how we treat those who can do nothing for us.

At the Manatee Community Foundation, we work with many caring people who devote their resources to children, veterans, families or seniors through investments in education, social services, the arts and the environment.

Other donors are passionate about helping animals.

Every year after community-wide fundraising events such as the Giving Challenge, we receive lingering comments from those who are shocked by the amount of money organizations such as The Cat Depot raise (I promise, they work hard for every penny).

We remind people that each of us has an opportunity to stand up for what we are most passionate about, putting our time, money and talents behind it.

Investing in animal welfare builds more compassionate communities. It also improves economies by attracting people who want to live in places that take care of animals.

When scoping out the best place to live, potential residents and those who might be deciding whether to stay in Manatee County will always look at quality of life.

Dozens of animals offered their furry, nonjudgmental ears to the students of Just for Girls.

Many define quality of life for themselves but also for dogs, cats and wildlife. In several conversations with Pam Freni, the leader of The Animal Network, I learned that when looking at different relocation possibilities along Southwest Florida, she chose Bradenton because she was impressed with the “No Kill” stand Manatee County has taken.

Let’s look at the millennial generation. Unlike others, this generation is known for finding the right community first and then finding a job there. As other generations are leaving our workforce, we need them here in Manatee County.

Susie Bowie mug.jpg
Susie Bowie is the executive director of the Manatee Community Foundation.

In a recent study by TD Ameritrade, seven in 10 millennials own a pet. Millennial dog owners expect to spend more on their dog through its lifetime than on personal medical costs during their own adult lifetime. Put the two together and you can make some assumptions about the importance many younger people assign to communities that take care of their animals.

Manatee County is fortunate to have a number of nonprofit organizations that address what seems like an endless tide of homeless animals, educates the public about the importance of spaying and neutering their pets, reduces feral cat populations and helps address behavioral issues to prevent surrender.

The Humane Society of Manatee County, Bishop Animal Shelter, Nate’s Honor Animal Rescue, Friends of Manatee Animal County Services, Animal Rescue Coalition and many all-volunteer organizations are some of them.

Wildlife Inc. on Anna Maria Island takes injured birds and wildlife, rehabilitating and releasing them whenever possible.

Cindy Skarda, volunteer, leads basic dog obedience training Tuesday mornings at the Manatee County Animal Services Palmetto shelter.

Not to play with words, but animal welfare is a difficult beast. With nearly infinite ideas and philosophies, organizations (and passionate people leading them) can get into disagreements about the best way to do the work.

But in a 2018 survey of local animal welfare agencies by the Manatee Community Foundation, the majority of respondents indicated that local groups are collaborating more effectively than before.

We see it. And we urge people to put their differences aside as much as possible to work together.

Local and national animal welfare experts will tell you that the most effective way to end the number of pets in shelters is to invest heavily in free or low-cost spay/neuter. But we also need capital investments in our outdated facilities and shelters to help them accommodate the growing number of animals they are taking in as the population of our county continues to increase.

Honor Animal Rescue and The Bishop Animal Shelter are undertaking such projects now.

Courtney Gessford, 28, of Sacramento, Calif., lived out a dream when she was "showered" with puppies from the Front Street Animal Shelter. Gessford, who has been battling cancer for three years, said she felt like she was “in a dream.” Her family

Manatee County Animal Services runs the only local shelter that must accept all surrendered animals. You can imagine that any facility built decades ago would have a difficult time keeping up with today’s demands even with a dedicated and caring staff.

The new shelter that Manatee County Government has committed to building is an exciting opportunity to showcase our community’s leadership. There will be private philanthropic resources required to make it possible.

When the call comes, we know that there will be many interested in this chance to give and not only support animals who need a second chance, but support those who want our county to be seen as a compassionate place to live, raise a family, invite visitors and welcome tourists.

People who donate often care about many causes. The very people who are passionate about animals also give to education, human services and other missions that improve the lives of people more directly.

Witnessing animal abuse can be difficult, but according to the Humane Society of the Unites States, it is important not to turn away from animal cruelty. Here are tips to help stop animal abuse.

In general, we all want the same things — a healthy community that embraces its challenges, rises to the occasion when it’s time for change, and invests in pride points that keep attracting new people who will also love where we live.

To learn more about the animal welfare organizations in our community, visit The Giving Partner ( or call us anytime at the Manatee Community Foundation at (941) 747-7765.

Susie Bowie is the executive director of Manatee Community Foundation. Founded in 1998, the foundation has awarded more than $28 million in grants and scholarships through the generosity of donors who live and give in Manatee County and beyond.

Related stories from Bradenton Herald