Enrichment Programs Work for Homeless Animals
By Phil Snyder, Executive Director Suncoast Humane Society
It is a very trying time for many animal shelters in Southwest Florida. There are news reports of many shelters having no more room to provide for incoming homeless animals. A few are even pleading that many animals are facing euthanasia if they are not adopted soon. Some shelters turn away animals when they become full, leaving pet owners out of options when they need to surrender a pet. Open admissions shelters, like Suncoast Humane Society, who do not turn away animals in need, scramble to make room and count heavily on their volunteer foster homes. Presently, dogs being sheltered at Suncoast Humane Society are back to back in kennels designed for one canine. Many animals being sheltered have special social and medical needs. Dedicated staff and volunteers do a wonderful job of keeping these animals socialized during their stay at the shelter. Dogs’ lives are enriched through programs such as dog walking, obedience training, Dogs About Town, Dog’s Day Out, and play time in the yard.
The felines certainly do not take a back seat at Suncoast Humane Society. They are cuddled, petted, and brushed routinely by volunteers. Many are given play time in the meet-and-greet spaces and other roomy areas in the facility. The latest addition to the feline enrichment program is the use of portalized housing. Port holes were cut in partitions separating the existing cages at the shelter, giving cats more space to move around in. They now have compartments for eating, sleeping, and playing, all separate from a compartment for their litter box. As one staff member quipped, “The proof is in the pudding, as they say. We have not had a lot of illness since going to this type of housing.” Providing larger areas for the kitties has also resulted in a marked improvement in their stress levels. Less stress makes for an easier transition to a forever home.
Suncoast Humane Society owes a huge thank you to our friends at Lee County Domestic Animal Services, who donated several banks of stainless steel housing to help alleviate overcrowding in the catteries. And also to Animal Welfare League of Charlotte County, who loaned the help of one of their employees, Randy, to cut and finish the port holes in all of the cages.
Suncoast Humane Society is currently participating in a month-long “Clear the Shelters” campaign by offering reduced feline and canine adoption fees of only $10. Although the main ingredient to curbing pet overpopulation is spay/neuter, adoptions play a major role, too. If you are looking for that special addition for you and your family, please consider adopting from a local animal shelter. You are sure to find a wonderful pet, and just think, you will also be giving a homeless animal that second chance at life and love.