You’ll have to forgive Callie for stealing your heart—she can’t help her heart-melting mix of snaggle tooth and floppy ears. Stardust, with her earnest eyes and black stripes, has the same bad habit–she’s too adorable to quit. But beyond their cuteness, they both have something else in common: they need forever homes.
For now, though, their accommodations are top of the line. Following an expansion and renovation, project, the new Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC) is a two-story, modern building that offers the best in animal housing design and allows HSSC efforts to save 50 percent more animals each year. Talks of a renovation first began in 2017, when HSSC could house just 82 dogs and 40 cats. The project broke ground in 2020, and now, the facility can house 103 dogs and 75 cats.
The project took the space, originally built in 1952, from 18,000 square feet to 37,513 on three and a half acres. Funded by individual donors and family foundations, it cost $8.5 million.
HSSC now has meet-and-greet rooms for potential adopters to spend time getting to know their future pets; a cat wing featuring two-story indoor/outdoor patios for access to fresh air; dedicated pet areas to spotlight animals needing a little extra help finding their forever homes; dog pods with indoor/outdoor access and play yards; and more.
The improvements also position HSSC as a hub for change in the Florida animal welfare landscape. “In 2021, we saved 2,100 animals and have plans to save 2,700 in 2022,” says Anna Gonce, HSSC’s executive director. Being able to help more furry friends is especially meaningful since Florida is ranked fourth worst in the nation when it comes to saving shelter cats and dogs, Gonce says.
So does man’s best friend beat out felines in terms of the number of adoptions?
“Everyone is looking for something different. That’s why having passionate adoption matchmakers is so important to our mission,” Gonce says. “We can help people identify the very best pet for their family.”
In some cases, large-breed dogs may face more challenges finding a home—often due to the prevalence of size and weight restrictions by HOA-managed communities in Sarasota. “We’d love to see this mindset change in our residential communities,” Gonce says.
But for both cats and dogs, income disparities compounded by the pandemic have forced pet owners to prioritize basic needs over being able to provide adequate pet care. In fact, “financial hardship is one of the main reasons why animals are surrendered to our shelter,” Gonce says. That’s why the nonprofit also operates an affordable animal clinic, helping more pet owners keep their pets thanks to lower-cost care.
So how can you help?
Whether it's bottle-feeding baby kittens, teaching shy dogs that humans can be trusted or providing a quiet place to rest and recover, Gonce says fosters are indispensable.
Visitors are welcome to check out the new facility at 2331 15th St., Sarasota, (941) 955-4131.