Shelter animals in Manatee County are about to have the national spotlight shining on them. A rescue group with big connections is in town, pardoning them for a week until they can get adopted.
They need loving homes and within the week, these volunteers vow, every single pet in Manatee County's two shelters, should be adopted.
"Our goal is to get 'em all out, but it's not a push 'em out the door kind of thing, we want them in a better situation," said Shane Smith with the group, "Paws For Hope And Faith", which is a non-profit operation, based in Georgia.
Shane and Janet Smith started the group a year and a half ago, and rely on thousands of social media circles locally and nationwide, to match the right folks with the right pets.
"When a shelter's full, they're full, so the animals have to go somewhere," said Shane Smith.
And it takes a huge network to get those animals into a forever home.
"We don't pick where we go, the places pick us," explained Smith.
So Friday afternoon, the shelter signed a pardon, giving all animals in the Manatee system, seven more days to get adopted.
"We believe they know why we're here," he said, petting a dog.
The Smiths have been focusing on high-kill shelters, but the shelter in Manatee has been setting the standard nationwide, by reducing its kill rate steadily over the past few years. Manatee was the first county in the state to adopt a "no-kill"policy at its public shelters, so they already have one of the best "save" rates in Florida.
"In Manatee, this will be our 6th pardon," he said.
The Smiths have 21 dogs of their own.
"Take all of you home," he said to a brindle-coated shepherd mix, as he took it out for a walk.
"I think she'd make somebody a good dog," said Janet Smith. "She seems real sweet, real friendly, probably easy to train."
There are very few cats available at the Manatee facility. There is a beautiful grey and white striped tabby named Tommy, who loves to have his neck rubbed. And a unique kitty, believed to be a direct descendant of Ernest Hemingway's cats in Key West.
"1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 toes!," exclaimed Janet Smith, counting the kitty's toes on her hind legs. "You're special!," said her husband. "I'll bet you could climb a tree fast!"
"It's polydactyl," said Kris Weiskopf, who is the Chief of Manatee County's Animal Services Division. "And that's kind of an unusual characteristic, but they have the extra toes and that makes them unique. They're definitely good cats and they are sought after."
Their goal is to get all 200-plus, cats, kittens, dogs and puppies, adopted over the next seven days.
"So!," giggled Janet Smith. "We need some good homes!" "And you've always gotten it done?," we asked. "Yes," she said. "And there's always room for an extension, if needed!"
The shelter will also be getting some national exposure Tuesday. FOX News will be broadcasting live from the shelter with their morning show, "FOX & Friends", from 6 to 9 that morning.
And they're hoping for large crowds, so that every animal finds a good, loving home.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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