By Cynthia Mitchell, DVM (Chief Veterinary Officer, SPCA Tampa Bay Veterinary Center)


A pet can bring companionship and joy to your life for many years. And according to the International Federation on Aging, a pet can help seniors’ health by lowering blood pressure, boosting your mood and keeping you active.

Plus, adopting a pet sends a positive ripple effect throughout the community. You’re giving a loving home to an animal in need, which helps create more space for other homeless animals looking for their forever homes, and supports the shelter in caring for even more animals.

There’s a lot you can do to help animals in your community, including the following ways:

Consider adopting an older pet. Young animals, much like babies and toddlers, need considerable time and attention to learn and grow. Older animals need your love and attention too, but are often already litter box trained or housebroken, and familiar living with humans. It can also be easier to tell if you’re a good match with an older animal’s personality, which becomes more consistent with age.

Think beyond “traditional” pets. Most people initially think about cats or dogs as pets, but many types of animals can be good companions. Consider smaller animals, sometimes called “pocket pets,” like hamsters or rabbits. These pets could be the right fit for some people’s interests and lifestyles, and there’s plenty of pocket pets and critters that need loving homes.

Foster an animal. Seasonal residents or people who can’t make full-time commitment of a new pet can serve as foster parents for pets. Foster parents provide a temporary nurturing environment to animals that might be too young for adoption, need time to heal from an illness or medical procedure, or could benefit from socialization in a home environment. By fostering, you help create more space in the shelter for other animals that need care.

Pets typically need foster care for as little as two weeks to as long as four months. People interested in becoming fosters for SPCA Tampa Bay must be Pinellas County residents, complete an orientation program, and learn about kitten and puppy care.

Volunteer. Many local shelters need volunteers to help care for the animals at its facility. It’s a perfect opportunity to interact with animals if you’re missing companionship but aren’t ready or able to have a pet in your home. Volunteers can assist with animal care and enrichment, or help with the shelter’s administrative team, depending on your interests and skills.

Volunteers are required to complete an orientation and training, and they’re asked to commit to a couple hours per week.

Donate items for animals. Animal shelters are often in need of items that will help animals in the shelter’s care. Each organization maintains a wish list online with specific needs, and it often includes used household items like towels, sheets or blankets, and new items that help care for the animals, like food or toys.

If you’re interested in helping local animals, contact SPCA Tampa Bay at 727-586-3591 to learn more about how you can adopt, foster animals, volunteer at the shelter, or donate items.

And save the date for Thursday, November 10, its SPCA Tampa Bay’s 3rd Annual Day of Giving Telethon. This is the day many people from around the State contribute to the For-All shelter’s mission and vision of transforming the lives of animals. Learn more at