FORT MYERS, Fla. — Rather than taking steps backward in the shelter’s development during these difficult times, Gulf Coast Humane Society was able to make leaps and bounds forward.
“There were definite challenges which affected everyone and every business, especially non-profits, during 2020,” said GCHS executive director Jennifer Galloway. “There were decisions made in which we didn’t have any foresight of what the outcome would be, simply because no one had ever experienced a situation like what we are going through. But we are so grateful at GCHS that instead of the results being negative, which would have been heartbreaking for the innocent shelter animals, we had very unexpected positive outcomes. And that is because of the help from the community.”
GCHS had an upswing in their services, which during a pandemic, was very unexpected.
“Overall, we had more adoptions, more spay and neuter surgeries, more fosters helping out the shelter animals and in return, GCHS was able to help repay the community by creating some new programs to help people in need,” Galloway said.
The mission of GCHS is to add as many happy furever homes in the area as possible. In 2020, that goal was reached and beyond in record-breaking fashion. GCHS surpassed its annual goal of 2,500 adoptions by October, then went out and eclipsed another milestone by adopting out its 3,000th shelter animal Dec. 20.
As of Dec. 30, GCHS had 3,109 adoptions in the year 2020, smashing the previous annual record set in 2019 with 2,323 adoptions.
“I am sure there are different reasons why adoption numbers were at a record pace this year, but I feel people found out pet therapy is one of the best ways to deal with the stress and confinement the pandemic brought,” Galloway said. “They also believed in adopting, and not shopping was the best way to go, as well.”
A new partnership formed was a big help in the increased adoption numbers. Cattyshack Café and GCHS partnered this past summer, with the unique business featuring shelter cats up for adoption and has proven to be a smashing success.
Another aspect that aided GCHS as the pandemic broke out, was fostering. With the unknown of if owner-surrenders would rise and even the possibility of the shelter temporarily closing due to quarantine, clearing space in kennels was imperative. A plea was made in early April for fosters, and the community stepped up in a big way.
“We received over a hundred applications within a couple of weeks and had over 90 animals in foster homes by the middle of April,” Galloway said. “That was so awesome to experience how people opened up their homes to our shelter animals.”
Those fosters directly correlated into the improved adoption numbers, as well, as many fosters became “foster failures”, in which they ended up adopting their foster animal.
The GCHS Spay-Neuter Clinic was also directly affected, by being closed for the entire month of April. But that didn’t even stop the clinic from performing a record-breaking 8,022 surgeries by Dec. 30.
The GCHS Spay-Neuter Surgery Center had 893 surgeries alone in August, which brings up the impressive count to 31,833 (up to Dec. 30) since 2015.
Even during the shutdown of businesses, the GCHS Veterinary Clinic, 2685 Swamp Cabbage Court, in Fort Myers, was able to operate, albeit not normally. Despite many challenges of taking clients and their pets, the clinic remained as a reliable and low-cost veterinary clinic throughout 2020.
During normal times, GCHS relied on the many fundraising events to help raise funds and bring awareness to the community. In 2019, GCHS had over 200 events to help in fundraising.
“These events haven’t happened since the beginning of April and those are a main pipeline for our fundraising,” Galloway said. “We had to get creative to keep GCHS on the minds of people who donated and show we were still out here caring for these animals. Fundraising is so vital for a non-profit and the pandemic basically forced us to think of other ways to attract donations. It’s been difficult, because people need to take care of their families during these challenging times. As the saying goes, every little bit has helped care for our shelter animals.”
With GCHS receiving lots of help through the community, the organization also wants to give back to those in need. A new program was started in early April entitled Pet Food 4 Furever Families. GCHS staff started attending the Community Cooperative’s Mobile Food Pantries three to four times a week, handing out pet food.
“The goal of the program was to get pet food to those families in need of it, so they were not forced to owner-surrender their pets because they couldn’t feed them,” Galloway said. “There definitely was a need for the program and when we asked for pet food donations, the community stepped up again.”
Since April, GCHS has attended 60 Mobile Food Pantries and has handed out over 19 tons of dog and cat food.
“The bar has been set higher than ever before at GCHS, but I am confident in our staff, along with the help of volunteers and the community, we will reach new heights,” Galloway said.
To donate to GCHS, visit their website at www.gulfcoasthumanesociety.org or call 239-332-0364.