Poker Run benefits C.A.R.E. Animal Shelter

Published on: March 26, 2014

Volunteer dog handler Bill Carroll works with Star at the Ruskin shelter. Photo Kevin Brady

Volunteer dog handler Bill Carroll works with Star at the Ruskin shelter. Photo Kevin Brady

Animal lovers will take to the streets April 5 for a poker run to benefit a local animal shelter that has saved thousands of cats and dogs.

“Cruisin’ for Critters” benefits Ruskin’s Critter Adoption and Rescue Effort, a no-kill animal shelter.

A poker run fundraiser has been suggested several times over the years for the shelter, said Sharon Becker, C.A.R.E.’s president.

“We hope the poker run generates funds, but we would also like to be seen in a new market,” Becker said. “So if we reach a different audience and sign up new members, that will be a success.”

Operating from a three-acre site on 27th Street SE, the shelter provides temporary homes and care for cats and dogs that might otherwise be killed, finding families for up to 10 animals a month.

Equipped with multiple kennels, clinics and several play areas for the animals, the shelter operates with only one full-time employee, a small army of volunteers and a meager $100,000 annual budget covering everything from utilities to dog food.

Participants in the event, open to cars and motorcycles, can register for the poker run between 10 to 11:30 a.m. at The Dog House, 204 Shell Point Road W, Ruskin. The $25 per vehicle fee includes breakfast, score card, T-shirt and the first card of their poker hands.

Additional passengers can pay $5 and get a meal, with extra poker hands going for $10. T-shirts cost $15.

The fun starts at 11:30 a.m., when drivers head to local businesses to pick up their cards, stopping first at Peggy’s Corral, 4511 U.S. 41, Palmetto, then to Woody’s River Roo, 5717 18th St., Ellenton, and then to Uncle Mike’s Smokehouse, 106 State Road 60 E., Plant City.

The winning hands will be determined at the final stop, The Alley at SouthShore, 10221 Big Bend Road, Riverview, where drivers will enjoy a free meal, drinks and desserts.

“The Alley is always looking to give back to the community, and we thought this would be another way for us to give back,” said Melissa Hartmann, events sales manager at The Alley, which is donating food for up to 100 people as well as  their location for the event.

The winning hand will take home four tickets to SeaWorld;  two tickets to Busch Gardens go to the second-place hand. There will also be other prizes, a 50/50 drawing and a raffle.

“We are trying to do something a little bit new,” said Joann With, C.A.R.E.’s outreach coordinator and a former president. “We seem to see the same people coming back, so we are hoping maybe this event will appeal to a broader audience, get us some new friends, adoptions and maybe volunteers.”

C.A.R.E. receives no tax dollars, and is funded by memberships, grants, donations and adoption fees. “So, we rely on the public to fund our operating costs,” With said. “We have only one paid employee, so all the money goes to animals.” 

A vendor booth at the final stop is $50. Sponsorships, $100, are also available for the event. Call 813-846-1316.

To register online for the Poker Run, visit or call 813-645-2273.

Housing between 15 to 20 dogs and 35 to 45 cats, the shelter’s dogs live outside during the day in kennels or in three large exercise yards. Adoptable cats live in one of three large open bay rooms in the shelter’s cat facility. The cats are separated by age, roaming freely in their rooms.

Adoptions run up to $120, although most are cheaper. All animals are spayed and neutered, are up to date with shots, checked by a veterinarian and tested for diseases.

Founded in 2000 by veterinarian Hal Ott and a small group of local citizens concerned about the high number of healthy animals being euthanized each year in Hillsborough County, C.A.R.E.  took on the mission of rescuing, rehabilitating and adopting stray and owner-relinquished animals.

Over the years C.A.R.E. has added an intensive-care unit for newly arrived cats, a large-cat facility and a small-breed dog addition to allow the smaller dogs to be separated.

The C.A.R.E. website,, features photos of all the animals available for adoption and is updated weekly.

The shelter is currently open to the public Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 813-645-2273 for more information or directions.