An urgent time for county animal shelter

Parker is one of 187 animals at Manatee County Animal Services in Palmetto. The facility is only designed for 80 animals.
Parker is one of 187 animals at Manatee County Animal Services in Palmetto. The facility is only designed for 80 animals. gjefferies@bradenton.com

Unwavering companionship and unconditional love. When treated with the same, dogs are precious pets. Rescue dogs can be particularly loving, lively and appreciative animals once adopted into a “forever home,” respected and given an enjoyable life. Anyone who has witnessed this would agree.

Right now the Manatee County Animal Services shelter in Palmetto is swamped with dogs – housing around 180 in a building built for 80. If you’re considering adding a four-legged friend to your family, now would be a great time to adopt — a dog, a puppy, a cat or a kitten, for that matter. Or simply foster a pet for a while.

Adoption will almost always be more affordable than purchasing a puppy from a breeder or pet store. Especially now. Manatee County is offering a 50-percent discount for all dogs and cats. Standard adoption fees are $80 for canines and $40 for felines.

But Animal Services provides what the agency estimates is $400 in free veterinary care — including spaying and neutering, vaccines, microchip implant and more.

Animal Services is not the only place to adopt, thanks to the many animal rescue organizations and nonprofit shelters. The Humane Society of Manatee County and another one in Lakewood Ranch, Bishop Animal Shelter, Animal Network, Moonracer, UnderDog Rescue, Nate's Honor Animal Rescue, Forget-Me-Not and others.

Pick your pet — truly, your new family member — well. What type of pet personality you are seeking? Adopting the best pet should begin with an understanding of the ideal pet personality that matches your circumstance, experts say.

Don’t just run out and grab the first cute dog or cat. Be smart. Choose wisely. Ask the people at the shelter or rescue. For example, training a puppy can be very stressful, especially for seniors. Most rescue dogs are already trained.

Perhaps the best benefit of caring for a pet — not “owning,” a rather crass way to describe a companion animal — are the numerous clinical studies that prove a dog or cat can boost an individual’s physical health. For seniors, that includes lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, less stress and bone loss, and improved blood circulation. The mental gains are just as important, if not more so: helping to prevent depression and loneliness.

Children, too, benefit greatly by gaining a sense of responsibility and security, should the parents teach and model respectful and positive behavior to toward pets.

Another animal investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office flooded the county shelter with around three dozen dogs. The probe circumstances haven’t been released publicly yet.

But the overcrowding at the shelter is at a critical stage. Conference rooms are now housing dogs and kennels are holding two dogs instead of one.

Manatee County adopted a no-kill animal policy in 2011, the first county in the state to do so and one of only a few in the country. No-kill is a movement to save more than 90 percent of healthy and treatable animals that turn up at shelters and only euthanize the very ill or dangerous. The agency improved its live release rate immensely — with considerable help from the community rescue organizations and shelters who took in animals when crowding became an issue.

About the current state of affairs, Animal Services Chief Sarah Brown, who only assumed that post this year, told Herald urban affairs reporter Mark Young: “We are really striving hard for a no-kill status. The best way to make that happen is to get the community out here and either adopt or foster.”

Considering a new family member? Head down to the county shelter, in Palmetto at 305 25th Street West.