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Community Voices: Why a ‘For-All Shelter’ matters to St. Pete

Martha Boden

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Welcome to the Catalyst’s Community Voices platform. We’ve curated community leaders and thinkers from all parts of our great city to speak on issues that affect us all. Visit our Community Voices page for more details.

For 80 years, SPCA Tampa Bay has worked to bring joy to both people and animals. A few years ago, we started a campaign and coined it “Spread the Humanimality.” Simply put, humanimality is that special, unique and precious bond between humans and animals. Any animal lover knows exactly what we mean, even if trying to pronounce the word can be hard.  

What’s also hard at times is answering the question, “What type of shelter are you?” 

In my decades of service to the animal welfare industry, I’ve seen this question prompt a healthy discussion or a divisive debate. That’s in part because every shelter is an independent organization, deciding its own mission and programs. 

Not surprisingly, there are wide variations between shelters. Some accept just dogs and cats, while others take in rabbits, hamsters and birds, too. Others care for wildlife, and even livestock. Some have ordinance enforcement responsibility and may receive government funding. Many are supported primarily by contributions from individuals.  

It’s easy for organizations to feel their model is the best approach to meeting the needs of their community. And that’s where the divisions start to crop up.

Last year, driven by our desire to build partnerships wherever possible, the SPCA Tampa Bay leadership team developed new terminology for our approach to providing temporary care to animals in need. We wanted to find language that expressed our commitment to be a safe, trustworthy, judgement-free haven for animals and for people concerned about animals. 

We wanted to find simple language that would resonate with our donors, volunteers, adopters, media and the community. Basically, everyone. We landed on a phrase that says just what we mean: SPCA Tampa Bay is a for-all shelter.

As a for-all shelter, SPCA Tampa Bay is driven to enhance the well-being and safety of all animals and people in our community. Our staff and volunteers are devoted advocates for the humane treatment of animals and respect every animal in our community. No animal or person seeking assistance is turned away. 

We take responsibility for every animal that comes through our doors, even if the outcome could be humane euthanasia. That’s a decision we don’t make lightly. When faced with it, we assess critical implications, like the well-being of the animal and the safety of the community. For example, a dog with a history of dangerous aggression could not only injure others again but also face a lifetime of isolation and neglect.

Other animal shelters have different models. They may be described as “limited admission,” or use the term “no-kill” to show their commitment to reducing euthanasia. 

No-kill shelters serve a useful role in the community. They typically accept animals on a conditional basis. This means they may turn people and animals away, or ask them to wait days or weeks to use their services. This allows no-kill shelters to focus on serving certain species or conditions, and can be a valuable benefit to those types of animals and the community. 

As a for-all shelter, we focus on accessibility: we are here to assist all animals and people when they need it, particularly if they feel they have no other options. We don’t want any animal or person to wait unnecessarily for help when we have resources to assist.

All shelters can do more for animals and people when they combine their talents and resources. It’s our goal to work together with other shelter organizations to create a community where every animal matters.

Every day, in collaboration with our community, SPCA Tampa Bay transforms the lives of animals. As a for-all shelter, it’s how we spread the humanimality. 

 

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