Hillsborough County Animal Services
Dennis McCullough, Operations Manager
440 N. Falkenburg Road
Tampa, FL 33619
They're called "the Florida brown dog," and every Florida shelter has them, says Dennis McCullough, Operations Manager of Hillsborough County Animal Services (HCAS) in Tampa, Florida. Not always brown, Florida brown dogs ARE usually big, and may be missing fur or sporting a torn ear. In short: they're dogs who are down on their luck.
In an agency that handles roughly 25,000 animals per year, the cute, the young and the fuzzy readily get adopted. Yet the Florida brown dog is overlooked. And while there isn't a "Florida brown cat" (by name anyway), unglamorous adult cats also tend to languish in the shelter while cute kittens zip out the door. For McCullough, the question became, how can these animals, who fly under the radar, go from hopeless to hopeful?
Cue the Transition Programů
Foster Homes as Remote Adoption Centers
A group of 85 tried, true and trusted Transition Program volunteers understand the philosophy and policies of HCAS and pledge to:
- Bring the chosen cat or dog into their home,
- Showcase them in the community,
- Market the dog or cat, and
- Do everything related to finding the animal a home.
Essentially, these foster volunteers are operating as remote adoption centers, and their foster animals stay in their care until adopted.
HCAS provides routine medical care for the foster animals. However, the volunteers provide, and pay for all other items, including food. In addition, volunteers raise funds for heartworm treatment. The treatment itself is provided at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. The animals are promoted on the HCAS website and are also showcased at every community event possible.
So, who gets that second chance in the Transition Program? Several categories of shelter resident are eligible:
- Middle-aged to mature dogs and cats
- Animals with minor to significant health problems. These problems include mange, heartworm, missing fur, and other illnesses likely to respond to medication, rest, diet, and further treatment.
- Animals who may be fearful or need a bit of socialization (these are not overt aggression cases)
- Other adoptable animals who just need more time and a different venue than the shelter to find a good home
Everybody's a Winner
In two years, 325 animals have been adopted through the Transition Program with a dazzlingly low return rate. HCAS staff have tremendous respect for the program, and now often recommend an animal for it. Presently (April 2010), there are 54 animals in the program.
Says McCullough, who bursts with pride when talking about the program, "These animals went from no chance to a second chance. We no longer hope the program works; we know it works."