Volunteers and foster homes needed for shelter animals in Santa Rosa County

Avani Maharaj, Staff Writer

Santa Rosa County Animal Services needs volunteers and foster homes to help with the over 200 animals they are currently responsible for.

The shelter offers programs such as doggie day out, fostering, volunteering and fostering to adopt. These programs are flexible to suit potential volunteers and foster needs and availability and aim to get the animals out of the shelter so they are not spending the majority of their day confined to a kennel.

“Volunteering is phenomenal; we have a minimal staff, and our volunteers really help with the animals,” said Randy Lambert, Animal Services Chief. “You can come and pick out a dog and take it for a doggy day out, take it down to the park, take it back to UWF, go through the nature walk, whatever it may be, and you can do that once a week, twice a week, or you can do it seven days a week.”

Lambert said the staff does the best they can, but the shelter environment is not healthy for pets, and the animals get enrichment by being able to go out with volunteers and get out of the shelter environment.

“You get to, and you will see the impact that it will make with that animal,” is what volunteers get out of the experience, Lambert said. That personal growth of being able to know that you’re making a difference for these animals.

These programs also help with getting an idea of the animal’s temperament outside of the shelter, which can be a high-stress environment. Staff asks that volunteers and fosters give feedback about the animal while in their care so that they can better inform adopters.

The shelter is unaware of any possible trauma or neglect the animals may have experienced in the past. Most animals come in as strays with little to nothing known about their health or behavior.

The Santa Rosa Animal Services team has to learn about the animal, which can be a complicated process, but volunteers and fosters help in getting them socialized and learning about how they react and interact with others in different settings.

For students, “You can foster an animal for a week and then say, OK, now I have to go back to Orlando, where I’m from, for a week. You could bring the dog back, and then when you come back next week, you can get the dog again,” Lambert said. “Until we adopt the dog out, that’s fine, because that time out is going to be good for the animal, dog or cat.”

For those unable to foster or volunteer but wanting to help, Santa Rosa County Animal Services is always in need of supplies and has a wish list and other donation options located on their website.

If interested, visit the Santa Rosa County website at https://www.santarosa.fl.gov/387/Animal-Services for more information.