One effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many pet owners have realized the need to request assistance – either due to losing their income, becoming ill and unable to cope with their charge’s demands…or, worse, facing the fact of becoming homeless themselves. The increase in cases produced an additional spike in the number of homeless cats and dogs; we already know many horse owners are feeling desperate to feed their four-legged friends.
Even in a good economy, fundraising for shelters, rescues, and other special needs groups is a constant task. But in the current climate of financial struggle generated by the ripple effects of the pandemic, non-profit animal rescues and protection organizations have gone from the ongoing need…to overwhelmed.
Horse & Rider Living profiles these desperately needed rescue and advocacy groups in the hopes that by doing so, we can help them become more recognized and bring awareness to their organization’s needs.
One such organization is the Voice Of Change Animal League, known as VOCAL, a community resource clinic located in Marion County, Florida. Established in 2015 by three animal advocates – Linda Norman, Kate Rengel, and Lauren Carpenter – they have funded a state of the art veterinary clinic completed in 2019. VOCAL focuses on the wellness of those animals they assist with medical issues, as well as spaying and neutering.
The spay and neuter assistance, TNR (trap/neuter/release) program for feral cats, a warehouse, and public food bank known as FEED are all part of the VOCAL services. Their goal is to keep pets and their families together rather than surrender them to shelters. Like many areas, shelters in Marion County are at full capacity, and it is more desirable to keep pets and owners together if at all possible.
They do rescue and rehoming when necessary, such as the recently acquired cat named Buddy and his canine friend, a German Shepherd named Carlos. Buddy and Carlos’s owner recently passed; the owner’s last wish was to make sure her animal family was safe and cared for. Her wish became granted when VOCAL assumed responsibility for both animals. Carlos has found a forever home and is happily reestablished, while Buddy awaits his future under the watchful eye of the center’s staff. (Click here to see all VOCAL animals up for adoption!)
VOCAL is proud to have Dr. Natalie Isaza as their clinic veterinarian. A clinical professor at the University of Florida for many years, she has taught veterinary students the specialty field of shelter medicine. She continues to heal with her hands and her heart, and is a vital part of the VOCAL mission.
As with most rescues, volunteers are an essential part of this organization and applauded for their efforts. Whether offering in-shelter care or opening their home for fostering, volunteering is a necessary – indeed, critical – part of the mission.
One of the services VOCAL has offered is giving temporary residence to pets whose owners have become homeless. Unlike many shelters that require total surrender, this organization allows owners to reclaim their family pets once they are rehomed themselves. The mission of keeping families and pets together is one of the greatest needs of our day. It may be a logical solution with shelters overflowing, but it is also a heart-healing solution.
(And if you are involved with, or know of, a rescue or other group that should be featured here – we’d love to talk!)