It’s Official: St. Pete Welcomes Critters
St. Petersburg has joined a national initiative to make the city a happier, healthier place for pets and people.
ST. PETERSBURG – The city of St. Petersburg is participating in Mars Petcare’s Better Cities for Pets™ movement to make St. Petersburg an even happier, healthier and more welcoming place for pets.
The initiative includes incorporating 12 traits of a pet-friendly city, ranging from collaboration to reduce pet homelessness to restaurants and businesses that are welcoming to pets.
The city has developed a program called St. Pete Paws to collaborate with organizations that support pets and their owners to make St. Petersburg a city where pets are welcome, and owners are caring, nurturing guardians who are working together to provide safe and secure environments.
“The Better Cities for Pets movement aligns closely with our focus on being a city of opportunity for all – which includes our pets,” St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “We used the Better Cities for Pets criteria to take a look at the resources available to pets and their owners, and we found that we’re already an incredibly supportive community for pets, but we’re aiming to do even more.”
City officials and staff are working closely with Mars Petcare, BluePearl Veterinary Partners, the Pinellas County Veterinary Medical Association and animal welfare agencies like SPCA Tampa Bay, PetPal Animal Shelter, Friends of Strays and Pinellas County Animal Services to assess St. Petersburg’s current resources for pets and identify opportunities to make it an even better place for pets.
St. Petersburg already has plentiful pet-friendly amenities, from pet-friendly hotels and restaurants to kennels, doggie daycares and veterinarians to fire stations that are outfitted with special airway equipment for pets.
The city plans to develop a pet-friendly business program to encourage more businesses to welcome pets. These pet-friendly businesses make it easier for pets and their owners to share experiences, and it can keep pets healthier by making pets less likely to be left in a car when an owner needs to make a stop, which reduces the risk of heatstroke.
“Pets rely on us to keep them healthy, and this initiative makes pet health and happiness a shared responsibility for our community,” said Dr. Jimmy Barr, chief medical officer of BluePearl Veterinary Partners, which is part of the Mars Petcare company. “Even seemingly small changes like adding more water bowls and pet relief areas can have a big impact on a pet’s health.”
St. Petersburg is already seeing progress on the Better Cities for Pets criteria that focuses on shelters. Several of Pinellas County’s animal welfare agencies have been collaborating on countywide initiatives, and it’s positively impacting pets. Pinellas County’s live release rate – measured by adoptions, transfers and other factors – reached a six-year high at 73 percent in 2017. In addition, trap-neuter-vaccinate-return programs that started in 2014 are keeping community cats healthier and limiting the number of litters born into community cat colonies.
“A community that’s welcoming and supportive of pets leads to fewer pets being surrendered to local shelters,” said Martha Boden, CEO, SPCA Tampa Bay. “This initiative will lead to more pets living in healthy, happy homes.”
Over the coming months, the local Better Cities for Pets collaborators say they will work together to identify additional areas of focus for pet-friendliness. Focus areas may include increased support of pets in public and commercial spaces through a pet-friendly business program, more pet-friendly housing options and better access to reliable information on pet behavior and health.
Pets | Pet Friendly | Better Cities for Pets | Rick Kriseman | Tampabay Reporter
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