It’s time to adopt a dog!

OKEECHOBEE — October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and according to the University of Florida’s research, more than 400,000 cats and dogs entered shelters in the state of Florida in 2017. When the time comes to choose a new pet, people are often drawn to pet stores, but there are so many loving animals in need of homes in our local shelters, and depending on which shelter they are in, you may be their last hope. Unless a shelter is a no-kill shelter, they can only keep an animal for a certain amount of time before they have to be put down.

DeeDee Morris from Trail of Hope, holds Gabby. Photo by Cathy Womble.

The University of Florida Veterinary Program research shows that in 2016, 2,727 live dogs and cats entered shelters in Okeechobee County with 1,237 leaving the shelters alive. This is a 45 percent survival rate.

Hendry County had a 50 percent survival rate. Glades County had only a 15 percent survival rate for animals entering their shelters, and in Palm Beach County, the rate was 75 percent. The data indicates that the chance of survival is higher for dogs than it is for cats in all of the counties.

Kota Hart, a Trail of Hope volunteer is getting dinner ready for all the dogs. Photo by Cathy Womble.

Sergeant Arlene Durbin of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office has been in charge of Animal Control Services since July of 2015. She explained that they do everything in their power to find homes for their animals. She said it’s not like in the old days where you saw a dog catcher chasing a dog down the street because he hated dogs. They all love the dogs.

Sgt. Durbin explained that their first priority is to try to find the owner when a new dog is brought in off the street. They will hold the dog for five days, giving the owner a chance to come find the dog. They also post on social media, looking for the owner. Sgt. Durbin also stated they have several animal rescues that have contracted with them to come and take animals and find homes for them. She mentioned Nala’s New Life Rescue, which often helps with some of the harder-to-place dogs, and Trail of Hope, which is in Okeechobee. In order to contract with Animal Control Services, you must have a 501C3 and must spay or neuter before adopting out the animals.

Animal Control Services has an adoption fee of $75. This covers spaying or neutering, parvo and distemper vaccines, heartworm test, one deworming, a rabies vaccine if the dog is four-months-old or older, an animal license, and a microchip. They have several questions that they recommend people ask themselves before adopting a pet.

• Do I have other pets? If so, have they been around other dogs? Are they immunized?
• Do I own or rent my home? If I rent, do I have my landlord’s permission to get a pet?
• Do I have a securely fenced back yard? If not, where will my dog play? Will I have time to take him for long walks?
• Where do I see myself in a year? If I move, where will my dog be?
• Can I afford the food, vet bills, vaccinations?

Sgt. Durbin will be bringing several of her animals to an adoption event Friday, Oct. 19. This event is to help the Okeechobee Fraternal Order of Police in partnership with Gilbert Ford raise funds for a public dog park and K9 training grounds they are preparing to build. The event will be held on the proposed site which is located on the west side of the intersection of Northwest 5th Ave and Northwest 5th Street (the front of the old hospital). The name of the event is “Hot Dogs for Cool Dogs!” They are not asking for money, just a few minutes of your time. For every person who test drives a new Ford vehicle, Gilbert Ford will donate $20 to the building of the dog park. They will also offer free hot dogs for anyone who participates. The event will be from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m. but the animals will only be there from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For any questions about the fundraiser, call Michael Hazelief 863-532-0646 or J.D. Mixon 863-634-1778.


Sergeant Arlene Durbin is holding one of her shelter dogs. Photo by Cathy Womble.

Trail of Hope is a local 501C3 animal shelter which opened in October 2017, soon after the Humane Society closed, and is located in the same building, on U.S. 98 just north of Okeechobee Livestock Market. Trail of Hope is a no-kill shelter, which means that under most circumstances, dogs that come there stay until they find a home. John Morris, who runs the shelter with his wife DeeDee, explained there are rare circumstances under which they might have to have a dog put down, such as an extremely sick dog or a very vicious dog. He explained this is very rare, and even illness is not usually an issue. They have very often paid for surgery for dogs who have been placed in their shelter. Adoption fees there are $250 and include spaying or neutering, microchips, heartworm and rabies vaccines if old enough, puppy shots based on age, flea treatment, and deworming.

Kane, a box cutter mix, is available for adoption. Photo by Cathy Womble.

Mr. Morris explained that he understood that the fee seems high to people, but that Trail of Hope is a non-profit. The money to pay for food, vet bills, rent, insurance, electricity,even surgeries for some of the dogs, everything comes out of those adoption fees and donations. He also explained that no one there, including his wife and himself, gets a salary of any kind. Everyone is a volunteer.

John Morris from Trail of Hope, is holding Snoopy. Photo by Cathy Womble.

At this time they have about 30 dogs, and all of them are available for adoption.
If you would like to help the shelter, but don’t feel like you can adopt at this time, there are other ways you can help. Mrs. Morris listed several items that they always need: blankets, towels, sheets, Iams Adult Proactive Mini Chunks, Iams Smart Puppy Dry Food, Iams Canned Food, laundry detergent, bleach, paper towels, puppy training pads, Tractor Supply gift cards, Walmart gift cards, and Publix gift cards.

Gucci, the Rottweiler, is available for adoption. Photo by Cathy Womble.


She also stated they are in great need of volunteers. They need people who are willing to do almost anything. They can use carpenters, people to wash laundry, feed the dogs, play with the dogs, answer the phone, mow the grass, just about anything. Mr. Morris said the biggest blessing is when someone says they will be there for a certain amount of time every week on a certain day. That way they know they can depend on it. It helps them to make a schedule. He also said you might not realize it, but the shelter is a fun place to hang out and make friends. They also explained that because they are a non-profit, hours there can be used as community service hours. If you would like more information, call 863-357-1104.
If you have been thinking about adopting a dog, now is the perfect time. There are more than fifty dogs in just these two shelters right here in Okeechobee waiting for a home right now.


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