Wendy Porter wrangles a rambunctious black puppy on to a leash. The pup, ecstatic for the extra attention and few moments outside of her pen, jumps up Porter's leg again and again.
"C'mon Polly," Porter sweetly tells the dog. "We want someone to want to adopt you."
Porter started volunteering at the SPCA of Hernando County a year ago. Today, she's the treasurer, and knows just about every one of the names of the 120 cats and 19 dogs at the shelter, as well as many of their stories.
A skittish, white Chihuahua cowers in the back of his cage. The SPCA took him in after he was found in the Target parking lot. A curious young black cat was returned after his owners neglected to get him neutered and took him to a veterinarian to be declawed.
As the holidays approach, many animal shelters encourage adoptions with reduced fees and other incentives. For families looking to bring home a pet, Porter recommends visiting a shelter more than once before committing.
"Sit down, see who likes you," said Porter, adding one of the significant problems of pet adoptions year-round is a pet's personality not fitting with the family's expectations. "If you adopt an animal that's a love bug, and always in your face, and you don't want that, you won't be happy."
Joanne Schoch, executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast, also recommends spending time with animals now and to prepare their homes for the arrival well in advance.
"It's really important people understand this is a lifetime commitment, not a toy," said Schoch, adding the Humane Society shelter stops adopting animals out a few days before Christmas, issuing gift certificates until after the holiday.
Porter recommends adopting an older animal, saying the advantage is their personalities are known by the shelter staff, and are not as unpredictable as a puppy or kitten — and are usually less destructive.
Porter estimates last year the shelter adopted 900 animals, with about 10 percent of the animals returning because they're not the right fit for the family.
For families not able to bring home a pet, but who would like to help, Porter recommends sponsoring an animal — the suggested donation is $25 a month — or shopping at the SPCA of Hernando County's thrift store. Located next to the shelter, the store is stocked with toys, books, clothes and other household items.
The shelter, a no-kill nonprofit organization, has a few paid employees, including a vet tech, but relies on volunteers to keep the animals fed, clean and the shelter running. But Porter said volunteers don't have to scrub litter pans or clean cages — volunteers are always needed to socialize and spend time with the cats and dogs.
"You're saving something that needs a second chance," Porter said. "They have love to give, and sometimes they're nice, and no one knew it."
The SPCA of Hernando County is located at 9075 Grant St. in Brooksville, and can be reached by phone at (352) 596-7000.