By Beth Lawrence
The Jackson County Humane Society (ARF) has found themselves in a “ruff” spot and needs locals to lend a paw.
Over the last six years, ARF has transported 1,220 dogs to Florida’s Humane Society of Pinellas in order to save lives and keep them from being euthanized because Jackson County lacks shelter space. But Pinellas’ shelter will soon undergo renovations and won’t be accepting transfers until an undetermined date in 2022. The last transport of eight puppies will take place on Oct. 25. Any new animals coming into the shelter will need to be adopted locally, placed with foster families or worst case scenario, euthanized.
ARF is asking for local residents to step up to adopt or foster and help find a solution to this multifaceted problem.
“All we know for now is it’s going to be a five- to six-month hiatus,” ARF President Mary Adams said. “It’s possible they will resume working with us. Most of the staff really like working with us. They (like) the variety we add to their numbers because they have a lot of pit bulls there.”
Adams is trying to locate a new shelter for transports, but it needs to be willing to receive a variety of dogs, serve a large population and be within driving distance.
Fostering and adopting is the ideal solution.
It was already hard to recruit fosters, but COVID has made the situation worse.
“We used to meet on Saturdays at ARF, so we had at least that visibility,” Adams said. “I think that COVID has given us a lot less visibility because we’re working out of our houses.”
ARF is a small agency trying to meet a big need. They work with the county’s shelter to transport, foster and adopt dogs who come to the shelter.
“I would say there’s a dozen of us who do most of the work,” said Jane Finneran, ARF board member. “When the shelter gets full, we will pull some dogs for transport. We try to keep the runs open because if the shelter gets full and a dog comes in, somebody has to be put down.”
The shelter currently has 16 runs, or dog kennels.
Problematically, more dogs come into the shelter than go out through adoptions, making transports necessary.
ARF typically transports 25 to 30 dogs at a time to Pinellas’ shelter.
Animals running loose and not spayed and neutered contribute greatly to the problem.
“Right after our last transport somebody showed up with nine hound puppies,” Finneran said. “That’s a lot for our little shelter. We did a transport at the end of September, and since then we’ve had 20 puppies come in not counting the other dogs. That’s overwhelming.”
Foster families can help alleviate the problem, but often foster families want short term commitments which is not always possible given the struggles ARF faces finding adoptive families.
ARF accepts anyone willing to foster if they are willing to commit to an open ended arrangement, have adequate space, preferably a fenced yard and either own their home or live in a rental that allows pets. Fosters also need to be willing to work with the animals on training and other behavioral issues. ARF provides vet care and food for foster families.
No training is necessary, and Finneran is willing to offer advice and tips when needed.
Ideally, ARF needs 25 to 30 fosters and/or adoptions monthly to compensate for not having a place to transport.
Adopters need a reference from a vet and preferably a fenced yard. They also need to have patience and understanding while the dog adjusts to its new family and surroundings.
Small dogs, puppies and purebreds are typically adopted easily, but larger dogs, older dogs and mixed breed hounds and bulldogs are often overlooked.
ARF also faces problems obtaining spay and neuter surgeries for female dogs and puppies.
“There’s only one place in the area that we’ll get them spayed or neutered, and they’re on a backlog, usually two months out,” Adams said. “We don’t let anything go before it’s spayed and that makes it really tough with the puppies.”
Shelters and rescues in neighboring counties are often over-taxed as well and cannot assist.
To learn more about fostering or adopting through ARF call 877-ARF-PETS.