What: Street fair fundraiser for animal-rescue groups. Who: About 40 animal-rescue groups team up with the Gulfport Merchants Association. When and Where: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, February 28, Beach Drive, Gulfport. Free. Special events: 11:45 a.m., rescue groups showcase animals available for adoption; Gulfport Police will be on hand to demonstrate their new pet scanner; 12:30, pet parade and costume contest; 12 to 6 p.m., Bark-B-Que at Salty’s on Shore Boulevard South; 7 to 10 p.m., Tails at Twilight fundraiser dance and silent auction at the Gulfport Casino with DJ Daniel; $25 donation. Information: Suzanne King at 727-322-5217, email SuzFest@gmail.com; facebook.com/GetRescued
Look into the eyes of Gypsy Rose, a young Catahoula mix adopted during last year’s Get Rescued event in Gulfport, and you’ll understand what it’s all about.
Today she’s a friendly, well-behaved pooch, loved and cared for by her owner, Suzie King of Gulfport. But a year ago she was like thousands of other animals that are neglected and abandoned each year in Pinellas County and the rest of the country.
If they’re lucky, the orphans are taken in by a shelter or rescue group, given medical assistance and put up for adoption. Many, however, are euthanized. Last year Pinellas County Animal Services alone euthanized 6,500 dogs and cats, according to its website.
That’s the reason behind the Gulfport Merchants Association’s 11th annual Get Rescued animal fair and fundraiser, set for Saturday, February 28 on Beach Boulevard. And that’s why thousands of people will flock to town for one of the year’s premier events and support the cause by adopting an animal or donating money or pet supplies.
“Hundreds, if not thousands of animals’ lives have been changed through Gulfport’s Get Rescued,” Linda Shehan, one of the founders of the event, said Friday. She did not know an exact number since many animals are adopted later as a result of connections made at the festival.
The event aims to benefit smaller rescue groups, which don’t have access to the resources and publicity received by larger government and non-profit agencies, Shehan said. Many of the animals taken in by rescue groups would be rejected by the larger shelters, she said.
The rescue groups raise funds by means of pet-kissing booths, photo sessions, training demonstrations and the like. They also receive money from the Gulfport Merchants Association, which divvies up the proceeds from activities such as the Bark-B-Que and auctions. Last year the association distributed $20,000 among the participating groups along with donated pet supplies.
Shehan said Gulfport’s love of animals led everyone – the city council, the merchants, the residents – to work together to create the event.
“It takes a village and Gulfport was just the right village,” she said. She noted that city council also made February animal month and recently passed an animal-rights ordinance.
Mike McCue, a member of the board of the Gulfport Merchants Association, said Get Rescued is a win-win for everyone. It brings visitors into the city, helps the rescue groups create awareness and fundraise, and gets animals adopted.
“It’s a great event,” he said, adding that 100 percent of the profits go to the rescue groups.
Two weeks before this year’s festival, things appeared to be on track to make it a success. Roughly $1,300 had been raised to buy medical supplies and other items. And at the Pasadena Pet Motel – one of several places where people can drop off donations – stacks of pet supplies had already taken over half the area behind the reception counter Friday and the staff was planning to rent a storage unit to stash them all.
“We’re getting bags of food and bedding and such on a daily basis,” said Sarah Davis, an employee at the Pet Motel, which will attend the event with a German shepherd rescue group and will be doing dog-training demonstrations.
Organizers of the event stress that rescuing an animal benefits not only the animal, but the human, too.
King said adopting Gypsy Rose has made a big difference in her life.
“You can say I rescued her,” King said, “but she really rescued me.