As volunteer coordinator for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services, Kristen Little sees her fair share of heartwarming stories. One of her most memorable moments came recently, she says, when a stray dog the agency had taken in, named Sanders, kept her company for two weeks in her office.
“He was my assistant,” she says. “When his new mom showed up to take him home, I just started bawling. He was a good boy, and I really miss him. But, she sends me updates, so it’s good.”
Little began volunteering for the shelter three years ago, and she says she fell in love with it and its mission. When a full-time position opened up, she says she was more than happy to take the opportunity.
The shelter deals mostly in rescuing strays and attempting to find the best possible matches for adoptions. After a dog or cat enters Animal Services, employees and volunteers train them and keep them active, and they hold weekly adoption events. Little says she’s noticed common misconceptions about rescue dogs, and part of her job is to help dispel them.
“There’s an idea that this is someone else’s problem dog, and it ended up at the shelter because it has major issues,” she says. “And that’s not the case at all. We get a lot of really great dogs that you look at and say, ‘How could you end up over here? You’re fantastic.’ We work on impulse control and basic commands, and if they have any issues, we work to correct them.”
Little says rescuing an animal from a shelter actually offers its own advantages. In addition to the fact that the adoptee is saving an animal’s life, he or she is also opening up a spot in the shelter for another animal to take its place.
To ensure the best possible match between pet and owner, Animal Services also offers a foster-to-adopt program, through which interested adoptees can foster a pet for a two-week trial period.
Of all the memorable moments on the job, Little says each adoption is its own reward.
“I just like finding homes for the animals,” says Little. “When you find a good home for an animal, there’s nothing that beats that. Especially when it’s a forever home and you know this dog is not coming back. It could eat the entire sofa, but that dog is going to stay there forever, because that’s their baby now.”
BY THE NUMBERS
4,000 — Number of animals served annually
8 — Number of employees on animal care team
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