Ferguson needs a home
Ferguson, an Olde English Bulldog mix, has been living at the Lake County Animal Shelter for more than a year.

TAVARES — Ferguson has a clear and distinct personality.

For example, he’s a fan of hot dogs and chicken nuggets, suggesting he would have a great time at the Amway Center.

According to the staff at the Lake County Animal Shelter, “his perfect day would consist of a rousing game of catch, followed by a little snuggle time.”

Put another way, he’s the ideal pet for a family looking to adopt a friendly and playful dog.

“If you’re looking for a dog who enjoys the simpler things in life, such as making sand angels — think snow angels minus the snow — look no further than Fergie,” the shelter based in Tavares noted in a news release.

But please — move quickly.

It was more than a year ago when Ferguson, an Olde English Bulldog mix, arrived at the Lake County Animal Shelter as a stray. Although Ferguson now has a roof over his head and gets fed daily, it’s not all good news. Sadly, he’s been at the shelter ever since June 9 2017, which is why the staff at the Lake County Animal Shelter is hoping that by highlighting Ferguson’s plight, a family will open their arms to this delightful dog.

The shelter recently released a photo of Ferguson and a video about him, hoping that by highlighting the dog’s playful nature, someone will take him in.

“He’s known to staff and volunteers as sweet, loving and playful, but prefers to not share the spotlight with other dogs or cats and must be an only child – the main reason Ferguson has been difficult to place,” the shelter staff noted in the release. “He recently wrote a letter to his paw pal, a Lake County School student, sharing his dreams of finding a permanent place where he can lay his head after spending more than 365 days at the shelter.”

Ferguson’s story is also a reminder of why we have county-funded animal shelters: to not only provide a temporary shelter to abandoned pets, but also to work diligently to find homes for them.

The mission of the Lake County Office of Animal Services is to provide for public safety — protecting the public from any animal that could potentially pose a threat — and also for animal welfare. Their goal is also to help promote responsible pet ownership, reunite lost pets with their families whenever possible, and to introduce local residents to animals in need of a permanent home.

It may be hard for people devoted to their pets to believe, but family cats and dogs are sometimes the first thing that people give up when they fall on difficult times. In June 2015, the Orange County Animal Shelter reported having taken in 460 dogs and 360 cats who had been surrendered by their owners. That marked a 74 percent increase compared with the same time in 2014.

When Orange County residents relinquish their pets to the shelter, they’re asked to pay a $15 fee and cite a reason, and the two most frequent were that they’re moving to someplace that doesn’t allow pets, or behavior problems on the part of the pets.

Orange County definitely isn’t alone in facing this challenge.

The Lake County Board of Commissioners recently voted for an attempt to curb their pet overpopulation problem by banning retail sales of dogs and cats in unincorporated Lake County. Specifically, it would prohibit the sale of dogs and cats in pet shops, shopping malls, flea markets, and roadside stands. The only exceptions would be for licensed breeders and, of course, the county Animal Shelter.

Their goal was to reduce the number of abandoned, unwanted or sick pets from coming into Lake County, particularly since the county has been struggling to find homes for hundreds of pets now at the Animal Shelter.

Palm Beach County devoted resources last year to charging pet owners who abandoned their animals during Hurricane Irma, holding them accountable for their actions. After that storm hit Florida in September 2017, more than 50 animals were found abandoned in Palm Beach County — including quite a few tied to fences and trees, or enclosed in outdoor pens. In Palm Beach County, it’s illegal to tether a dog if no one is present and a felony offence to keep a dog outside during extreme weather.

Offenders face felony animal cruelty charges and are not able to get their pets back.

The American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reported more than 1,200 animals were impacted by Irma in Florida and South Carolina.

So for now, the challenge of finding suitable homes for all the animals among us continues.

Anyone interested in meeting Ferguson can visit the Lake County Animal Shelter at 28123 County Road 561, Tavares.

For more information, visit the shelter on Facebook.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Koby’s New Home”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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