Suncoast Nonprofits Make Animal Welfare a Real Priority

We live in a compassionate community, and local philanthropy that supports all charitable causes is just one example of how that compassion is expressed.

The Manatee Community Foundation partners with donors for their giving, and each has a unique set of experiences, hopes for the future, and nonprofit missions that are meaningful. They recommend investments in social services, the spectrum of education from early learning to post-secondary education, the arts, foster families, food security, mental health and the environment.

And it’s no surprise that many people include animal welfare in their donation preferences. They were personally touched by the comfort of a beloved pet. Or they know how animals impact the physical and emotional health of humans. Or they simply care deeply about the individual well-being of each life.

A network of nonprofit animal welfare organizations in Manatee and Sarasota counties is fueled by staff, volunteers and board members who rarely stop to breathe. They work tirelessly to:

  • Find forever homes for animals.
  • Provide education and training to reduce pet abandonment.
  • Provide low-cost veterinary services.
  • Share pet food to help struggling owners keep their dogs and cats.

In an August 2022 survey by the Manatee Community Foundation, nearly 70% of respondents indicated that they believed animal welfare issues have worsened post-COVID.

During a recent visit to a shelter, I met a boy and his father who arrived to drop off their dog at the facility. They had to move but couldn’t bring him to their new home. “She’s older and really adorable,” the dad said.

But the shelter was full.

Today, many local animal shelters are at capacity – a consequence of the housing crisis, high cost of living and a return to in-person work. When people can no longer afford to live in their homes due to exorbitant rent increases, they find little or no choice for new housing. Some rental properties don’t allow pets, and rising costs in general make it difficult for many tenants to afford pet-related expenses.

The Manatee Community Foundation’s donor-designated animal welfare funds continue to support programs that include providing free sterilization services and funding the capital needs of animal shelters. Much of this work was made possible through the legacy of two generous donors, Bill and Maryann Vinall.

While most of our grant dollars directly support people – the underfunded, youth, families, women, veterans, seniors and others – we are also grateful for the many ways in which compassion manifests.

The Foundation recently hosted a community conversation with nonprofit organizations to discuss shared aspirations for animal welfare. What more do we need? Education of pet owners, greater public involvement, and increased collaboration were cited as top wishes.

If you’re considering getting a new pet, familiarize yourself with the associated costs, from food to veterinary care. Have your pet neutered or neutered; inexpensive and free resources are available. Consider adopting local organizations and stay connected with them, as these groups often have resources. If you’re a landlord, consider allowing tenants to bring their pets with them — and also consider removing breed restrictions for pets.

Visit to find online profiles of local animal welfare organizations – and to learn about donations, adopting a pet, volunteering and more.

You can also call the Manatee Community Foundation at (941) 747-7765, and we’ll connect you with charities in our area, including those that help our furry friends.

Visit to download our recent Animal Welfare Report.

Susie Bowie is the Executive Director of the Manatee Community Foundation.

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