Thursday, June 21, 2018
Pets

Fostering gives dogs more time, people limited commitment

TAMPA

When Ashley Ellis takes Bella for a walk on Bayshore Boulevard, passers-by sometimes stop to ask Ellis about the 8-month-old, 35-pound pit bull.

Ellis can tell them all about how Bella spent two weeks in a shelter, nervous and scared. She can tell them how now Bella is friendly, playful and best friends with Ellis' year-old Boston terrier.

And, if they're interested, she can tell them how they can bring Bella home for themselves.

Bella is a foster dog. She lives with Ellis, who works in advertising, and Avery, her Boston terrier, in their South Tampa home.

Avery loves everything, Ellis said, including dogs, people and playtime. So she loves Bella, too.

"When I brought Bella home, she was beyond excited. They just played nonstop," Ellis said. "Being in my home has helped her slowly transition, so when she finds a forever home, she'll be ready to go, with no issues, healthy and happy."

For the dogs at the county shelter, this kind of chance can mean the difference between life and death.

The fostering program at Hillsborough County Animal Services isn't new, but general awareness of the shelter among county residents has been an ongoing hurdle, said director Ian Hallett.

Animal services takes in 21,000 animals a year, and of those, 9,500 are dogs and 10,500 are cats. Of the animals the shelter takes in, 13,000 are euthanized each year.

An average of 58 animals come into the shelter a day, Hallett said, though he said it's closer to 90 or 100 a day in the summer.

The shelter has about 150 animals in foster homes right now, Hallett said. Fostering can be a good alternative, especially for animals with medical issues or for animals that need obedience training. It also can expose animals to people around the county who might not otherwise venture to the Falkenburg Road shelter.

Some animals are with a foster for just a few days, while others can spend up to six months with a foster depending on individual medical or behavioral needs. Foster families pay for basic pet supplies like food. The shelter covers all medical expenses, such as spaying and neutering.

They shelter is working on building a list of people interested in fostering. Potential fosters fill out an adoption application and foster application. The shelter works with foster families to find the animal a permanent home.

Hallett took over as director about 13 months ago. His management has recently come into question after two of the shelter's three full-time veterinarians left in recent weeks, and some volunteers and leaders of animal welfare groups have complained about overcrowding and more animals getting sick.

Yielding more success from the foster program could help stem the criticism.

Other groups like Rescue Me Tampa - Shelter Dogs and Rescue Me Tampa - Foster Dogs use Facebook to circulate pictures and get the word out about dogs in need of homes. Shelters like the Humane Society of Tampa Bay and Guardian Angel Dog Rescue in Tampa work with fosters, too.

"The ones being fostered are the ones that have no other voice," said Cathy Carr, animal services adoption-rescue coordinator. "The other alternative is euthanasia."

Amy Howland of Tampa is the president of Dogma Pet Rescue. Dogma rescues dogs from shelters, but doesn't have its own facility. All of the group's volunteers foster.

The group started in 2010 and has saved more than 700 dogs, said Howland, a paralegal.

"To say we've made a huge impact on the world, no," Howland said, "but we've made a difference to those dogs and we've made a difference to the families we've adopted those dogs to who say their family is complete."

Lisa Presnail of St. Petersburg has fostered more than 30 dogs over the past six years. She's a photographer with a studio in Tampa, and when she learned about the trouble shelters have finding homes for some dogs, she started the Little Pet Project to take more glamorous photos of the overlooked dogs and draw more attention to them.

"They need something special," she said. "They're a dog that maybe has been in fostering for six months or a year."

She said it's common to hear people say they aren't ready for a dog, but with fostering "you don't have to commit forever," she said.

Eva Areias, owner of the Bead Boutique in Brandon, began volunteering at the county shelter a few months ago. She and her husband, Frank Perrulli, have fostered dogs, some of which have become "foster failures," the tongue-in-cheek name for people who end up officially adopting the dogs they've fostered.

