The Humane Society of Pinellas houses dozens of dogs and cats awaiting adoption and more are being cared for in foster homes of volunteers.
They all need permanent homes with people who love them.
The nonprofit is building a $4 million, state-of-the-art pet adoption center in Clearwater in place of the current facility at 3040 State Road 590. The new center is expected to open in May 2023 and will double the number of animals the society can house and care for, said David Paloff, director of operations.
Paloff, 41, talked with the Tampa Bay Times about how his organization gets pets ready for new homes.
Do you work with the animals to enhance their adoptability?
Oh, yes. Our staff and volunteers work with the animal population here every single day. We actually run what is called (for dogs) a play group. … Canines are social by nature, so they want to interact with one another. ... They get a number of different enrichment activities in addition to play groups throughout the course of the day that’s supported by our staff and volunteers.
How do animals end up at the Humane Society?
We are a managed admission shelter, so we do owner surrenders by appointment after a series of different screenings for the animal. And we also have a transfer program, so the number one transfer partner is Pinellas County Animal Services. We transfer in (stray) animals from them on a regular basis.
Why do some animals first go to foster homes?
An animal can end up in a foster home for any number of reasons. …We’re under construction here so we have limited capability. It can be a litter of “bottle baby” kittens. We’re coming up on kitten season here, where, you know, kittens that don’t have a mother will be brought into our facility and we’ll get them a foster home until they are ready to be adopted, or dogs or puppies that just aren’t ready for adoption yet for any number of reasons.
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Can you explain what kitten season means?
Here in Florida with our climate, kitten season really is year-round. It kind of slows down in some of the winter months, but we’re coming up on a heavier time where we’ll see more litters of kittens in the shelter. But we do ask that folks not necessarily grab a bunch of kittens that they find right away. A lot of times when kittens are left alone and their mother isn’t nearby, it’s because (the mother is) out hunting or looking for food, and they will be back. So we always ask folks to please leave the kittens alone for a… day or two, until they see mom back with them. And of course if not, we ask them to bring them in.
Do you have animals that people often overlook for adoption?
A lot of folks will walk past a dog in the kennel because maybe they have poor kennel presence. A lot of dogs have what we call barrier activity, and they’re jumping or they’re barking or they’re acting a little bit out of sorts within the kennel. You get them out of that kennel and they’re wonderful, wonderful, wonderful pets. ... Sometimes that deters people.We always encourage folks… let us know what you’re looking for and maybe we can find the right match. Don’t necessarily exclude an animal because they have poor kennel behavior or poor kennel presence. Let’s give them an opportunity; let’s get them out of the kennel so you can meet them firsthand. … Those are the (dogs) we work with a lot.
Are dogs more adoptable than cats?
It all depends. We have a really good mix here, and actually there are some national statistics out there that show that cats have become more popular in the home than dogs. What I’ve read and what I’ve seen is a lot of that is attributed to some of the younger generation of folks that are business professionals.They want the companionship of an animal but they don’t necessarily want to have to be constrained to having to let a dog outside a couple of times a day. It may interfere with their professional or social lives. So the companionship of a cat, where they may be able to leave the house for the day and not have to stress about taking that dog out to go to the bathroom or walking or whatever. … But locally, here, we’ve seen a good mix of both.
Why do people give up their pets for adoption?
Everybody’s story is different. … What I talk to our staff here a lot about is, it may be the third or fourth time you’re hearing that same story today, but it’s that person’s first. And we need to be sympathetic and understanding to everybody’s situation. It could be housing related, it could be financial related. It’s very difficult for somebody who is coming in to surrender their animal, which they consider a family member, because it’s either their kids eat or their pet eats. And we see that. These are tough things. So that is certainly a reality.
Some of the same things we’ve seen here with COVID-19 the past couple of years, people are having to make some changes in their work, which is reflective of their living situation. They may not be able to take their animal into a new living situation that they were previously in. We’ve seen a lot of that.
For more information about the Humane Society of Pinellas, visit humanesocietyofpinellas.org