By: Lori Mazeikis
The Jacksonville Humane Society (JHS) has been serving the area’s pet population since 1885 where it began as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). In 1920, it became the Humane Society and twelve acres of land were donated by the Bowden family for the welfare of animals. In 1924, a shelter was built on the property as the Humane Society’s Rest Farm. It wasn’t until 1958 that it became the Jacksonville Humane Society. An addition to the facility in 1993 increased the capacity to accommodate nearly 400 animals.
In 2005, JHS became a no-kill shelter. This is an important status as it means no animal will be euthanized to make room for another. However, it also means they must limit intake to ensure they are not overcrowded. Pet surrenders are on an appointment only basis. Two years later, a devastating fire roared through the property, destroying the administration buildings and killing eighty-six animals.
Within a week of the fire, with overwhelming support from the staff, volunteers and the community, JHS was again accepting animals and soon obtained modular buildings to continue adoptions.
In order to keep the flow of pets going out to homes, JHS offers various specially priced adoptions throughout the year, frequently on holidays. These specials could include buy one/get one (BOGO) kittens during the spring kitten season, or low-priced adoptions on large dogs for a weekend. Holiday specials might offer black dogs and cats at a low price during Halloween. Studies show black pets, especially black cats are harder to adopt out. Valentine’s Day might have a “free love” event where certain animals have no adoption fee. Local businesses and residents often sponsor pets so that the public can adopt them with no fee out of their own pockets.
Beginning approximately two years ago, JHS and other local shelters began teaming up to host periodic Mega-Adoptathons at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds. Among the attendees are JHS, First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP), the city’s Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) and various breed-specific rescues, who all bring their adoptable animals to the Fairgrounds for a three-day special event where the community can view the adoptable animals all in one spot instead of driving all over town looking for the pet that steals their heart. FCNMHP runs these events, which have been very successful. Several hundred dogs and cats find homes during these events, but it doesn’t take long for the shelters to fill up again.
“Low-cost adoption specials have a great success rate in Jacksonville,” says Lindsay Layendecker at JHS. “They allow us to bring the pets to the people at an affordable price. People who want a dog or cat will find a way to get them, and we want to be their first stop. The bonus with these adoptions is that now people have vaccinated and fixed animals out in the community, instead of the opposite. It leads to healthier pet populations and a reduction in accidental litters.”
Some may wonder if these mass adoption events or low-cost adoptions encourage impulse adoptions that the adopter may regret later.
Layendecker says, “There is no correlation between increased returns and these adoption events. The percentage is the same as a regular adoption day. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and that’s okay. Also – impulse adoptions do not necessarily mean that it is a bad home. Sometimes you can’t help it when you fall in love!”
With so many adoption specials available at reduced fees, the public might be concerned JHS won’t have the funds to operate efficiently. “Adoptions fees don’t 100% cover the cost of medical expenses and animals care to start, so lowering our fees does not impact that much,” Layendecker says. Often lower adoption fees as (sic) sponsored by granting partners such as Petco Foundation, Petsmart Charities, Best Friends Animals Society, and local businesses.”
JHS and other local shelters give so many animals the chance to find a forever home. Local couple Chad Rogers and Stuart Boslow adopted Dobby from JHS in January 2015. “We had moved to Jacksonville six months before” Rogers said, “and had wanted a dog for companionship since I work from home.”
Rogers felt JHS would have the most variety of choices. At that time, being new to Jacksonville, he was not familiar with the other shelters in town. “We had looked at a few of the smaller rescues but I was unaware of any large societies or organizations,” Rogers said.
“We had been to a large pet adoption a couple of months before and a representative from the Humane Society was there…so we knew there was a Humane Society in the city,” Rogers said.
The third time was the charm for the couple as two previous visits to the Jacksonville Humane Society resulted in finding mostly much larger dogs, which they did not want for their apartment home. On the third visit, there were two smaller sized dogs, one of which was the one they would rename Dobby, of Harry Potter fame. “The dog that we chose was one of the first options we even had,” Rogers said regarding finding a dog in the size range they wanted.
The dog had only been at the Humane Society for a couple of days due to having been treated at ACPS for heartworms. Dogs are typically kept out of the public eye while being treated for heartworms. When they are healthy, they are placed in the adoption kennels, where in this case, Dobby quickly won the hearts of Rogers and Boslow. He now has a comfortable, permanent home like so many thousands of pets over the years thanks to the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Jacksonville Humane Society and other area shelters.
If you are looking for a pet, please consider a local shelter or rescue. For a very reasonable adoption fee, JHS, FCNMHP and ACPS will give you a vaccinated, spayed or neutered and microchipped pet who desperately wants the kind of home only you can give.