She has a crate at the store and brings in her dogs to introduce to customers she hopes will become inspired to learn more about fostering and adoption.

One customer came in to make earrings, fell in love with Areias' dog Maggie and went to the shelter the next day to adopt a dog of her own.

"I just cried," Areias said.

"It's so rewarding. It's such a great feeling when you know you've saved a dog's life. It takes a village, as they say. This really is an amazing village."

The county shelter has adopted out about 9,000 animals since Hallett took the position last May. The year before his arrival, 7,000 animals were adopted out.

"It's definitely progress, but we have a lot more to do," he said. "We are still less than halfway there. Right now the most important thing is just more people coming into the shelter."

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2453.

Comments
Find A Friend: Tum Tum and Colt, the kittens

Find A Friend: Tum Tum and Colt, the kittens

Why is June named National Adopt-a- Cat Month? Because thousands of orphaned kittens across the country are ready for adoption in the warm spring and summer months. Tum Tum and Colt were part of a litter left on a doorstop. They went from cardboard b...
Published: 06/19/18
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 22

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 22

Hernando County Animal ServicesDusty is a 3-year-old black and brown tabby. She was found wandering in a yard off Spring Hill Drive and brought to the shelter. Dusty is sweet, friendly and looking for a forever home. Inquiries about adopting Dusty or...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Find A Friend: Sky the hound

Find A Friend: Sky the hound

It’s time to salute fathers, and Second Chance Friends has exactly what dear old Dad wants: a perky, young, blonde. Sky is a 2 and a half-year old fawn hound that came into rescue at the brink of starvation. Now a healthy 41 pounds, Sky deeply loves ...
Published: 06/15/18
Find A Friend: Charlie the Maine Coon Cat

Find A Friend: Charlie the Maine Coon Cat

There’s so much to celebrate, like Adopt-a-Cat Month and Father’s Day. In a proper salute to dads everywhere, Second Chance Friends proudly presents a very cool cat: Charlie, the man-sized Maine Coon. He’s large, rugged, golden-eyed, and so-o-o-o goo...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/12/18
Find A Friend: Molly the Tortie Cat

Find A Friend: Molly the Tortie Cat

June is national Adopt-A-Cat month, and Molly’s ready. She’s all over this calendar celebration. Molly was rescued around Easter, just in time to give birth and TLC to five little ones. Now, it’s Molly’s turn to be a pampered inside kitty. The pretty...
Published: 06/07/18
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 15

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 15

Hernando County Animal ServicesNadaysha is a beautiful 2-1/2-year-old red female terrier mix. She is a sweet and shy dog. Nadaysha is being treated for flea allergies, and has been spayed, microchipped, vaccinated and has a 1-year county animal licen...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Find A Friend: Delilah the puppy

Find A Friend: Delilah the puppy

Dedicated volunteers for New Life Dog Rescue often have their hands full turning around the community’s neediest pets. But they also save and foster perfectly healthy pups, too, like Delilah. This 9-week-old, 10-pounder is the princess of spunk. She ...
Updated one month ago
Hernando Pet of the Week for June 8

Hernando Pet of the Week for June 8

Humane Society of the Nature CoastBonnet is a 2-year-old pit bull terrier. He’s a show stopper and is looking for a family to love. Inquiries about adopting Bonnet or other dogs and cats can be made at the Humane Society of the Nature Coast shelter a...
Updated one month ago
Animal house? Colleges saying yes to pets

Animal house? Colleges saying yes to pets

Most dorm residents at Southeast Missouri State University will show up this fall with bedding, a laptop, a backpack and other typical accessories. A few dozen others will tote something furrier — and breathing: Their pets.The school in Cape Girardea...
Updated one month ago
Find A Friend: Jewel the Cat

Find A Friend: Jewel the Cat

June is National Adopt-a-Cat-Month, and this one’s a diamond in the rough. She once lived as a stray where neighborhood kids had created a homemade collar out of fishing line, adorned with a shiny little bead. That led the community to give her a pro...
Updated one month ago