Founded by Phil Rotolo as a non-profit organization and no-kill shelter to help abandoned pets find loving homes, Partners for Pets has been an important part of Marianna for more than 23 years. The facility usually houses approximately 35 cats and 45 dogs, but has had as many as 65 dogs at times. On Oct. 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on the facility leaving the organization’s future uncertain.

“Many of my clients are rescues from Partners for Pets,” explained Vicki Fuqua, owner of Great Oak Pet Resort, "and I wanted to help.” Vicki started by forming a new Board of Directors. “I learned many folks wanted to be involved,” she continued. She explained that during the storm, volunteer Robin Adylette stayed with the animals, which all survived despite the extreme damage. Now the dogs are in 5-foot-by-10-foot kennels atop concrete pads with canvas covers. Igloo brand dog houses have been donated to protect the dogs from the elements.

One of the first decisions the Partners for Pets Board made was to promote Jayme Miller to manager of the facility. However, there were bigger concerns for the organization with their lease with the Florida Department of Education to expire within a year and the property transferring to the County. “I approached the Department of Education, but they wouldn’t help me,” Vicki clarified. In February, Vicki approached the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners with a request to lease two to three acres so that she could apply for funding with USDA Rural Development for a new facility. According to Vicki, County Administrator Wilanne Daniels suggested a letter of commitment, which was not enough to secure funding.

“I asked for five acres in an attempt to incorporate animal control and save Jackson County money,” she added. According to Vicki, on July 8, 4.4 acres located on the paved entrance to the Jackson County Jail was being considered by the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners in the form of a 50-100-year lease of $1 annually.

Wilanne Daniels, Jackson County administrator, explained, “The Board will hear a request from Partners for Pets on August 13th at 9 a.m. regarding a long-term lease on the Endeavor property.” According to Wilanne, “The Commissioners committed up to five acres in recent months and this lease will solidify the location.”

Although the lease has not been completely settled at this time, Vicki is excited about the possibility. “We will be working on facility plans and many fundraising projects including grants,” Vicki explained. Her future ideas range from a Spay and Neuter/ Vaccination Clinic to a Therapy Dog Training Center. “Vicki has a lot of energy and loves pets,” Board member Judy Stanton added.

To help pay for some of the expenses, Board member Judy Peterson is planning “Petoberfest” to take place in October at Madison Street Park. The entertainment for the event will include Todd Herendeen and his Follow That Dream band. There will be food vendors and fun pet activities. If you would like to be a corporate sponsor or volunteer, contact Judy Peterson at 850-482-4570.

Many organizations and individuals have been assisting Partners for Pets, which is greatly appreciated. Recently, the Rotary Club applied for a grant from Rotary International and purchased a $5,600 storage building to help the organization. However, the organization is always in need of donations, which all go toward the care of the animals until a forever home is found.

Vicki continued explaining that new techniques are being used to inform the public of animals needing homes. Board member, Ashley Boatwright, has been successful in making videos of her dog walks. Chance, one of the dogs featured, was adopted within a few days of publicity on social media.

Pets are helpful in assisting adults and children with autism in roadway safety, overcoming fear and anxiety, sensory support, building friendships and educational games. Pets lower blood pressure and reduce family stress, not to mention the emotional benefits and companionship of loving a pet. If you love animals, stop by Partners for Pets and meet the pets eligible for adoption. You won’t be sorry.

Partners for Pets is currently located at 4011 Maintenance Drive. To learn more or make a donation call 850-482-4570 and visit the Partners for Pets Facebook page. For more information about Great Oak Pet Resort, call 850-372-4064. You can find Great Oak Pet Resort on Facebook. What a great organization to have in Marianna! Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about businesses in Marianna.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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