Nobody can resist a cute puppy or kitten – just look at the Internet, where funny cat videos drive more traffic than our city's Lynx bus system. But before long, kittens and puppies grow up into cats and dogs. Their cuteness wears off, they need exercise and stimulation and sometimes they wreck stuff. That's when a lot of animals find themselves homeless – left behind at shelters, or worse, set loose to fend for themselves (where they often make more unwanted pets who end up in the system each year). A lot of them don't make it out of shelters alive.
Here's the good news: Orange County Animal Services reported in 2011 that euthanasia was down to a total of 10,088 animals, compared to 2007's figure of 13,434. Meanwhile, the number of adoptions and pets being released to rescues has gone up.
These days, you can find a rescue organization that caters to every breed of dog and cat, not to mention other species of animal. We contacted seven rescue organizations in the area who are on the front lines of rescuing cast-off, unwanted and neglected animals and profiled them below. Think of them next time you're looking for a pet – or a way to volunteer with animals.
Pet Rescue by Judy
SPECIALIZES IN: Cats and dogs
ANIMALS ADOPTED OUT EACH YEAR: An estimated 1,500
ANIMALS UP FOR ADOPTION NOW: 92 dogs and 187 cats. The numbers change constantly as adoptions and rescues happen daily.
If you visit the awkwardly quiet Oviedo Marketplace on any weekend, you may hear the odd echoes of oohing and aaahing, mingled with barking and meowing coming from somewhere inside the nearly abandoned mall. The sounds come from the only lively storefront in the whole marketplace – the one occupied by Pet Rescue by Judy's adoption center.
Founded by animal lover Judy Sarullo in 1992, Pet Rescue by Judy is one of the most well-known rescue organizations in Central Florida. The organization runs a no-kill facility in Sanford as well as the Oviedo adoption center, and its volunteers are the heart of the organization.
"I love what I get to do there and wouldn't change anything," says Bailey Walker, who has been volunteering for the nonprofit since 2011. "The animals are great, and I enjoy being a part of giving them the help they desperately need."
After being brought into the rescue, each dog or cat is groomed, checked and treated for fleas, ticks, heartworm or other medical issues, then microchipped. All of the
animals are spayed or neutered before being adopted out through an adoption center or at various events where the rescue
brings animals to meet and greet with the public.
While rescue is a huge part of what Pet Rescue by Judy does, the organization knows that rescuing animals alone won't eliminate the homeless-pet problem, so it makes education a significant part of its mission. Pet Rescue by Judy educates its adopters, foster homes and the public about proper care for companion animals, the importance of spaying and neutering pets to prevent overpopulation problems, and where to find low-cost spay/neuter resources in the community.
Pet Rescue by Judy also has a special spot in its program for older pets, which are often overlooked in favor of adorable puppies and kittens. Animals more than 5 years old have lower adoption fees, and the Seniors for Seniors program helps the rescue match people 55 and older with older pets looking for a home: People who are 55 years of age and older can adopt pets more than 5 years old for half of the regular adoption fee.