Florida Urgent rescue celebrates three-year anniversary

Local nonprofit seeks support during holiday season

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Florida Urgent Rescue (F.U.R.), a Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization dedicated to saving animals from kill shelters and other urgent situations, recently celebrated its three-year anniversary in November.

In the local organization’s first three years of operation, F.U.R. has rescued 1,092 dogs and cats, and according to Founder and President Mike Merrill, the nonprofit just eclipsed 1,100 last week.

“We never really expected this kind of volume,” Merrill said. “I figured it would be a lot slower pace. But we have a hard time saying no.”

F.U.R.’s efforts include pulling animals from shelters and providing veterinary and foster services and an adoption program. F.U.R. also provides care to animals in urgent situations who have, for example, gunshot wounds or injuries from a car collision. In addition, the organization markets and promotes dogs in shelters so that other rescuers and adopters have the necessary information to help them decide whether they can pull or adopt the animals.  

“We’ve done over 100 introductions for over 100 dogs in shelters and thankfully, knock on wood, 100 percent of them have gotten out alive,” Merrill said. “I think just getting the information out helps answer people’s questions and helps them make a better decision.”

F.U.R. also offers a program called Save Our Strays, which has resulted in the rescues or assistance in rescues and trappings of more than 95 stray dogs. In addition, the nonprofit provides a program called Florida Urgent Transport, which moves animals in need from overcrowded shelters in the Southern United States to shelters and rescue groups with greater capacity. 

Help needed during the holiday season

Merrill used to love the holiday season before he started working in animal rescue. Now, he doesn’t feel the same way because he said, surprisingly and unfortunately, many people in the area surrender their dogs and cats during this time of year. 

“I don’t understand it,” Merrill said. “You’ll see photos of people lined up to surrender their dogs so they can go on vacation.”

When the animals are abandoned, Merrill said it’s challenging to find foster parents during the holidays because people are traveling or going on vacation themselves. He noted that his organization is losing a few foster parents because they are traveling too. In addition, Merrill said a handful of the kennels F.U.R. uses to board animals are busiest during this time of year, so they can’t take them either. 

“It’s a really, really tough time of year during the holidays,” he said. “There are so many animals in need. We’re going to see a ton of animals dumped and surrendered. It’s just tough to help them because there aren’t enough foster homes year-round.”

Merrill also noted that every local shelter F.U.R. works with is full. So, he said, as more animals come into shelters during the holidays, they will most likely euthanize the dogs and cats that are there already, unless somebody gets them out. 

As a result, Merrill said F.U.R. and every other rescue group is always looking for foster homes. If people cannot foster but would still like to help, Merrill said volunteers and donations are always appreciated. 

“We spend three times as much on vet care as we bring in through adoption donations,” Merrill said. “The only way we can save animals is to have fundraisers or donations to make up that difference.”

F.U.R. is partnering with Forever Vets Animal Hospital on one such upcoming fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 8 from 9 to 11 a.m. at its Tinseltown location. The animal hospital is holding a Photos with Santa event that will benefit F.U.R. For $10, customers can take home a photo of their pet with Santa and support the local nonprofit at the same time. Visit forevervets. com for more information.

For more information on F.U.R., visit https://www.floridaurgentrescue.com/. 

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