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Longboat Chamber tours the Humane Society of Sarasota County

Debbie Shaffer petting one of HSSC's cats in their play room.
Debbie Shaffer petting one of HSSC's cats in their play room.
Photo by Petra Rivera
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A pair of bright blue eyes stared through the glass wall at Kim Verreault. The intricate light eyes and white fur brought Verreault back to many memories of her childhood cats.

“I loved our Siamese cats growing up,” said Verreault. “My family had only these cats and you can tell, they are just so beautiful. Seeing this one makes me miss having a cat.”

This feline beauty that bonded with the Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce president is already spoken for by two people looking to adopt from the Humane Society of Sarasota County (HSSC). The Chamber of Commerce's newest partner works hard to give rescues the care they need and engage the community while doing it.

New partnership

HSSC joined the Chamber in March as a way to make connections on the island. 

Longboat Key resident and HSSC board member Melinda Foster spoke with Chamber members and realized that many of them didn't know the extent to which HSSC impacts these animals and the pet community. 

Longboater Melinda Foster is on the board of directors for HSSC and is passionate about spreading the word about its mission.
Photo by Petra Rivera

Talking to the leadership, Foster believed that many animal lovers on the Key would be open to getting involved with HSSC's mission if they knew more about it. So she invited Chamber members for an informative lunch on June 19 to learn about its mission and take a tour of its facilities. 

Thanks to the lunch and tour, 15 Chamber members expressed their amazement with the nonprofit's services and are excited to see how the relationship grows. 

On tour

Senior Director of Philanthropy Autumn Steiner and Philanthropic Advisor Jenny Hamner led the tour around its grounds, which were recently renovated in 2021. 

Donald Evans founded HSSC in 1952 after he lost his dog. After finding out that his pet was euthanized, he decided to give pet owners a chance to be reunited with their pets without fear.

The Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce toured the grounds of one of its newest partners, the Humane Society of Sarasota County.
Photo by Petra Rivera

HSSC’s first location could only hold six cats and 48 dogs. The new location can hold 300 animals. In 2023, the HSSC was able to save 2,929 animals through adoption.

Since these Chamber members are animal lovers, their favorite part of the tour was visiting the cats and dogs available for adoption. The cat wing is creatively separated by naming each section after one of the local islands such as Lido Key, Longboat Key and Bird Key.

The group also saw Kenny’s Pod, which is where all the dogs that are ready for adoption live. It is one of four dog pods. 

Members then met Dr. John Lebron, one of HSSC’s resident veterinarians who works in the animal clinic. This clinic is available to all pet owners in Sarasota as a way to provide affordable pet medical care accessible to the public. 

It focuses on preventative care, vaccines, microchips and spaying/neutering. HSSC also has a separate shelter medical clinic that cares for all the rescues and makes sure they are healthy before they are adopted. 

HSSC prioritizes the physical health of the animals and their mental health and happiness. They do this by giving their animals playtime so they are not in their kennels all the time. 

Kim Verreault with the Siamese Cat up for adoption.
Photo by Petra Rivera

Members visited the cats’ play room where volunteers and staff bring the cats to roam around both inside and get some fresh air in their outdoor space. They also saw a dogs’ play group where the dogs are in a safe space with other dogs to run around and exercise. 

Chamber members were surprised by how much HSSC does for its animal rescues and how many opportunities it gives to the pet community in Sarasota. 

From its founding, HSSC has been an independent nonprofit unaffiliated with any larger animal rescue organizations. Its goal is to provide a loving atmosphere where animals can receive the care they need to go into loving homes no matter how long it takes. 

Through tours such as this one, HSSC wants to inform the community about what they can do to help these animals, even in the smallest ways. Chamber members left the tour, wishing they could take some pets home with them.

Steiner jokingly said, “We do put cats and dogs in your purse as you head out.”

Get involved

People can get involved by adopting, fostering, volunteering, hosting events/fundraisers for HSSC and donating. 

Since it's “kitten season,” HSSC is looking for people to foster kittens because they receive a high number of kitten litters during the summer. People can also bring dog and cat food to the pet food pantry.

The Humane Society of Sarasota County makes sure its rescue animals get exercise by taking its dogs out for play group once a day.
Photo by Petra Rivera

Starting this July, the new “Senior for Seniors” program will allow adoption fees to be waived for any adult who is 65 or older and who is adopting a senior pet who is at least 7 years old. 

This program is made possible by the Wenk Family Charitable Foundation. Since the Wenk Family is passionate about the advantages of pet ownership, Steiner said that offering these pets for free will benefit both the pets who get new homes and the seniors who receive companions. 

Adoption fees are also waived for active duty and veterans of the U.S. military. Their motto for involvement is “Time, Talent, Treasure, Adopt, Foster, Volunteer, Donate.” 

Foster is leading HSSC's newest project, the Diamond Collar Society. This will offer the opportunity to join a prestigious community of people who share the same values of giving these animals a home and educating the public about respecting all animals. 

Foster said that this exclusive social group will host unique events to fundraise for HSSC. Diamond Collar members will be considered goodwill ambassadors, donating and engaging with the community to spread awareness about HSSC animals. It is a $1,000 minimum annual commitment to HSSC. Email [email protected] to learn more. 



Petra Rivera

Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.

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