First Coast No More Homeless Pets—A Path Forward

First Coast No More Homeless Pets (FCNMHP) serves a unique role in the world of animal welfare, operating where the needs of people and pets meet in the communities facing the highest rates of poverty and unemployment in Florida.

This year marks an exciting milestone as FCNMHP celebrates 20 years of providing a wide range of affordable and accessible veterinary care. The team will be sharing this news through stories and short videos streamed to thousands of people who follow the organization on social media.

Sometimes, as CEO Jennifer Barker—yes, this last name “always brings a smile to people who first meet [her]”—puts it, numbers can help tell a story. Barker shares some big numbers: First, in 2021 alone, FCNMHP received 124,000 calls from pet owners. For 20 years a dedicated medical team, working seven days a week, has responded to these calls so that beloved pets could be treated, healed, and kept safe and happy in their homes. Barker recalls a touching call from a woman named Jacqueline who was recently widowed and whose dog Scooter was her constant companion. “Scooter had stopped eating and developed swelling near his stomach,” says Barker. “Our doctors provided urgent medical care at an affordable price so that Scooter could recover from his illness and go back home to fill part of the void Jacqueline was feeling.”

More numbers show that FCNMHP provided more than $257,000 in charitable veterinary care and 280,000 pounds of free pet food, “so that families are not forced to choose between caring for their pets and buying groceries,” says Barker. The organization has a history of solving problems on a large scale. Their Spay/Neuter Center and Community Clinic was opened on Norwood Avenue in 2008. This facility supports a nationally recognized partnership with Jacksonville Animal Care and Protective Services, along with dozens of animal shelters and rescue groups. This made Jacksonville the first city in the nation to declare that no cat would be euthanized simply because it is feral.  This extraordinary collaborative effort has become a model for the rest of the nation.

Barker says that FCNMHP provided care to 84,070 pets last year, including 23,070 spay/neuter surgeries. It is numbers like these that pose a huge challenge to their medical team and their ability to meet the rising demand for affordable and accessible veterinary services. 

Now, a much-needed and significant expansion to the Norwood facility is being planned that will help increase service capacity, enhance the staff and volunteer experience, and provide a higher level of compassionate care for all they serve. On the docket is a new lobby, in which dogs and cats can have separate areas. “Our current lobby is a narrow and congested space, frequently crowded with people bringing in their dogs and their cats,” says Barker. “Particularly for the cats, this can be a stressful experience when they are exposed, and in close proximity to, energetic dogs.” 

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Author: Arbus

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