There is no doubt that SouthShore loves animals. From dog parks to dogs on the beach to the bears and big cats at Elmira’s Wildlife Sanctuary in Wimauma, we love all kinds of animals.
We also take care of them and one of the best examples of this is Critter Adoption & Rescue Effort, Inc (C.A.R.E.), a non-profit dog and cat shelter in Ruskin.
C.A.R.E. was founded in 2002 by Dr. Hal Ott, D.V.M. , and several local citizens who worried about the huge number of healthy dogs and cats that were being put down each year in Hillsborough County. They did something about it and 15 years later C.A.R.E. is still helping SouthShore dogs and cats.
An Army of Volunteers
Today C.A.R.E., a 3-acre facility, is run by a volunteer Board of Directors and an army of volunteers that look after the animals and the facility.
I had the chance to meet with Michelle Rhodarmer, the current President of C.A.R.E., to learn more about C.A.R.E., the animals, the volunteers and how SouthShore can support their efforts.
C.A.R.E.’s general mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and find homes for stray dogs and cats as well as those who are given up by their humans. This no-kill facility is all about saving these pets and finding them forever families.
While at C.A.R.E. the dogs and cats awaiting adoption are treated like family. In addition to caring for the basic necessities of the animals volunteers make sure the animals get ‘play time’ and ‘social time’ 3-4 times per day. Michelle is also bringing in a dog training specialist to work with volunteers.
“This will help our volunteers work with the dogs consistently,” Michelle says, “and working with the animals is a form of enrichment, too. The dogs enjoy the interaction.”
Cats… well, can’t be trained so enrichment comes in the form belly rubs from volunteers, string and play mice. [Chuckle]
Space Is Limited
At any given time C.A.R.E. has space for 15-20 dogs and about 35 cats. The goal, of course, is to never be full, but it happens more often than not.
“Unfortunately our space is limited,” says Michelle, “and we’re fully committed to quality care for the animals so we have to balance the number of animals we have to take care of and the number of volunteers we have to do the caring.”
C.A.R.E. has also recently had to install security cameras as the number of people ‘dumping’ their pets in the middle of the night has increased.
“It’s just awful,” Michelle says. “If we have the space we’ll gladly take the dog or cat, but dumping them in the middle of the night stresses the animal and, if we don’t have space, puts a huge strain on the C.A.R.E. facility.”
[Personally, I cannot even fathom dumping a pet. Shame on those people.]
A Volunteer’s Job Is Never Done
Caring for C.A.R.E. is a big job.
The dogs have indoor kennels where they are at night and roofed outdoor kennels during the day. This means two large spaces which must be cleaned and disinfected daily.
The cats have their own rooms and screened porches, too. These rooms, as well as the line of litter boxes, require multiple daily cleanings.
When a new dog or cat arrives at C.A.R.E. they go in to quarantine for a period of time and are seen by a vet (Boyette Animal Hospital) before they’re allowed around the other animals. Health of all of the animals is a #1 priority.
The work goes way beyond animal care, too.
Volunteers also coordinate the pet entry and adoption application process, do marketing and mailings and see to general operations of the facility.
The facility and grounds are the To-Do list, too. Volunteers do facility maintenance from painting buildings to mowing the grass.
It’s a year round, 365 day process.
Fundraising to Support Animal Care
C.A.R.E. sponsors several special fund-raising events throughout the year, also coordinated entirely by volunteers. Some of their most fun events include Boo Bash, a festival with a pet costume contest around Halloween, and regular bingo games at Hamburger Mary’s . Other events include pet photo shoot events, holiday tea parties, and yappy hours.
“We’d love to do more fundraising events,” says Michelle, “but we need more volunteers to make it happen. We ‘d also love to initiate outreach programs with local assisted-living facilities.”
Donation Wish List
C.A.R.E. relies on donations of all kinds, big and small, to keep the shelter operating. It’s 100% donation funded.
A list of C.A.R.E. wish list items can be found here, including pet food, kitty litter, towels and many other smaller items.
Bigger ticket items they need can be found here on their Dream List.
By Chance, Do You Have A Trailer to Donate?
In an effort to continually upgrade the facility and improve its effectiveness C.A.R.E. is always looking for better ways to do things.
Currently, C.A.R.E. is working toward relocating the administrative office from inside one of C.A.R.E.’s main buildings to outside the main entrance. A trailer would make a perfect office.
The current office space can then be turned into more space for the animals and the new office will serve as a meet and greet point for potential pet adopters, thus improving the adoption experience for both the humans and the pets.
“The goal,” Michelle says, “would be to place the office trailer outside of the main entry. This way we could meet potential pet adopters before they come in to the facility and we can match them with the right cat or dog.”
Now, potential adopters must walk through the main dog area to get to the office. This gets the dogs super excited and sometimes, in their excitement, the dogs don’t show off their best personality.
Thanks and Kudos to The Volunteers at C.A.R.E.
We’re so very lucky to have you and other volunteer animal organizations in SouthShore.
I’ve heard this quote in many formats but I think this version says it best.
Interested in Adopting? Volunteering? Donating? Events?
For more information on adopting a pet from C.A.R.E., becoming a volunteer, donations or details of upcoming events please visit: