Celebrating 30 Years: A Look Back. A Look Ahead.

2018 marks our 30th year of rescue, rehabilitation, and rehoming of homeless pets! We’ve come a long way since 1988! I’d like to share with you where we’ve been, and where we’re going as an organization.


Excerpt from The Animal League’s March Town Hall Meeting.

By Doreen Barker


A sustainable brand is…in part…characterized by its willingness to think outside-the-box…to be creative…and to act, and react, flexibly. We’ve built The Animal League brand and have come a long way in the last 30 years, due to hard work, determination…and of course, thinking outside-the-box, and being creative.


Let me share with you a few examples of where we’ve been.


In 2015, we expanded The Animal League brand to offering quality, affordable vet care services. We envisioned The Animal League Wellness Center to offer great service, at an affordable price, so that no pet in Lake County would have to go without vet care. The Animal League Wellness Center has grown to a 5-star veterinarian clinic – Just ask Google!


We’ve also expanded our operations center in Groveland. The Animal League has grown from a foster-only operation to a 20-acre THRIVING campus. This allowed us to increase our adoptions from 12 to over 100 per month. On our property we have a full-fledged Adoption Center… the New Hope Intake Center…the Loos Recovery Center… Cat Cottage… and an outdoor fun zone for adopters and pets. See this video for a tour of some of our property.


Our campus is ALIVE with the HUSTLE of volunteers and employees caring for each of our on-site pets, as if they were their own.


Additionally, The Animal League Thrift Shop expanded from a 250 square foot operation to over 4,000 square feet. Our staff and volunteers at the Thrift Shop are some of the MOST dedicated I’ve seen. Each of them contributes to performing the NECESSARY tasks of sorting, cleaning, pricing, and displaying items for sale. These dedicated individuals have translated their love, and concern for animals into the day-to-day hard work of operating the shop.


We also tested the waters with Cagan Management and Axum Coffee, as founding partners, to create the Orlando Cat Café. This venture expanded our brand in a new and exciting way. But…there have been some lessons learned along the way. The cats placed into the Café have to be in perfect health. Not only that, each must show that they are comfortable being in that environment. We learned a lot through this new venture.


We always knew that homeless cats, nearly 100% of the time, come in with health issues requiring medical treatment. Saving cats who are abused, neglected, and injured is very costly. That’s the nature of animal rescue, and that part we knew.


However, beyond the cost of care, cats at the Café are extra special. They need to be social. They need to show comfort in being around people and chaos…for their own mental well-being.


If you know cats, you probably know they are independent and loving, but can be skittish around people, and get stressed easily if forced to experience lots of change or disorder.


What we didn’t expect was the challenge of finding and rescuing cats who would thrive in the Café environment. You can probably imagine how many cats we’ve had to rescue and rehabilitate (with our limited resources) in order to gain ONE PERFECTLY SUITABLE Café cat. We would NEVER put even a quasi-suitable cat in danger’s way at the Café, just like we wouldn’t at the adoption center, or anywhere else where they are in our care. Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being.


We spent a year looking at the data, analyzing Cafe’ cat behaviors, and carefully weighing the financial costs of participating in the Café as its rescue partner.


One of our major conclusions from all of this analysis was that the Café requires a great deal of our very limited resources such as: volunteer time… medical care funds… and shelter staff wages. We received no financial assistance from the Café for these resources.


Because we are an animal welfare organization, we asked ourselves: “Could The Animal League do more for homeless pets if we were no longer affiliated with the Café as their cat provider?” The resounding answer was YES.


We are proud of the creative, out-of-the-box thinking of our Executive Leadership Team and Board of Directors to join the Café venture and to advance our brand in a new and exciting way. We have enjoyed being a part of the Café, but… it never became the mutually beneficial partnership we all anticipated. In the best interest of a greater impact to animal welfare, The Animal League will transition out of providing cats to the Café. The transition will take place in the next few weeks to conclude no later than May 9, 2018. Any further questions about the Café can be directed to our management team by sending an email to customerservice [at] theanimalleague.org.


The Animal League’s mission has always been to enhance the lives of animals and people in our communities through education… awareness… adoption… and compassion. And we will press on.


Our Animal League Wellness Center will continue to deliver exceptional pet care at an affordable cost…


We’ll continue our Neighborhood Pet Program providing education, supplies, and pet services to our neighbors who can benefit from them


We’ll continue our Nourish the Needy program supplying local food banks with pet food…


And we’ll continue our Humane Education programs working with k-12 students on what it means to be a responsible pet owner.


With that said, where else do we go from here?


As I mentioned earlier, a sustainable brand is one that thinks out-of-the-box and is creative.


Here are some of our future plans.


First, we’ll focus on NECESSARY IMPROVEMENTS. This includes fencing areas of our adoption center campus to protect our pets.


It also includes resurfacing of the New Hope intake center walkways as well as driveway improvements.


Other necessary projects include expanding our kennel cough unit… improving the Quarantine unit plumbing… shading structures for all our play yards… and finally adding a dedicated laundry room for the main kennels.


Second, we’ll focus on more creative, and exciting, strategic improvements.


These include a new and improved laboratory and an x-ray machine for the clinic. And, some of the more exciting plans we are considering include a puppy nursery, as well as a Forever Hope House for our senior and long term dogs. The Forever Hope House will provide more comfortable living quarters for seniors and long term dogs while waiting for their forever families to find them.


Also quite exciting is the ability to help more cats due to the Cat Café no longer draining our resources! For the cats specifically, on the drawing board is a more formalized community cat assistance program…a kitten nursery I mentioned earlier… and an expansion of our Cat Cottage. The expanded Cat Cottage will include a place for cats with chronic health issues such as AIDS, and Leukemia, so they can relax in comfort while waiting for forever homes.


We’ve come a long way since 1988 when our founder, Beth McCabe saw the need for a compassionate no-kill rescue organization in her city, and we look forward to continued growth in the next 30 years to come. We hope you’ll join us on our journey as a donor and as our brand advocate.


I’d like to close by telling you about ChiChi.


chi chi hit by a car 2018
Senior dog, ChiChi was hit by a car on New Year’s Eve and we found her wandering the streets lost and alone.


This past New Year’s Eve, while most of us were watching the ball drop on TV, or attending various parties, a tiny 8 pound Chihuahua was wandering the streets lost and alone.


This little senior dog found herself confused and in a dark road. She was hit by a vehicle then left on the roadside alone hurt and bleeding.


Our team was informed by a passerby and we immediately took action! We rushed this scared and injured baby to the emergency vet.


ChiChi was stabilized and diagnostics were run. ChiChi’s injuries were found to be quite severe. X-rays showed a bilateral hip fracture in addition to her lacerations and bruising.


Thankfully, we rescued ChiChi quickly enough to save her legs. However, she required extensive and expensive surgery.


This 8 pound girl cost us a whopping $4,890.75 just for her urgent medical care.


ChiChi has been busy in foster care with two of our very best fosters, relearning how to walk, and learning to trust new people.


ChiChi is just one of DOZENS of pets who have needed thousands of dollars’ worth of care THIS YEAR ALONE.


In the past 3 months, we’ve encountered: multiple broken bones… surgeries… amputations… mutilations… high loads of parasites… skin infections… and diseases like Parvo. Each one of these pets costs an average of $722. Many cost up to $5,000 to save.


For the past 30 years, The Animal League has been dedicated to saving the abused, abandoned, and neglected pets in our community. We think they are worth this additional expense.


However, we cannot save ANY pets without the support of our community. We are a true non-profit rescue. We receive NO government funding OR taxpayer subsidies.


Please consider donating to the Sunshine Fund, and certainly let your friends know about this fund too. 100% of proceeds from this fundraiser go toward saving the lives of pets like ChiChi. No amount is too small to help us make a difference.


If you’d like to contribute to the Sunshine Fund to help us rescue others like ChiChi, please visit our Sunshine Fund page.


I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you.


Thank you for all that you do to support The Animal League!


Doreen Barker
President & Chairman of the Board
The Animal League