By KEVIN BRADY
Filling the parking lot an hour before the doors opened, pet lovers from all over the Bay area flocked to Hillsborough County Animal Services in Brandon on Dec. 14, all hoping to give a home to abandoned cats and dogs.
Marge Werth drove from Tampa for “Be the Way Home Before the Holidays” to pick up a kitten for her granddaughter.
“Adopting at Animal Services means you are saving the life of an animal that might otherwise be euthanized,” said Werth, who has two rescue dogs of her own.
Sean Bostic was one of those who turned out early hoping to adopt a dog.
“A lot of these dogs were neglected or just abandoned, and I think this is the best way not only to give a gift but to give the gift of a home to a dog.” Bostic said.
Animal Services takes in more than 20,000 dogs and cats each year. The primary goal for the shelter is to reunite lost pets with their families and find homes for the remaining animals with new families or other rescue groups.
A $20 adoption fee and advertising help draw pet lovers to the event, said Jackie Osborne, president of Friends of Hillsborough County Animal Services.
“I think with all the controversy about the shelter over the last 18 months, people want to see for themselves what is going on now that there have been a changes in leadership,” Osborne said. Former Animal Services director Ian Hallett was transferred last month after complaints from animal welfare advocates.
Osborne has some simple advice for those considering buying a pet for Christmas from a pet store: don’t do it.
“I am an animal activist so I think pet stores tend to buy their dogs in particular and cats, too, from people who just breed them for profit. They are really not concerned with what happens with the animal and many times those animals end up here,” Osborne said.
“You can get just about any breed of animal here, age, color, male or female, whatever you want and we normally will have it here and I am talking dogs or cats. I am heartened by the turnout here.”
Buying a pet as a surprise for a child on Christmas morning is never a good idea, Osborne said. “We recommend the family come in and decide on the animal together.”
Dexter Barge, the county’s code enforcement director who is running the shelter while the county looks for a full time replacement, said he was surprised by the turnout.
“The event has already exceeded our expectations. The parking lot was filling up 90 minutes before we even opened the doors. Our goal is to get out as many loving, well-cared-for animals into nice, loving homes. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Barge said. “The turnout was very encouraging.”
The $20 adoption fee covered an initial checkup, microchipping, vaccinations, rabies tag and spaying/neutering.
For anyone who missed the event, animals may be viewed at www.HillsboroughCounty.org/AnimalServices.
Applications can be downloaded and printed out, but must be submitted in person at the shelter, 440 N. Falkenburg Rd.
For more information, call the shelter at 813-744-5660.