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Pet Palooza event at Tahitian Gardens to feature Gulf Coast Humane Society

By Staff | Feb 3, 2015

A couple of British Shorthair cats find their comforts at the Gulf Coast Humane Society’s remodeled feline area, which allows the cats to roam free in a spacious area, equipped with bed crates. BRIAN WIERIMA

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe freeThe wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the

homeless, tempest-tost to me”

Although these words were penned by Emma Lazarus to be scribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1883, they can be used in another sense and still have just as much meaning.

The Gulf Coast Humane Society can be said to live by these words, as they provide shelter, food and in most cases – life – to the many homeless and forgotten pets in Southwest Florida.

GCHS is the last chance for dogs and cats, many of whom did not have much of a life to begin with. Abused, beaten, starved and at the end of the line, GCHS has provided that second chance at a good life for these animals since the early 1970’s.

Trixie plays with a stick she found in one of the play pen area, designated for exercise for dogs at the Gulf Coast Humane Society, located in Fort Myers. BRIAN WIERIMA

The people of Sanibel have an opportunity to see firsthand what GCHS is all about Saturday, Feb. 7, during the Tails A-Waggin Pet Palooza event, which will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tahitian Gardens located at 1975 Periwinkle Way.

“We are always so welcome out at Sanibel, it’s awesome,” said GCHS executive director Jennifer Galloway. “People come out and meet the dogs and they are so supportive to us, it’s remarkable. It means a lot that people come out and see what we are all about.”

There will be many attractive offerings from the Tahitian Gardens’ merchants, as well, with Cheeburger Cheeburger donating $1 from the sale of any “Pounder” burger purchased during the event.

Synergy and Sanibel Sole will be selling Valentine themed scarves for $5, with all proceeds benefitting GCHS, while Cedar Chest will raffle off a beautiful piece of jewelry, also benefitting the Humane Society.

Other specials to benefit GCHS during the Pet Palooza event include Shiny Objects having a benefit sale, Wilford and Lee will donate a portion of the day’s sales to GCHS and Royal Shell Vacations are selling $1 Valentines to benefit GCHS.

One of the many dogs who are ready to find his forever home. BRIAN WIERIMA

Island Paws will hold a raffle basket, as well.

“Events like this also gives us one more opportunity to show what we are all about,” said GCHS Development Director Robin Griffiths.

GCHS will be bringing several furry hosts for the event to show why adoption is the way to go to fill a house with pet love.

“We encourage ‘adopt, don’t shop,'” Galloway said. “There is a misnomer out there that animals are in shelters because they are damaged. But the fact is, they are here usually due to a death of an owner, divorce, a move or a birth. Most of our dogs are house trained and cats are kitty littered trained.

“We have friendly, adoptable pets.”

Tye was adopted by Robin Griffiths, who is the Gulf Coast Humane Society Development Director. BRIAN WIERIMA

Located at 2010 Arcadia Street in Fort Myers, GCHS takes in surrenders and also take in animals which are on their final days on the euthanize list at the different county animal control facilities.

On average, GCHS houses 60 cats and 120 dogs at any one time and the goal is to adopt 25-30 animals a week. Last year, the GCHS team adopted out 1,506 cats and dogs, which was 35-percent more than 2013.

“Our goal this year is to top the 2,000 mark, which is 2,000 more lives saved,” Galloway said. “Our animals are all spayed, neutered, microchipped, age-appropriate vaccines and are potty trained, since they already were when they got here.”

But before these K9s and felines find their forever home, they have some comfortable surroundings in the meantime.

There was a big improvement for the cats of GCHS recently, with the remodeling of its feline area. Instead of the cats being held in crates and cages, there is now a free-roaming area in which there are open boxes bolted to wall to provide beds and resting places.

The bedding boxes on the wall were actually made by inmates of the Lee County Department of Corrections, after Galloway purchased the boxes online.

The cats are allowed to walk free in the rooms, which includes a lanai-like area, which was paid for thanks to an individual donating an RV and sold for funds for the project.

“You don’t feel sad for the cats when you are here because it is so open,” Galloway said. “It has improved our cat adoptions. They were almost zilch when they were in crates, but this room has helped a lot.”

The GCHS campus sits on five acres and has four buildings, with two main facilities and two smaller out-buildings. The four buildings holds everything from the dog kennels (dog capacity is 16), laundry facility, the clinic and surgery areas, caged-in play pens, walking areas, quarantine cages, education area, cat/dog processing room and storage.

“We use every inch of those five acres,” Galloway said.

GCHS also takes in extreme cases, in which they are usually cared for thanks to the Second Chance Fund. The Second Chance Fund pays for the care of animals who are brought to GCHS in seriously bad condition and costs are above and beyond the normal care.

People can directly donate to the Second Chance Fund, as well.

The recent case of Sunset, the bait dog found in Lehigh Acres near Buckingham and Sunset Roads, is a classic example of how the Second Chance Fund helps.

Sunset was brought in Tuesday, Jan. 27, in unimaginable bad condition. She was covered in scars due to past abuse, half of her lip was bitten off and she was malnourished.

Sunset had a 50/50 chance of survival when she was brought into GCHS and Galloway said she is a perfect example of being used as a bait dog (which is a dog used to train other dogs to fight).

“It’s tragic this type of stuff happens here, but dog fighting is a reality in the area,” Galloway said.

GCHS also spays and neuters their animals to help prevent over-population, which is already a rampant problem.

“On average, our girls spay or neuter (20-25 animals) a day,” Galloway said. “It’s very affordable to do and we are open to the public, as well.”

The dogs also have the comforts of a soft bed with kennel outside access, air conditioning during the hot days, self-watering appliances and the chance at two to three walks a day, which is performed by the many volunteers of GCHS.

“We live for volunteers,” Galloway said. “They meet us at the gate at 8 a.m. and we have three waves of volunteers who come in at lunch time and the end of day. There is a huge spectrum of jobs, from walking the animals to answering phones.”

Funding is probably the number one challenge for the GCHS staff. GCHS does not receive any government monies, instead all money is raised through events like Pet Palooza on Sanibel Feb. 7, or through donations.

“We rarely say no to anyone who invites us for an event,” Galloway said. “Fundraising is a daily thing here.”

To learn more about or to donate or adopt an animal from the Gulf Coast Humane Society, go to their website at www.gulfcoasthumanesociety.org or call 239-332-0364.

Bundles of furry love can come in many different packages and sizes. Adopting a forever friend is as rewarding as it comes and one can be certain, that the love given to them, will be returned unconditionally.