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A little extra love

To Abby Wille, a senior at USF, getting a new puppy sounded like a great idea. She couldn’t wait to take a cute, cuddly face home with her. Her boyfriend, Nick Sterchele, wasn’t so enthusiastic.

“I know it would be a lot of responsibility, and I just don’t feel like taking that on,” Sterchele said. “I know she just thinks about a cute dog and not about everything that goes with it.”

This is a common problem said Donna Schultz, volunteer manager at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pinellas County. Schultz sees the effects of bad ownership and neglectful treatment of animals every day. The shelter gets about 15,000 sick or injured animals brought to them each year.

“It’s sad to see people that aren’t prepared taking on having a pet,” Schultz said. “They have to realize that they are getting a companion for life.”

The SPCA of Pinellas County is a busy place. It isn’t uncommon to see a goat playing with a pig or cats to be seen near ferrets. Loud yelps and barking can be heard while pulling up to the entrance. But above all the chaos, there is an overwhelming sense of love for the animals, which is something most of these furry friends have lacked all their lives.

“We want people to be informed about their pets,” Schultz said. “We are a learning shelter above all else.”

One of the main goals of the shelter is to inform people before they make an adoption. The volunteers are put through an orientation and are asked to come in once a week in the beginning to familiarize themselves with the animals.

Other helpful resources, such as the behavior hotline, a number people can call 24 hours a day to ask workers about problems they are having with their pet, are available. The shelter also does research on various breeds of dogs and cats and will disperse advice to those seeking help in finding a pet. This is all in an effort to promote safe pet care and to ultimately prevent the animals from ending up in a place like the SPCA.

“Many don’t realize that they are adopting love for life,” Schultz said. “We are trying to educate people on the proper ways of taking care of their pet. So many animals that come in here have been abused or hurt during their lifetime, and it isn’t fair to them. We are hoping to prevent those kinds of things from ever happening.”

The SPCA only accepts the sick or the injured, while Animal Services and the Humane Society take unwanted pets or strays that are healthy. All pets the SPCA receives are checked by a veterinarian and are spayed or neutered if needed. When the animals are fit, both physically and mentally, they are put up for adoption.

The SPCA takes extra steps to prevent animal neglect. Before someone adopts a pet they are asked if they own a home, and if not, the shelter contacts the landlord to make sure the environment is conducive to the pet’s needs. They also offer four free training sessions to teach pet owners the correct way to take care of their new friends. Schultz hopes these steps will lead to less abuse and make people think before they adopt.

“We’re just trying to help to make some sort of a small difference in helping animals,” Shultz said. “We just want people to use their heads and realize the animals are living beings and have feelings, too.”

Wille and her boyfriend decided not to get a dog and are satisfied with their decision.

“I’m sort of glad I never got a dog because I realize now that I’m not home enough to take care of it,” Wille said. “It’s sad to think of those other people who just get a dog and then tie them up or don’t take care of it. I’ll wait and get one when I’m more stable in what I’m doing.”

Schultz hopes that everyone uses this same logic.

  • Contact Emily Kapusta at