Your Turn: Celebrating pets

Sarah Baeckler
Executive Director, Humane Society Naples
Sarah Baeckler, executive director, Humane Society Naples.

Unconditional love, increased happiness and reduced stress … these are just a few of the many benefits pets bring to our lives.

May is National Pet Month, a time to celebrate and recognize all the animals who have endearingly paw-printed on our hearts and are loved members of our families. It’s also a time to acknowledge the animals still awaiting their fur-ever homes.

Since 1960, Humane Society Naples has been dedicated to caring for lost, injured and abandoned pets. Over 2,500 homeless cats, dogs and other small pets have called HSN home over just the past year – for as long as it takes for us to help them find new homes – and we’ve found homes for well over 110,000 animals over more than 60 years.

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HSN is a privately funded, nonprofit organization focused on sheltering animals in times of need, locating lifelong homes, and advocating for responsible pet ownership. We work with local partner organizations to provide a strong safety net for our animal community – in Naples and all throughout Collier County – through our sheltering, fostering and adoptions programs, as well as with veterinary care.

While most people think of HSN as an animal shelter, we’re really in the business of helping families. Animals are a significant part of the family unit, and we work hard to keep pets together with their human counterparts. That might mean providing families with pet food from our Denny Plesea Pet Food Bank, or medical care through the Humane Society Naples Veterinary Clinic. We also help families with behavioral training services, and emergency boarding for people in crisis. We strive to keep people united with their pets, whenever possible.

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Thanks to our generous supporters, we can and do provide the best quality of service and care to the animals we’re entrusted with and the people who turn to HSN for help. As a no-kill shelter, we have the resources and staffing to focus on those animals who need extra help and time. We strive to meet a public need as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. That means we rely on donations and private funding. It also means that sometimes we are limited in what we can do and must defer to other public agencies at times to provide tax-payer funded services. We also partner closely with local animal welfare agencies and other nonprofit organizations to do the best we can for our entire community.

After two years of pandemic-related limitations, we are excited to re-energize our outreach efforts to meet families out in the community, where pet services and support are needed the most. This program is anchored by our Paige Conery Mobile Veterinary Clinic, equipped to provide vital resources and services to families who lack access to quality and affordable pet care. Our veterinary care teams make regular trips to communities like Everglades City, Golden Gate City and East Naples, where pet resources can be scarce. The mobile clinic provides the same high-quality care we offer at our main shelter clinic in Naples and has helped us reach more than 1,000 families in the past 12 months to provide critical free or reduced cost medical care, food, supplies and information for their pets.

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HSN operates with the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to experience animal companionship. Stop by and visit us anytime. We welcome the opportunity to give you a tour and share more information about HSN and the services we provide to our community. I promise, you’ll leave with a smile on your face – and maybe even a new family member!

Sarah Baeckler is executive director of Humane Society Naples, a privately funded nonprofit organization founded to address a growing homeless animal population in Collier County. Its mission remains to shelter animals in times of need, to locate life-long homes, and to advocate for responsible pet ownership. For more information visit