Both first responders and animal lovers can rejoice Santa Rosa County Animal Services new Hometown Heroes adoption program, which allows anyone working in firefighting, police, EMS, 911 dispatch, or other first-response services to adopt up to two pets for free.
The program will begin on April 18 and continue indefinitely, according to shelter supervisor Dora Thomason. This is an extension of the already existing “Operation Furever Freedom” that the shelter launched in 2019, in which the military could take advantage of the same offer.
“It’s just a way of having a professional courtesy. Anyone who is a first responder or has the very stressful job that saves lives on a daily basis could use a puppy cuddle. It was like, ‘Let’s support them,’ and do what we can,” Thomason said. “We are all saving lives. We all have the same goal. And they save people and animals. And we’re doing the same thing, but in a different setting.”
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Lance Vincent, a county EMS captain, said he and his crew frequently deal with animals, and he knew his colleagues would take advantage of the opportunity.
“We all share the common goal: we are all here for the public no matter what,” said Vincent. “Whether it’s animals or people, and…when I look at an animal, it’s also kind of patient, because you can’t leave a dog or a cat home alone.”
Thomason and other animal services staff pointed to the recent case of a large influx in February – when the shelter took in dozens of dogs at a time from a home in Gulf Breeze – as part of the inspiration. behind the start of the new program.
“We recently had a seizure of over 80 (dogs). We had first responders there to help us every step of the way to keep our staff safe, to make sure everyone was there. They were on standby if we needed medical attention,” Thomasson said. “When you find yourself in these kinds of situations, you don’t know what to expect. So we work together as public servants to serve the community.”
Thomason added that animals adopted through the Hometown Heroes program are vaccinated, spayed or neutered, tested for heartworms and given flea prevention treatment.
“So, I mean, the animal is basically ready to go home with this individual. (They) won’t need immediate care,” Thomason said.
Thomason also pointed out that animal services have always had a civil relationship with first responders and law enforcement, but this new concept offers the option of having a formal program.