TAVARES – Thanksgiving day is a time for families to gather, have a sumptuous meal together, and think about what they have to be thankful about. And it’s also a good time to remember the stray cats and dogs among us who could use some help.
Two Central Florida counties are now making an effort to help stray and abandoned animals — and in creative and fun ways.
What is the Lake County “Rescue Me” Calendar?
In Lake County, the Lake County firefighters are once again teaming up with the Lake County Animal Shelter to savie shelter pets during the holiday season. They’ve created the 2020 “Rescue Me” charity calendar, featuring firefighters and adoptable cats and dogs on its pages. All proceeds from the calendar will benefit the Lake County Animal Shelter, which is a no-kill facility managed by the county government and located at 28123 County Road 561, Tavares.
The calendar is available online with a suggested donation of $10. It can also be purchased at the Office of Fire Rescue on the 4th floor of the Lake County Administration Building at 315 W Main St. in Tavares.
Lake County Animal Shelter Director Whitney Boylston noted that the two agencies first teamed up on this project last year, and since that calendar was a hit, they knew a 2020 version was a great idea. Last year they sold 450 calendars, which brought in $4,500 in donations to the Lake County Animal Shelter.
“We are excited to partner with Lake County firefighters on showcasing our wonderful shelter pets for the second year in a row,” she said. “Last year’s calendar was such a big hit that this year’s calendar is already much anticipated by the public, as these local heroes and animal lovers help find homes for homeless pets.”
The calendar is sponsored by the Professional Firefighters of Lake County Local 3990 in coordination with the Lake County Firefighter Charity, a not-for-profit organization that raises money for the community. The photography, graphic design and print production for the Rescue Me calendar was done in-house by the Lake County Office of Communications.
What’s New at the Lake County Animal Shelter?
Lake County’s new, modernized animal shelter broke ground in January on a larger and far more high tech shelter than the one that had been hosting stray animals for years. The new shelter will have the space needed to temporarily house hundreds of dogs, cats and other pets as they wait for adoption, and the building will double the size of the current building to 31,000 square feet.
The older shelter was built in 1994, but that 13,000 square foot facility was considered too small and has frequently struggled with overcrowding issues, while also suffering from faulty air conditioning problems.
Lake County Commissioners approved the construction of a new animal shelter, financed by a one-cent sales tax that voters reauthorized in 2015. The commission also made the need for a new shelter more urgent by adopting a no-kill policy for Lake County, meaning animals are only to be euthanized if they’re too sick or too aggressive to be adopted.
Instead, the county has pushed for a strong adoption program to find homes for stray cats and dogs, and the shelter has responded with special adoption programs throughout the year. The county has placed more than 3,700 pets in recent years.
What Is Polk County Doing to Help Pets?
Neighboring Polk County is also getting into the spirit of helping its stray cats and dogs. On Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Polk County Animal Control will host its annual Pet Fest. They’re located at 7115 de Castro Road in Winter Haven. At this event, pet adoptions will be $30 and that includes:
- Rabies vaccination
- and the county license.
And expect to have some fun at this event as well, since there will be plenty of vendors and enjoyable family activities on-hand, including:
- Food and drink trucks
- Pet-friendly products
- Bounce houses
- Balloon art
- Face painting
- Mr. and Mrs. Claus for “Pets with Santa” photos.
Have fun, and remember to take home an adorable pet at Pet Fest!
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.