Jennifer Forlizzo McCraw was a student at the University of Central Florida when she first began working as a volunteer for Pet Pal Rescue, then based in Orlando. Now she's its executive director. The nonprofit animal rescue organization — which she moved to her hometown of St. Petersburg after taking the reins in 2002 — saves dogs and cats from other shelters, but only those animals that would otherwise be euthanized due to time limitations, illness, injuries or lack of socialization. Pet Pal provides long-term individualized care to these second-chancers, rehabilitating them, giving them shelter and ultimately finding them permanent homes.
"We don't accept owner surrenders or strays," McCraw says. "And we work with animal shelters, not against them." She's quick to point out that it's overpopulation, not the shelters, that is to blame for the euthanasia crisis. Shelters euthanize out of necessity because they have to make room for the huge number of homeless animals they receive on a daily basis.
In 2005, Pet Pal raised enough funds to open a no-kill shelter in a cheery yellow Midtown building across from St. Petersburg Clay Company. The 4,600-square-foot facility can house a maximum of 40 dogs and 30 cats. All live there until they are fully rehabilitated and adopted.
Bianca, a recent tenant, came to Pet Pal in September. The stocky American Bulldog was in awful shape when she first wandered into a local family's yard. Her white fur was grey with grime and crawling with fleas and other parasites, her skin was stretched painfully over sharply protruding bones, and she was so starved and dehydrated that she could barely hold herself up. The family brought her to a veterinary clinic and her condition was stabilized before she was moved to the shelter, where she's undergone two painful cycles of heartworm treatments and the first of two surgeries on her knees.
Bianca's medical expenses have exceeded $2,000 thus far, and another $2,000 is needed to complete her rehabilitation. You can see Bianca in her many stages of recovery and make a donation directly to her medical fund at petpalrescue.org. Or you can make a donation toward Pet Pal Rescue's current endeavor: the first and only low-cost spay/neuter clinic in St. Petersburg. The clinic opens to the public in the spring of '08.