MANATEE COUNTY — Cindy Morton glances around the room, and her eyes settle on cats lounging in chairs, climbing up fake trees and parading across the room.
So far, Morton, board president for the East County-based Honor Sanctuary Animal Rescue, has succeeded in keeping these animals safe.
But the organization’s efforts are in jeopardy.
In just the last four weeks, the rescue group has lost 35% of its volunteer base because many of its helpers have headed back north for the summer months.
“We’re down to a skeleton crew,” Morton said. “I don’t think we realized how many were going because we have (more than one location for animals). And the influx of animals has continued. If anything, it’s increased.”
Morton said if Honor Sanctuary doesn’t get more volunteers, it may have to reduce the number of hours its adoption center in The Shoppes at University Center, called Nate’s Place, and its newly opened ranch on Lorraine Road are open to the public. Ultimately, Honor Sanctuary may have to close the facilities altogether if there aren’t enough people to help.
“Volunteers make everything happen,” said Morton, noting the organization is entirely volunteer-run.
Morton said a reduction in volunteers also would force the group to take in fewer animals, which are saved from euthanasia, taken from abusive situations or given up by families in financial difficulty.
“Every day, an animal sits here or sits at the ranch, another one dies,” Morton said. “Getting the animals adopted is critical to save more.”
In three years, Honor Sanctuary has become the largest rescue and shelter operation in Manatee County. Last year, it rescued about 700 animals.
“We’re the only ones out here supporting the East County,” Morton said.
Because of contributions from the community — such as the rent-free space for Nate’s Place, among others — the rescue has been able to keep its costs per animals at nearly half the average for other groups. Generally, each animal — from the time it is taken in to the time it is adopted — costs a rescue organization about $400. Honor Sanctuary has kept its cost per animal at about $188.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
HOW TO HELP
Honor Sanctuary has several volunteer opportunities available, including feeding, cleaning, walking dogs, cuddling kittens, greeting guests and more. For more information, visit www.honorsanctuary.org.