Humane Society Trip

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By Maria Devine

“Shelter medicine with a heart.” That’s how Bruce Fishalow, executive director of the Humane Society of Marion County, described his philosophy to 14 SPCA members who recently took a field trip to the beautiful animal shelter in northwest Ocala.

Since Bruce took over leadership in 2007, he and his 20 employees and numerous volunteers have turned this once shabby, sanctuary-like shelter into a viable, solvent organization that has seen adoptions soar to over 1,500 a year.

How has all this been accomplished? By limiting admissions to dogs and cats that are of sound temperament, free of major health issues, and a diverse mix of breeds and types, the Humane Society gives these animals the best chance to be adopted. This helps the HSMC be as close as they can to a “no kill” shelter.

Walk into many animal shelters and you will be greeted by barking dogs lunging at cage doors, the unsavory smells of animal waste or disinfectant, and an overall unhappy atmosphere. Not here. The dogs are housed in large kennels, some extra large to hold two brothers or sisters together. Each dog is provided with a raised bed, clean towels, and toys. They each have a training and exercise schedule – in fact they’re let out three times a day for some serious playtime and romping in large groups in a two acre shaded field. After all this socializing, they’re content enough to quietly greet you as you pass by. Your nose will notice something too – they smell clean — and it will make you smile.

The cats have it good, too. They’re in an open room with kitty condos and they jump from one to the other having a ball. From here they can enter the new cat castle with private screened lanai for their viewing pleasure. It comes replete with scratching posts and a tree for climbing and playing.

When you pick out a pet you fancy, you can get to know each other better in the Meet and Greet room. In here it’s a day at the beach in the middle of central Florida. A friendly yellow lab (painted on a mural) welcomes you to a cheery room with sky blue walls done up with colorful surfboards and beach balls. Shutters with awnings are painted to look like windows. You can sit on a bench and nuzzle your newfound friend in this sweet, comfortable environment.

Outside the shelter, a retention area has been turned into a lovely memorial park funded solely by donations. A brick courtyard leads to Zozo’s gazebo, named after a beloved pet. To honor your own pet, you can purchase a brick and have it inscribed with a special sentiment. Newly planted trees will one day provide a shady spot to sit and contemplate the wonderful relationship we have with our dogs and cats.

If you have never been to the HSMC, or not since Bruce took over, it would be worth your while to go for a tour. They are also looking for volunteers, especially for people to help with the cats. The shelter is at 701 N.W. 14th Road. You can call for directions or inquiries at 873-7387. You just might come home with your forever friend.

Be an Angel

While the Humane Society has a building to house their dogs and cats as they wait to be adopted, The SPCA does not. Animals that are surrendered to us need to be placed into foster homes while they wait for that special someone to give them a second chance. At this time, we are desperately in need of people willing to foster. To make this easier for those individuals, the SPCA will pay for all food and routine medical care, including spay/neuter. All we ask is that you provide a warm bed and a lot of love.  Without enough fosters, owners who can no longer keep their pets will have no alternative but to turn them over to a shelter, and lost pets may have to end up at Animal Control. Please call (352) 362-0985 to inquire about our foster program.

Pet Survival Kit

Now that hurricane season is here again, it’s a good time to review plans for protecting your pet in an emergency. Since some emergencies, such as fire or tornado, do not give you adequate time to secure needed belongings – you should put together a pet survival kit that you can grab and go. What should be in this kit?

A secure carrier or collapsible crate for larger animals

At least a two-week supply of food and water

Non-breakable food and water bowls

Medications and care instructions

Kitty litter and pan, cleansers, disinfectants and trash bags for handling waste

Brushes, combs, other hygiene items

Toys and other comfort items

A manual can opener

Muzzles, if necessary

Pet first aid supplies

Leashes, collars, ID tags and immunization record

You should review the contents of this kit each year and replace stale supplies and update vaccination records. Many of these items can be stored in your pet’s carrier. Vaccination papers can be sealed in a plastic bag. Plastic-sealed packages of dry food, bottled water and first aid kit can be place in the carrier. Litter pans can also store items, then secure them with duct tape.

According to SPCA records, 93 percent of pets in shelters end up there because they lack identification, be it a microchip or tags. If your pet becomes lost during an emergency, proper identification may be your only hope of being re-united.

SPCA Picnic

The next meeting of the SPCA is Thursday, June 18, at noon in Room H of the Arbor Conference Center in On Top of the World Communities. Note the time change – we’re having our end of year picnic for SPCA members so we’re meeting an hour earlier than usual. This will be our last meeting until September. If you live outside of OTOW, just tell the guard that you are attending the SPCA meeting. If you have questions or need our services, please call 362-0985. While there are no meetings in July and August, the SPCA will still be busy placing pets that need homes, writing about them and other topics in the Citizen, and packing food for the Pets on Wheels program.

Till next month remember: “Pets are not our whole lives, but they make our lives whole.”