Susie Chinn is a self-described animal fanatic. So when she discovered Sarasota in Defense of Animals seven years ago, she knew she’d found her dream job. Founded 25 years ago by Elise Matthes and her late husband, Matt, the nonprofit organization exists to rescue area animals and provide them with a lifelong home.
“They truly love animals,” says Chinn. “So many people say they do, but they truly care about the animals, and it means a lot to know that they’re loved and cared for in this beautiful sanctuary. We want to keep this place going forever.”
What began as a sanctuary with 25 animals has grown into a home for more than 300 rescued animals, including cats, dogs, goats, rabbits and potbelly pigs. The nonprofit organization doesn’t adopt out — instead it provides the animals with a permanent home.
Today, Matthes runs the organization with the help of Chinn and a handful of other employees and volunteers. They feed and take care of the animals, maintain the shelter and spay and neuter animals to minimize overpopulation.
Currently, SDA is raising funds to provide shade and pools for their 25 potbelly pigs.
“We need a way for these pigs to cool down and get some shade,” says volunteer Pam Driggs. “People don’t realize that pigs can and do get skin cancer from being out in the sun too much, so it’s really important to provide them with that.”
Chinn says she’s grateful to be a part of an organization that truly practices what it preaches, and she hopes to continue to recruit volunteers and funding to keep the sanctuary thriving.
“Every city should be so lucky to have a place like this — a sanctuary where animals that have been abandoned or were going to be put to sleep at a shelter can come and live out their lives. It’s wonderful that there is such a place and that a family like the Mattheses, who care enough to open their hearts and wallets.”
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