Skip to main content

Gulf & Main Magazine

'Yappy Hour,' Senior to Senior Program Highlight Gulf Coast Humane Society's Events and Programs

Apr 17, 2018 04:05PM ● By Kevin

Gulf Coast Humane Society's Senior to Senior Program. Photo by Jolene Wivinus.

Photo by Brian Wierima.

Gulf Coast Humane Society, a nonprofit, no-kill, animal welfare organization established as the first nonprofit animal welfare organization in Southwest Florida, has a lot going on in the Fort Myers area this spring and summer, as well as all year long. Founded in 1947, the shelter does not receive any federal, state, or county funding and no funding from the Humane Society of the United States or ASPCA. The group relies solely on donations, grants, bequests, and fundraising events to further its mission of caring for the neglected and abandoned pets of Southwest Florida.

For the past seven-and-a-half years, Gulf Coast Humane Society has put on a monthly "Yappy Hour" event in partnership with the Bell Tower Shops. It has also implemented its Senior to Senior program, where senior dogs visit retirement homes for the day.

As a no-kill facility, Gulf Coast Humane Society cares for pets until they find their forever homes. The organization's mission is to provide humane care for surrendered animals by offering refuge, providing medical care, and facilitating an adoptive home. Each year, they take in more than 1,000 animals in need of compassionate care. 

We caught up with Jennifer Galloway, who is the executive director of Gulf Coast Humane Society. She highlights Yappy Hour, the Senior to Senior program, and more in this exclusive Q&A.

Gulf & Main Magazine: Tell us a little about the Yappy Hour event. How did it get started and what are some of its offerings?

Jennifer Galloway: This program has been going on for seven-and-a-half years with Bell Tower Shops. It came about as we were trying to come up with a partner do something together. They wanted to give back to the community and they love animals. So, we wanted to have something light and friendly. We came up with "Yappy Hour." It has predominantly been their busiest night of the month at the restaurants, which is really cool.

It's a great event. People get to mingle with other dog owners and friends. They go to restaurants and eat outside with their pets. The restaurants are packed! They can also go shopping. Stores are pet friendly there. It's a win for everybody. It's a win for Bell Tower Shops, it's a win for folks getting out with their pets, and we get to spread awareness, raise money, and gain overall support for the humane society.

Nowadays, people want to go out with their pets, so it gives them that added excuse to take their pets out with them.

We've gotten more focused on having a theme every month. For Christmas, we'll do the ugly sweater contest and pictures with Santa. We do Fourth of July and Halloween. The Halloween costume contest is our most popular of the year. A lot of those themes have to do with dressing your pet up. People love doing that!

Monthly Yappy Hour. Photo courtesy of Gulf Coast Humane Society.

As the years have gone by, the stores have gotten more involved. Cru supplies the beer and wine and gives us a portion of their sales from that day, which is really cool. Everybody does something different, such as drawings and raffles. The stores come in and give away gift baskets and certificates to their stores, which brings people back to Bell Tower Shops.

Every year, people have gotten more involved to make it more fun to have something to do all the time. One year, it was pooper scooper day. We did a contest with Tootsie Rolls, another was a peanut butter eating contest; silly stuff that people can get involved in.

Proceeds go toward taking care of the pets here and our general operating and care for all the animals.

GM: How did you get involved with the humane society?

Galloway: I started out on the board of directors about seven years ago. I just love this organization. There's so much potential in it. At one point, I stepped in to help out as the temporary director almost six years ago. I love it. What I say all the time is, "How many people can say they're lucky enough to work at their passion?" Every day, I get to work at something I'm passionate about. Not many people get to say that.

GM: And how about the organization, itself? Tell us more.

Galloway: This is our 71st year. We have several signature events. One was the Fast and Furriest 5k/1 mile walk at Hammond Stadium. It's a really fun family event. Our annual gala is Home for the Holidays. It's our main fundraiser every year that sustains us throughout the year. Last weekend, we were at four different events. We stay busy in the community. We do it for awareness and fundraising.

The humane society is not just an adoption center. We want to make sure people know that. We're a resource center, too. We have a veterinary clinic that offers low cost, affordable, wellness exams, as well as dental and soft tissue surgeries. It's all the basics at an affordable cost. Our goal is to not make money, but to make sure your pet stays up to date on heartworm, vaccines, etc. We have a spay/neutering surgery center for the public. We're certified with the humane alliance and ASPCA for high volume spay/neuter surgeries. We follow all their surgery protocols. It's a pretty exciting certification that we have. We're really proud of it. You have to be accepted and go through training in Asheville, N.C., and then they come down here to make sure you're following all of their surgery protocols.

GM: What about your future plans?

Monthly Yappy Hour. Photo courtesy of Gulf Coast Humane Society.

Galloway: Some of our goals going forward, we have a Senior to Senior program that we're really pushing hard. We get senior pets in here because mom and dad are going in to nursing home, or because they passed on. The pets are seniors, themselves. They've never been in a shelter setting and it's overwhelming. So, we put them in 55+ communities and we cover the costs.

We went out to all these seniors and asked why they're not adopting. Most said same consistent message: they're on a fixed/limited income, are snowbirds, are traveling back and forth, or they're at an age where they're afraid they're going to a nursing home soon. We want to take away all these reasons why they're not adopting. All of these studies show animals reduce stress and make us healthier. Why don't we have a pet in there, then? Most nursing homes say they can't afford it or their staff is limited already. So, we have volunteers picking up and dropping off, going on walks, things like that. It's the added health benefit they get then.

We had a bonded pair, two little mixed breeds, that had to go together. They were just a hoot. We picked them up and dropped them off, and residents were able to play with them. It brought them out of their rooms to interact more. It's a positive program. It gets our senior pets out of the shelter and get that affection they're already used to.

GM: Anything else you'd like to add?

Galloway: One thing we always stress is we're a private nonprofit. Everything we do, fundraising, grant writing, is to raise money to keep this great facility running. We don't receive money form national humane societies. We're all autonomous, so we don't receive money form them or the state or federal government. It's eye opening, a lot of people never realize that it doesn't trickle down.

Gulf Coast Humane Society's Senior to Senior Program. Photo by Jolene Wivinus.


More Information

The monthly Yappy Hour event takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. on the second Friday of every month. Adoptable dogs are on site, as well as music and entertainment. For more information, click here.

Gulf Coast Humane Society's main facility, as well as its spay/neuter clinic, is located at 2010 Arcadia St. in Fort Myers. Its veterinary clinic is located at 2685 Swamp Cabbage Court in Fort Myers. For more information, visit its website.