SPCA offers assistance to more than animals

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Hayley Metzler

Staff Writer

 

Because of this month’s First Friday event with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), some people may be curious to know what exactly this organization is all about. Obviously the focus of the SPCA is to stop animal abuse, but there is so much more to it than that.

A common assumption that many people make is that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is directly affiliated with SPCA. When they see the heart-wrenching commercials on television asking for donations, people tend to think that the money they donate will benefit their local SPCA. This, however, is not the case.

There is only one ASPCA, and that is based in New York City. Any donations made to the ASPCA will go directly to this facility. They do not filter down to all the state SPCA’s as some people may think.

“That’s really a misunderstanding with many people,” Martha Lee, community developer at the Lakeland SPCA said. “We’re one hundred percent nonprofit, so everything we receive here to have the organization run either comes from individuals donating their time, money and materials or businesses that help us.”

The SPCA cannot receive any government money, but it can apply for grants.

One thing that really helps with grants is volunteer work. The Lakeland SPCA is known for its excellent volunteer opportunities. Close to 500 volunteers work with the SPCA on an annual basis.

“About 250 volunteers come through our doors every month,” Lee said.

Volunteer duties include feeding, walking and interacting with the animals, cleaning cages, doing laundry (about 50 loads a day), and cleaning/sterilizing pet supplies.

“By having these volunteers, whenever money comes to us, we are able to put it directly to the animal’s needs without having to pay people,” Lee said. “That’s a really important thing for us. Volunteers are huge and we couldn’t do it without them.”

There are also many other things the SPCA is known for besides volunteer work. For instance, the SPCA has several great programs that help pets be able to stay with their families, even if those families are struggling through a hard time. One such program is the Food Assistance Program (FAP). FAP is a temporary program that helps keep pets in their homes, even when their owners can’t afford to provide them food. What FAP does is it allows the pet owners to come to SPCA’s campus twelve times to pick up any food they may need for their pet(s) for free.

“We are hoping that within that time frame, they (the owner) will be able to get back on their feet,” Lee said.

The SPCA has another program similar to FAP called Ani-Meals. The difference between the two programs is that Ani-Meals is for elderly or disabled people who aren’t physically able to provide their pets food. So people from either Meals on Wheels or the Polk County Elderly services come in to the SPCA twice a month and pick up food to deliver to pet owners’ homes, along with their regular meals.

A few of the other community programs the SPCA supports are Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Eagle Scouts, humane education in schools, and Paws to Read, which is where students can come in and build their oral reading skills by practicing reading to dogs and cats.

The Lakeland SPCA is a wonderful place that offers all kinds of services to help better the lives of animals.

If you are interested in exploring volunteer opportunities at the SPCA, please contact Randa Ritcher a rritcher@spcaflorida.org or call 863-646-7722 x 4609.