Cape Coral is on track for a no-kill animal shelter and community support was evident at the project's first fundraising event, held last Friday at the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery.
Originally calculated to be five years from completion, a rally of support for the Gulf Coast Humane Society project shortened that time frame to two-to-three years with the Wicked Dolphin fundraiser helping to tighten that time frame.
Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery, through JoAnn and Bob Elardo, donated $100,000, in addition to lots of rum currently aging for auction. Lee and Stuart Meyers donated $50,000 and, although they live in Fort Myers and have a successful business in Naples, they felt the need to support this facility to Cape Coral. LAI Design Associates LLC has donated its architectural services in the design of the new facility.
Total donations from this fundraiser grossed more than $200,000.
Further cooperation and support has been given by the city, which is working closely with the Gulf Coast Humane Society to help make this a reality.
Jennifer Galloway, executive director of the Gulf Coast Humane Society, was effusive in her praise for Wicked Dolphin owners JoAnn and Bob Elardo.
"JoAnn and Bob are huge supporters of the humane society. JoAnn is one of the driving forces of us coming to Cape Coral. I can't say enough about JoAnn and her pride in Cape Coral. She is invested in our community business and community wise and is a huge supporter of having this facility in the Cape. She has been a powerhouse and has reduced the completion time from five years to our new two-three year plan. She donates and is happy knowing that this is going in her backyard."
JoAnn and Bob Elardo currently have three dogs, one of which, Joe the cocker spaniel, was adopted last week from Gulf Coast Humane Society. The name of their distillery comes indirectly from one of their dogs who likes to bark at a friendly dolphin who makes a daily visit past their dock. One day the dolphin came early and the barking dog woke them up and they said "that wicked dolphin is back to tease Casper,",hence the name of the distillery.
"I think what is important is that Cape Coral is a city we are not a town," Elardo said. "We need a shelter here there are a lot of people that don't cross the river to adopt or to surrender their pets. "
Annually, thousands of dogs and cats are "put down" each year.
"This shelter will be able to make a dent in that need here," she said.
"It's our pleasure to be able to contribute to the new Gulf Coast Humane Society shelter in Cape Coral. Cape Coral is a great city in need of services like the humane society, not only for the dogs and cats it will save and service, but for the people as well. It's a great step forward for a great city."
Lee and Stuart Meyers also have been long- time supporters of Gulf Coast Humane Society. In addition to their donation at the fundraiser, they have provided ongoing funds to help support the facility in addition to Lee donating her financial expertise to the organization. They also have provided important items like an X-ray machine, which makes diagnosis much easier and less expensive for the facility.
"I have no children and my two chihuahuas are my children," said Meyers. "They make such an enormous impact on your family, home life, and attitude. I know from personal experience that pets are wonderful sources of happiness, and I would love to see everyone have a pet in their household.
"Gulf Coast Humane Society provides a resource in our county to folks that need an alternative for their pets they can no longer care for and to find new pets to make their families complete. If we are able to open a new facility in the Cape, families who may have a need have a resource close by and neither the pets nor the owners have to cross the bridge. Our Fort Myers location also offers affordable care for those families that are struggling.
"I got involved with Gulf Coast Humane Society because it is the only no-kill shelter in Lee County and watching us grow this facility into a pleasant appealing experience for adoptive parents and seeing over 1,000 animals per year get adopted is such a wonderful experience. Every time I go to the facility, I see the innocent sweet faces of these pets that I know will find a home. I get such a warm feeling when I get an e-mail blast on which of our beautiful pets got adopted by a new loving family. A couple of years ago, we started a program for pets needing highly specialized medical care and are able to place in homes that wouldn't have been adopted prior to this program. It is called the Second Chance Fund. People can donate directly toward the medical care of a special needs pet. We recently had a dog that came in with chemical burns who is currently in the Second Chance program. A dog that had lost a leg and had special needs has been cared for in the Second Chance Program and is now happily adopted with a family who will love him and give him a wonderful life. You can't ask for a more rewarding ending to the story."
According to Galloway, "Cape Coral needs their own facility so that owners and animals don't have to cross the bridge. We are identifying the locations to build this facility with the city and local Realtor and former city councilwoman, Gloria Tate, who is working closely with us to help expedite this process. What the city is asking and we are looking to do is build a shelter so that the homeless cats and dogs in Cape Coral have a temporary place to live until they find their forever home. We offer more than a safe refuge - we offer enrichment programs, socialization, training and medical care, in addition to a kinder and gentler facility that is homelike for these animals. hey get to go outside two-three times a day. We have a community area and outside lanai for cats to keep them acclimated to socialization. Dogs have a play yard so they get away from the concrete jungles of a traditional facility. When pets hit our doors, we want to provide services so that when we find homes, they are able to stay there."
"Cape Coral has been hit hard in recent years and needs its own shelter," Galloway continued. "Cape Coral is growing and will continue to grow and we don't want the animals to be forgotten about. We are an owner surrender facility; we are not allowed to take lost or stray pets. We also transfer animals out of domestic animal services so that they aren't euthanized. We have had to turn away a lot of pets due to our limitations and feel that this facility will allow us to focus on Cape Coral residents who are forced to surrender their pets. This facility will allow us to take an additional 60 dogs and 40 cats."
Jennifer Galloway lives what she preaches. She has three dogs and two cats - all rescue animals. One of her dogs donates blood and does temperament testing with the new pets coming in.
"We are trying to get away from the 'pound' mentality of shelters with bars and provide a home environment. That is in the past - the future is a softer, gentler facility. We want to make the experience of going to a shelter a positive experience, not a sad experience. When you see five puppies playing together in a yard, you know that it is not a horrible transition for the animal."
Every dollar will count toward this facility. To donate, go to www.gulfcoasthumanesociety.org or call (239) 332-0364 and ask for Ann Murray.