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The Villages
Sunday, April 14, 2024

Lost Pets of the Villages makes reuniting animals with their owners a top priority

If “a dog is a man’s best friend,” then the best friends of lost dogs (and cats) are the 2,500 members of Lost Pets of The Villages.

The citizen network is contacted about a missing – or found – pet, and then immediately posts the information on its Facebook page. The organization also seeks the assistance of the social group Villages Friendly Folk with its 9,500 members, Community Watch in The Villages and local radio station WVLG.

Angie Fox and Oren Miller, with their rescue dogs Doodle and Jaydon.

“Four years ago, we were told that there were no lost dogs in The Villages,” said co-founder Angie Fox, of the Village of Sanibel. “Now we are contacted four or five times a week.”

Fox and her husband, Oren Miller, along with Rio Ponderosa resident Kathy Bork, spearhead the effort to reunite owners and pets.

“We also actively work to encourage Sumter County officials to improve conditions at the County’s animal shelter, as well as to implement a ‘no kill’ policy and more transparent adoption procedures,” Fox said.

Angie Fox joins firefighters from Villages Station 45 in comforting two lost dogs before beginning the search for their owners.

Their assistance in finding missing pets is sought at all hours of the night, even on Thanksgiving eve and during inclement weather.

“Once we have the pet, we ensure the rightful owner is identified by asking for unique identifying marks,” Miller said.

Today, the organization reports a 99 percent success rate in returning animals.

“Angie often is called to help catch animals that have been contained but not captured. She knows how to calmly approach animals that often are excited and nervous,” Miller continued. “Last Tuesday, two dogs were dropped off at The Villages Fire Station 45 and were spotted under a car. We believe they are strays. Their picture went viral. Now, applications are pouring in. But we must wait 30 days for the owner to come forward.”

Occasionally, the reunification takes longer. Fox often serves as a “foster parent” to those dogs.

“That delay has ranged from a few hours to 28 days. But the time has been (well spent), especially when I see how the pet responds, along with the owner’s excited and relieved expression,” she said.

Villager Kathy Bork took on foster parent responsibilities for Chicka-Baby as efforts continue to locate her owners.

The time span for those reunions has been greatly reduced thanks to the donation of six scanners that electronically read microchips surgically embedded under a pet’s skin.

“We no longer need to rely on scanners at nearby vets’ (offices) to contact owners,” Angie said. “We strongly suggest that all pet owners update their contact information that often reflects previous addresses and telephone numbers.”

In addition to the day-to-day commitment, Lost Pets of the Villages has been a vocal advocate for improved conditions at Sumter County’s animal shelter and the significant reduction of animals that are euthanized before all options are undertaken to find owners or place the animals for adoption.

“The local Humane Society only seeks adoptions of those it considers adoptable: cute and under two years old,” Fox said. “It decides what animals are cute. Most get killed.

“Meanwhile, the animal shelter limits the time for those interested in adopting a pet only to 11 to 11:30 on Thursdays – and then just three people in at a time.”

Fox said she and her supporters attend Sumter County Commission meetings to protest the shelter’s inadequate conditions and its adoption rate of only 60 to 70 percent.

“Lake County is doing everything right and places some 90 percent of its dogs,” she said. “I won’t stop until a no-kill policy is enacted and procedures in acceptable facilities are in place.”

Lost Pets of the Villages hopes to increase the number of Villagers who participate in their search efforts and who like them on Facebook. More information is available on the Shelter Reform for Sumter County Facebook page about pet reform policies and initiatives for greater use of microchips, as well as inexpensive spaying and neutering programs.

“We also are seeking generous benefactors that will help us build and operate our own Humane Society somewhere in the area,” Fox added.


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