Flagler Humane Society Lands Big Grant to Offer Free Sterilization for Pit Bulls and Mixes
FlaglerLive | December 17, 2012
The Flagler Humane Society has landed an $83,000 grant through PetSmart Charities that will enable the society to offer free spay and neutering, microchips and rabies vaccination to 850 pit bull and pit bull mix dogs belonging to any Flagler County residents.
“Based on formulas that people use to calculate the number of animals,” says Diane Voigt, president of Flagler Humane Society, “there’s an estimated 1,700 pit bulls and pit mixes in Flagler County, and the 850 represents 50 percent of those, which has been a number that you need to hit in order to really make an impact on a particular population. So that’s how we came to that number.”
Pit bulls and pit mixes make up approximately 60 percent of the Flagler Humane Society’s shelter dogs even though they represent less than 10 percent of the total dog population in the county. Pit bulls and mixes are a problem for the Humane Society because they are difficult to place in homes.
“Pit bulls are sort of a strange beast,” Voigt said. “They’re a status dog in many cultures, there’s a lot of breeding of pit bulls that goes on in Flagler County and in fact throughout the South. This is not a Flagler County issue, it’s basically a South issue. They’re a big dog that requires a lot of care and attention, and people get bored with them very quickly, and so they end up with us, which is unfortunate, because the breed is maligned in the media. There are bad pit bulls but the scariest dog we’ve had in our shelter was a miniature schnauzer that even the schnauzer shelter wouldn’t take.” Voigt was referring to a rescue group that specializes in shnauzers. “They wouldn’t take this one because it was too vicious. And this was a 10-12 pound dog.”
For one reason or another, pit bulls often make it into the news, in Palm Coast as elsewhere: Miami-Dade voters earlier this year voted to extend a ban on pit bulls in the county, even though Florida makes it illegal to discriminate against specific breeds through such laws or regulations. Miami-Dade got an exemption (the exemption is what voters sustained in the August referendum). The debate goes on, often disputing the effectiveness of such bans.
So does the breeding and the overpopulation of the species.
Earlier this year the Humane Society applied for what would have been a $200,000 grant through PetSmart Charities. That two-year grant would have underwritten a countywide spay, neutering and vaccination program for many species. The grant fell through.
“Since they had never awarded a grant to the Humane Society,” Nicole Brose, a society board member and grant writer, said, “PetSmart Charities didn’t know who we were, we had no track record with them, they asked us to reapply for a smaller amount and build that relationship.” The smaller grant went through. “Let’s do a really good job with this $83,000 and then they asked us to reapply for additional money once that track record is in place. So that’s what we plan on doing.”
Flagler County government is actually the grant’s fiscal agent, as required by PetSmart Charities. That provides a level of administrative oversight while placing the county in a partnership role with the society. “The County is always eager to partner obtaining funding which benefits our community and this grant will assist us in addressing pet population,” said Nate McLaughlin, chairman of the Flagler County Commission.
“We’re very pleased to have their support,” Voigt said. “Our objective now is we have to get the word out that we’re going to.”
Aside from its new program for pit bulls pit mixes, the society continues its discounted program for spay-neutering and vaccination of other species. And for $25 an animal, the society will provide that service for stray, feral or community cats that people bring in. Absent the snip, those cats can reproduce three to four times a year.
There’s been talk of turning Flagler County into a no-kill county when it comes to cats and dogs. But “as long as you have a huge pet overpopulation problem, no-kill is more an ideal than a practical solution,” Voigt said. “We at the Flagler Humane Society, our goal is to reduce the number of animals euthanized to the very lowest level possible.” For example, the society no longer euthanizes animals because of space consideration alone, which was common in the past. “Our goal is that every animal that comes in to us gets the best possible chance to find a home, and we’ve been very successful at that,” Voigt said. “We adopted out a cat last week that had been with us almost 300 days.” .
The society went through a traumatic period beginning in 2010, with firings and financial issues that eroded its standing in the community, but that confidence has returned, Voigt said. The PetSmart Charities grant is in itself a considerable vote of confidence. And the society has made big gains in increasing adoptions. Between August and October, for instance, it increased lives saved by 59 percent, compared with the same period last year (when most of those animals would have been euthanized).
Established in 1994, PetSmart Charities is an independent nonprofit and the largest underwriter of animal-welfare efforts in North America, providing more than $165 million in grants and programs to animal-welfare organizations and saving some 5 million animals through its in-store adoption program.
The Flagler Humane Society is a nonprofit organization reliant on donations and grant funding to provide free to low cost sterilization services for pet owners in the community. Residents living in Flagler County can call (386) 445-1814 to make an appointment for the free sterilization or to obtain information on other services. The Humane Society is located off U.S. 1 just north Palm Coast Parkway at 1 Shelter Drive.