SPCA officials: We need more money for Middle Keys shelter

Tara Vickrey, director of operations at the Florida Keys SPCA shelter in Marathon, holds a male ferret brought in as a stray.
Tara Vickrey, director of operations at the Florida Keys SPCA shelter in Marathon, holds a male ferret brought in as a stray. Keynoter

What it costs to operate the Florida Keys SPCA shelter in Marathon is “gravely more” than what it’s running on, according to Executive Director Tammy Fox.

That’s why the SPCA is asking for a $150,000 increase from the county for its Middle Keys shelter, set for a vote at today’s County Commission meeting at the Marathon Government Center. In November 2015, the SPCA took over animal control in the Middle Keys from the Safe Harbor Animal Rescue of the Keys.

Since then, the nonprofit has been operating on a budget of $249,296.31 from the county. Of that, about $50,000 is spent on medical expenses for injured and sick animals and the total is not enough to cover increases in staff, animal cruelty and welfare investigations and longer animal stays, Fox said.

“When we took over the contract we didn’t have any data on what it would cost. Now, we know what the true expenses are,” Fox said.

Six full-time employees and 40 volunteers take care of strays, abused animals and pets dropped off at the Marathon shelter on Aviation Boulevard, she said. On average, there are 200 animals at the Middle Keys shelter daily ranging from dogs and cats to rabbits, birds, guinea pigs and hamsters to the occasional goat.

Tara Vickrey, director of operations in Marathon, said cats usually stay around 150 days while dogs typically stay about three months before being adopted. No animal is turned away and there is no time limit on the animal’s stay.

At the Lower Keys shelter on Stock Island, there are more animals, more employees and more volunteers.

The SPCA kicked off a capital campaign in 2013 and has since raised $7 million for a new 23,000-square-foot shelter on Stock Island. A move-in date is expected in spring 2018 for the 300 animals, 13 employees and 125 volunteers who will move from 5230 College Road to 5711 College Road.

The foundation is being laid and the tail-end of fundraising is complete, Fox said.

“We need the final $1 million so we can furnish the new shelter with kennels, medical equipment and all the other things that go in a shelter,” she said, adding the old building is unsafe and in poor condition.

The SPCA takes care of animal control from Key West to mile marker 70. From there north, the Upper Keys Animal Shelter is the animal control agency for the county.

Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219