Indian River Shores Public Safety officers responded to a different type of rescue mission Saturday, playing host to the H.A.L.O.ween Haunted House and Fall Festival to benefit the H.A.L.O. No-Kill Rescue.
The town’s firefighters, paramedics and police officers have worked alongside H.A.L.O. for six years to raise awareness about adoptable pets in need of homes, and over the four years that the agency has organized the Halloween-themed fund-raising event, it’s become more elaborate and popular with island residents.
Lurking below the festivve surface, however, was the staggering increase in the number of animals being surrendered to animal rescue shelters across the country and locally, including H.A.L.O. and the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
During the pandemic, said Jacque Petrone, H.A.L.O. founder and executive director, “the economy was pretty good, and everybody was home. Everybody wanted pets. Our foster and adoption numbers soared, and our surrender rates dropped. We were living in a wonderful world.”
But now, it’s a different time. Due to lifestyle changes, plus inflation and higher living costs, more and more people are deciding they no longer have time or resources to care for their pets.
“We’ve received over 20,000 applications since January to surrender pets,” said Petrone.
“We can’t take them all at the shelter. We’re always at capacity. We’re always on a waiting list.”
In an effort to deal with overcrowding, H.A.L.O. and the Humane Society are providing resources to some families enabling them to keep their pets instead of surrendering them.
Funding is raised, Petrone explained, through events such as H.A.L.O.ween and its upcoming Feb. 3 SpayGhetti No Balls event.
“It’s all for the animals. Any way we can help raise money,” said Shores Public Safety Dep. Chief Mark Shaw, watching as costumed people and pets enjoyed the Haunted House set up inside the firehouse, along with a host of other festive fall activities.
“We’ve fostered dogs in the past. All of them were adopted [many by staff], we did a calendar and are carrying on the tradition started by Chief (Rich) Rosell, a big supporter,” added Shaw.
“We need more of everything. Whatever you can give, we will take it,” said Petrone, stressing the need for adopters, fosters, volunteers, and donations, so that they can continue providing a haven for stray and displaced animals.