Get Rescued Inspires Licks, Wags, Hugs and Smiles

Carol Allard, founder and executive director of We Care for Paws of Brooksville, is pictured standing in the middle of the group in a red top amongst her large collection of volunteers and adoptable pets at the Get Rescued event in Gulfport on February 24. “We want to create awareness to find volunteers and good homes for our older dogs,” she said. “We foster for the military, domestic violence victims and homeless people. After a year, if the dogs cannot go back to their families, we have to find them homes. We place a lot of dogs at this annual event.” For more information, visit

The pitter-patter of feet and paws from several thousand people and animals filled downtown Gulfport on Saturday February 24 during the 14th-annual Get Rescued event.

Beach Boulevard, from the library to the Casino, was closed to accommodate booths belonging to 51 non-profit animal rescue groups and about 60 vendors, said Suzanne King, owner of SIK Promotions, the event promoter.

The non-profit Gulfport Merchants Association (GMA) hosted the event, which is one of the largest animal rescues festivals in the state, said King.

“It’s pure donating for and adopting as many animals as people possibly can,” said Scott Linde, GMA president.

Dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, skunks and a pot-bellied pig were some of the animals non-profit organizations were showcasing and offering for adoption.

Over seven-and-a-half tons of dog food was donated, said King.

“This never would have happened without the help of Salty’s Gulfport and Bark Life Pet Food, Market and Grooming. They knew we needed pet supplies organizers and the two of them got together and made it happen. We’ve had great coordinators in the past but this team is over the top.”

Individuals also donated pet food and supplies in the weeks leading up to the event and during the festivities by dropping off items on the sidewalk in front of the Casino.

After expenses, all of the donations and proceeds from commercial booth space fees, an online crowd-funding campaign, the Bark-B-Que food sales and raffle sponsored by Salty’s “goes back to the participating non-profits,” said King.

Mary O’Malley, owner of Reef Dogs Gifts & Grooming in Gulfport started the Get Rescued event with just a few dogs in front of her store. “It was a mild success,” she said. “The next year it grew to the whole block then the next year it was a couple more blocks. Now, my dream has been realized in a far bigger way than I ever thought. It got so big, the city needed to take it over. I passed the baton.” Her CEO is Miss Daisy who O’Malley adopted from VIP Rescue of Clearwater. The non-profit specializes in poodles and other non-shedding dogs in need. “It’s all about animals getting homes.” O’Malley helps VIP Rescue throughout the year by grooming pets for adoption and she sponsored the pet look-alike contest for this Get Rescued event. “Everyone participating will get prizes and the winner will also get a gift certificate.”

Non-profits are provided with free booth space and an all-volunteer staff runs the event, she said.

About seven-and-a-half tons of dog food in the form of 40-pound bags on 15-1/2 pallets were just a part of the hundreds of donations collected on the sidewalk in front of the Historic Gulfport Casino. A total of 24 dog food bags comprised a full pallet.

Linda Kachur of St. Petersburg checks out an adoptable dog being showcased by Saira Hadi of the non-profit We Care for Paws non-profit of Brooksville. Benji was one of many older dogs being offered for adoption. His owners had died and “I’m not too happy about it,” said the written bio offered by the organization. “Are you looking for a very good boy who can bring hours of joy to you? If you are, I’m your fellow!” said the adoption flyer. To contact the non-profit to find out more about Benji and other pets, call 727-798-1037.

Michael Albrecht and Boddles of Gulfport won the “look alike” contest sponsored by Reef Dogs Gifts & Grooming. “Literally 30 people have told me today that I look like my dog!”

The pet parade and adoption showcase was one of the featured activities at Get Rescued.

Dropping off pet food donations at curbside in front of the Casino, from left, are Pat Dozier, Neily, Mia, Murphy and Anna Pappas all of St. Petersburg. Mia and Murphy are both rescues. Far right, Bob Newcomb of Gulfport uses his experienced volunteer skills to help collect money and other donations for Get Rescued. “We need to pay attention to the plight of the animals,” he said. “This is one of the things I love about Gulfport. Everybody volunteers for everything.”

In the foreground, Lavonne Widmer pushes Allee in a pink stroller while Carolyn Chastain pushes Miss Fiona in a green one. All four are from South Pasadena. “We enjoy visiting Gulfport and we like to support the various organizations at the Get Rescued event,” said Chastain. Both of their dogs are rescues.

From left, Cara Murphy helps Chef Harold McCaslin dish up hot dogs and hamburgers at the Bark-B-Que at Salty’s Gulfport. Both were volunteers for Get Rescued.



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