By Karin Fabry
Animal Night Fever, Act II is on the way. A night of gourmet dining, delectable desserts, and disco dancing — punctuated by the highlight of the evening: an owner-and-pet fashion show. The fun and festivities go to support the Humane Society of Marion County in its endeavor to construct and operate a new, state-of-the-art animal shelter.
Susan Miller, the proud mother of 10 furry, lovable kids, er, cats, and the executive director of the local humane society, is excited about the upcoming festivities.
“Last year’s Animal Night Fever was a blast,” she recalls. “It’s a casual, funky, fun evening, and it goes to support the animals. What more could you ask for?”
The Humane Society of Marion County has been serving our community for 40 years, though few people know that fact.
“We haven’t always been very visible in the community,” Susan says. “But we have a lot going for us and Animal Night Fever is just the beginning.”
The Humane Society is dedicated to preventing cruelty, suffering, and overpopulation of animals by providing quality adoption services, low-cost spay and neutering, and community education programs. The society is a not-for-profit organization and is funded solely by private donations, fundraisers, and monies raised through the Humane Society thrift store on NW 10th Street.
It costs approximately $400,000 to operate the center each year and at any given time there are 90 to 100 dogs and 200 cats available to loving homes.
“We adopt out 75 to 80 percent of our animals,” Susan says. “We take pride in finding the right owner for each of our residents. Animals at our shelter are only euthanized if they’re severely ill or diseased.”
The goals set by the Humane Society for its new center are very ambitious and Susan estimates the project will take upwards of $6 million and 10 years to complete.
The society has begun its Capital Fundraising Campaign co-chaired by prominent Ocalans Ed and Lois Johnson.
“We happen to be people [who] love and appreciate animals,” Ed says. “We’ve always had pets and our children have always had pets. We got involved with the Humane Society because it’s a very worthwhile organization that’s dear to us.”
After the initial opening, the center will continue to grow in phases, eventually doubling its animal care capabilities.
The primary construction will include indoor and outdoor dog runs, a cat communal area, and cat isolation and quarantine areas. The new facility will also feature a medical suite, a family adoption area, a grooming room, and proper food prep and storage areas.
“As more money is raised, we’ll add more phases to the construction,” Susan says. “With each phase we’ll add additional animal kennels, adoption rooms, training yards, and a surgical center. The final phase will be used to develop a long-term care facility for endowed pets that outlive their owners.”
The final result will be a fully operational, 16,000 square foot, modern animal shelter, run by permanent staff and hundreds of volunteers.
As the current Humane Society’s population continues to grow, volunteers have become the lifeblood of the organization.
“They help with all aspects of running the shelter,” Susan says. “We certainly couldn’t do it without them.”
One of the newest services provided by volunteers is dog training.
“We like our dogs to have basic manners when they go home,” Susan says. “Of course we’re always accepting more volunteers for all aspects of the shelter, including socializing with the cats and foster parenting.”
Take these statistics into consideration: Over the course of seven years, one cat and her offspring can produce 400,000 cats with no intervention.
Through generous donations and community support, the Humane Society’s goals can become a reality. More unwanted and abandoned animals throughout Marion County will have the opportunity to belong to a family.
“Animal Night Fever is a great way to give to the center,” Ed says. “Last year was a blast. We took our little dog and took part in the fashion show. You have a combination of an interesting event and a wonderful cause with Animal Night Fever. That’s the best synergy you can have. Our hope is that everyone who loves animals will do what they can to help the center.”
In the end, Susan says it’s all about supporting and taking care of the animals.
“There is so much love you get from an animal,” she says. “All you have to do is give an animal shelter, food, and lots of love and you’ll get unconditional, unquestionable love in return. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Animal Night Fever, Act II
April 16 at 6pm
Tickets are $125 per person or $1,250 for a table of eight.
To reserve seats, call (352) 873-PETS.
By Karin Fabry