Local nonprofits are making animal welfare a true priority

Susie Bowie
Susie Bowie

We live in a compassionate community, and the local philanthropy that supports all charitable causes is just one example of how that compassion is expressed.

Manatee Community Foundation partners with donors for their giving, and each one has a unique set of experiences, hopes for the future and nonprofit missions that are meaningful. They recommend investments in human services, the spectrum of education from early learning to post-secondary attainment, the arts, foster care, food security, mental health and the environment.

And it's no surprise that many people include animal welfare in their giving preferences. They have been personally touched by the comfort of a beloved pet. Or they know how animals impact the physical and emotional health of humans. Or they simply care deeply about the individual welfare of every life.

A network of nonprofit animal welfare organizations in Manatee and Sarasota counties is powered by staff, volunteers and board members who rarely stop to take a breath. They work tirelessly to:

  • Find forever homes for animals.

  • Provide education and training to reduce pet surrenders.

  • Offer low-cost veterinary services.

  • Share pet food to help struggling owners keep their dogs and cats.

In an August 2022 survey by Manatee Community Foundation, nearly 70% of respondents indicated their belief that animal welfare issues have become worse post-COVID.

During a recent visit to a shelter, I met a boy and his father who arrived to drop off their dog at the facility. They had to move but could not bring her to their new home. “She’s older and real sweet,” the father said.

But the shelter was full.

Today many local animal shelters are at capacity – a consequence of the housing crisis, the high cost of living and a return to in-person work. When people can no longer afford to live in their homes due to exorbitant rental increases, they are finding few if any choices for new housing. Some rental properties do not allow pets, and rising costs in general make it difficult for many tenants to pay pet-related expenses.

Manatee Community Foundation’s donor-designated animal welfare funds continue to support programs that include providing free spay/neuter services  and financing the capital needs of animal shelters. Much of this work has been made possible through the legacy of two generous donors, Bill and Maryann Vinall.

While most of our grant dollars directly support people – under-resourced individuals, youth, families, women, veterans, seniors and others – we are also grateful for the many ways compassion is manifested.

The Foundation recently convened a community conversation with nonprofits to discuss joint aspirations for animal welfare. What do we need more of? Education for pet owners, more public involvement and increased collaboration were cited as primary wishes.

If you are thinking of getting a new pet, familiarize yourself with the associated costs from food to veterinary care. Get your pet spayed or neutered; low-cost and free resources are available. Consider adopting from local organizations and stay connected to them, because these groups often have resources. If you are a landlord, consider allowing tenants to bring their animals with them – and also think about removing breed restrictions for pets.

Visit TheGivingPartner.org to find online profiles of local animal welfare organizations – and to learn about donating, adopting a pet, volunteering and more.

You can also call Manatee Community Foundation at (941) 747-7765, and we will connect you to charitable organizations in our area, including those that help our furry friends.

Visit ManateeCF.org to download our recent report about animal welfare.

Susie Bowie is the executive director of Manatee Community Foundation.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: The Suncoast's nonprofits are making animal welfare a true priority