By LOIS KINDLE
Due to overcrowding at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, many adoptable dogs simply get overlooked. And the longer they’re there, the shelter environment begins taking a toll on their mental and physical health, making them less suitable for adoption and placing them at high risk for euthanasia.
In an effort to save as many of these animals as possible, Lauri Partanio, owner of Professional Pets Florida and a former employee of Hillsborough County Animal Control, founded a nonprofit organization in February 2023 called Pizza Party for Pets. Its mission is to bring attention to these at-risk dogs by partnering with the pet resource center and area eateries.
PizzaVola in Riverview was the first to participate in the program by agreeing to place colorful fliers Partanio supplies on its pizza boxes. The flier includes a photo of an adoptable canine and the number of days it has been at the shelter.
Other eateries followed: Nick’s Pizzaria & Wings, Plant City; FishHawk Pizza, Lithia; Vine Vegan, Brandon; Vegan International Co., Tampa; Justin’s Pizza, Riverview; and Bloomingdale Pizza, Valrico and Brandon.
“The Pizza for Pets program is free,” Partanio said. “All the businesses do is attach the fliers to their boxes, takeout bags or restaurant checks. I supply a mix of fliers for each campaign to help place four of five different dogs. Each establishment has a different rotation of pets.”
She will even customize the campaign’s name to match the type of business. For example, Vine Vegan and Vegan International have fliers with “Plants for Pets” on them.
Recently moving to Apollo Beach, Partanio quickly sought to expand the Pizza for Pets program to include South Shore eateries.
First to agree to participate was East Coast Pizza, Riverview, then The Healthy Spot (Protein for Pets), Apollo Beach and the Salty Shamrock (Pints for Pets), Apollo Beach. Others are sure to follow.
“The restaurants get publicity on our Facebook page, and we place their logos on the bottom of the fliers,” Partanio said, adding she pays Facebook for higher ad placement. “Since we started in February, 26 at-risk dogs and one cat have been saved and permanently adopted. Most of them had been at the Pet Resource Center more than 100 days. We had one, a Doberman-hound named Sebastian, that was adopted after 635 days.”
Partanio said three of the dogs she promoted were adopted within hours of euthanasia.
“Our facility can house approximately 250 dogs, but ensuring care for that many animals is difficult,” said Chelsea Waldek, Pet Resource Center spokeswoman. “Currently we have slightly over 250.
“We exhaust every resource we have [including the Pizza for Pets program] before we humanely euthanize an animal,” she continued. “As long as a pet is healthy and happy, they stay put. Currently we have a 94% live-outcome rate, which means 94% of our shelter animals are adopted by the public, returned to owner or adopted by a rescue.”
Waldek said she loves Partanio’s program.
“It’s a unique way to get our message out there and highlight some of the pets that are being overlooked,” she said.
As long as a flier is brought to the pet resource center, there’s no adoption fee for any of the dogs promoted by the Pizza for Pets program. The adoption includes spaying or neutering, microchipping and vaccinations. And if it’s not a good fit, any pet in the shelter can be adopted at no cost.
“You can even foster a dog for a day to see how it might work out,” Partanio said.
Even if you can’t adopt a dog, you can help Partanio cover the cost of printing the fliers, which, of course, keeps growing as she adds more eateries to the program.
To make a donation, have your business sign up to participate or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org, visit https://professionalpets.net/pizza-for-pets/ or call 516-880-5558.
To view photos of adoptable pets and those who have been adopted, visit https://www.facebook.com/pizzaforpets/.