News & Features
Seven Central Florida rescue organizations making a difference for animals in our region
Published: February 6, 2013
SPECIALIZES IN: Pit bulls
ANIMALS ADOPTED OUT EACH YEAR: 25-30 in its first year, 100 last year, 22 so far this year
ANIMALS UP FOR ADOPTION NOW? Nine
When Erica Daniel started working at a local animal shelter five years ago, she noticed the disproportionate number of pit bulls among the dogs looking for homes. She was drawn to the misunderstood dogs and quickly fell in love with the breed; in 2011, she formed Dolly's Foundation to help more of these unwanted pit bulls find permanent homes.
For Daniel, who was born and raised in Central Florida, Dolly's Foundation is not just about rescuing dogs – it's also about making an impact on the community. Her organization educates the public about the breed stigma, works with local clinics to offer affordable spay and neuter services, and helps low-income families take care of their dogs, whether that means paying for a pet's medical care or partnering with other local organizations to help owners in need.
"Our goal is to change our community for the better," Daniel says. "By changing the lives of the humans in our community, we will in turn change the lives of the animals in our communities."
This unique philosophy is what Daniel believes separates Dolly's Foundation from other rescue organizations. The goal, Daniel says, is to try to help pit bull owners and their dogs be the best they can be, and to help the public better understand this type of dog, which for many is a beloved family pet – not the stereotypical monster some imagine them to be.
"Pit bulls are just dogs," she says. "Judge every dog as an individual."
Kindness For Cats Inc.
FOUNDED: 2005; became an incorporated nonprofit in 2008
SPECIALIZES IN: Cats
ANIMALS ADOPTED OUT EACH YEAR: 50-200
ANIMALS UP FOR ADOPTION NOW? 12
If you've ever walked into Orange County Animal Services (OCAS), you've likely seen it: cages upon cages of cats, of all ages, colors, sizes and types, all of which have been abandoned or found roaming the streets. Some are adopted, but many more – thousands – are euthanized before homes can be found for them.
The high number of cats put to sleep, compared to the low number of cat adoptions going on in Orange County, inspired a small group of OCAS volunteers to form Kindness for Cats, which works diligently to save the lives of as many adoptable kittens and cats that come through the shelter's doors as possible. Although a tiny David organization compared to the county's Goliath of a shelter, Kindness for Cats accomplishes more than you might think.
First, they increase exposure for cats that are still in OCAS waiting to be adopted. Then the organization has a unique chance to educate potential adoptive families, as well as the general public, about the joy of rescuing a pet, the basics of caring for a cat, and most importantly, the importance of spaying and neutering to prevent overpopulation. Most times, all of these efforts are linked.
Cindy Patton, founder and CEO of the organization, believes that rescuing pets goes hand in hand with the responsibility of spaying or neutering them. "Most rescue animals are spayed or neutered prior to adopting out," Patton explains. "But folks 'rescue' on their own then don't spay or neuter them." This increases the number of unwanted cats and makes the mission of Kindness for Cats that much more difficult to accomplish. Volunteers like Patton, however, remain undeterred in their desire to save lives, and while they can't save every cat that comes into the Orange County Animal Services shelter, their persistence in educating the public about the benefits of adopting a rescue as opposed to, say, buying from a pet store is not easily shaken.
> Email Katherine Ramirez Massey