Furr-ever homes: Animal Services matches pet lovers with animals in need
Laverne and Shirley have been roommates for more than a year. The two young ladies are both dark-haired beauties who enjoy a good meal, afternoon naps and some quality girl time—in a cool mud puddle.
The pair are potbellied pigs, available for adoption from Marion County Animal Services. Although they came in separately, the girls have been inseparable since they were housed together. Many people don’t know that pet pigs can be intelligent and affectionate and many like to be scratched, petted and cuddled.
While we usually picture cute puppies and furry kittens waiting for homes, at any given time Animal Services may also be caring for many other species. Right now several horses, goats and a sheep are waiting for permanent homes.
“Most of our livestock come into care due to cruelty cases, abandonment or as strays,” explained Stacie Causey, Marion County public information specialist.
These barnyard animals are in addition to around 120 dogs and more than 30 cats currently in residence at the shelter. Another 140 adoptable pets are temporarily living in foster homes waiting for their forever homes. In the summer, the shelter is nearly always full to capacity.
“We’re seeing an increase in the number of animals coming into our care whether as owner surrenders, strays, or subjects of abuse,” said Jim Sweet, Marion County Animal Services director. “We need space to provide for pets who aren’t ready for adoption. Our center has so many healthy, loving pets that need homes.”
Marion County residents who have love to share with a shelter pet can start by viewing photos and descriptions of adoptable animals on the Animal Services website. The site also has a wealth of animal information, from adoption eligibility guidelines to advice for new pet owners to pet education and safety tips.
Sweet explained that shelter employees provide as much support as possible to help animals and their new owners live long, happy lives together.
“Our staff works with pet owners to adjust an animal’s environment (shelter options, meal times, exercise), help the pet owner identify possible people to rehome the pet, or connect the pet owner to a recue in our community.”
While some animals have been confiscated from their previous homes, some are orphaned when their owners pass away or become unable to care for them. Some animals, such tiny days-old kittens, are brought to the shelter with a litter born to a feral mother or “community cat.”
“It’s amazing how pets who have been treated so bad by one person will open up after our staff cares for them,” Causey remarked.
Even if you’re not able to add a new member to your family, there are many other ways you can help local animals in need. The Animal Services website maintains an up-to-date list of needed donations such as food, treats, beds and bowls. Their easy-to-use Amazon wish list allows you to add an item to your order and have it shipped directly to the shelter. Have a little time to give? Sign up to be a volunteer dog walker and find an exercise buddy you can visit at your convenience.
Volunteers play an important role at the shelter by playing with the animals, getting to know them and helping adopters find their perfect match. They say it’s “one of the best feelings in the world, paws down.”
To see the list of animals available for adoption and explore ways you can help, visit www.marioncountyfl.org/animal. The Marion County Animal Services shelter, located at 5701 SE 66th Street, is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm. Adoptions, which always include up-to-date vaccinations, county license, microchip and spay or neuter surgery, are free through July 31st.