Saving With Soul Pet Rescue performs 1,000th rescue in 2018 in Milton

Tippy, a 40-pound black Labrador Retriever mix, gives Capri Wesley kisses on Monday as Saving With Soul Pet Rescue volunteers gather for a group photo at the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter in Milton.  Tippy marked the 1,000th animal Saving With Soul Pet Rescue rescued in 2018.

Tippy, a 40-pound black Labrador Retriever mix, curled up in Sheila Levo’s arms on a sunny Christmas Eve day at the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter and licked her nose and cheeks.

Tippy was brought to the shelter as a stray but will have a home for the holidays, thanks to Levo and two dozen other Saving With Soul Pet Rescue volunteers who came to the shelter on December 24 in a bid to save their 1,000th animal. for 2018.

Tippy was lucky enough to be number 1,000.

“She was super shy, a low caterpillar when we first got her out of the kennel about a week ago,” Levo said as he put Tippy on the floor and watched her squirm and run. “We brought her into the yard for the first time last week and she didn’t get past my knees. And today she’s running around.”

Saving With Soul Pet Rescue is a network of approximately 60 foster families in Northwest Florida that removes dogs and cats from animal shelters in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties, giving them temporary homes and taking them to adoption events every weekend to find them permanent families.

Last year was the group’s first full year as an organization, and they rescued just over 600 dogs, said Jennifer Hagedorn, founder of Saving With Soul. This year they aimed to save 1,000 animals, and with the Christmas Eve rescue mission, six dogs and five cats, they succeeded.

“We started this tradition a year ago, where we would come to the shelter when they were closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas and do a ‘home for the holidays’ rescue mission,” Hagedorn said. “Today (Christmas Eve) is a good day to do this as a lot of our volunteers are off. It’s really cool that the animal shelter lets us do this, even though they’re closed today .”

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Tara Deaguilera, kennel technician and rescue coordinator at the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter, said the shelter always sees a spike in owners abandoning their pets during the holiday season, so groups like Saving With Soul enter and leave the animals of the shelter. are a great help for the organization.

“People go on vacation, so for some reason they think it’s a good time to give up on their pets,” Deaguilera said. “But fortunately we also see a lot of adoptions.”

Saving With Soul Pet Rescue volunteer Christie Woodbury spends time Monday with a dog while searching for animals to rescue at the Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter in Milton.  The rescue group celebrated its 1,000th rescue of the year in 2018.

The Santa Rosa County Animal Shelter has struggled with high euthanasia rates in the past. It ended 2017 with a 67% euthanasia rate for the year and continued its high rate in 2018, peaking at nearly 80% in June of this year.

But Hagedorn said euthanasia isn’t necessarily a shelter issue, it’s a human issue, with people treating their animals as disposable and not neutering their pets, leading to many animals ending up in a shelter.

“The most important thing to remember is that when you save a pet, you save a life,” Hagedorn said. “All shelters in our area are open admission, which means that many dogs and cats are at risk of being euthanized.

“We (rescue groups) are not the solution to euthanizing shelters,” she added. “It doesn’t matter how many shelter workers or adopters, it doesn’t matter how many humans take responsibility for their pets. But at least with that, here we are making a difference.”

Annie Blanks can be reached at [email protected] and 850-435-8632.

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