Need to find your pet a new home? Business finds matches -- -- OrlandoSentinel.comAmy C. Rippel | Special to the Sentinel
May 29, 2008
When Ernie Walker realized he had to give up his dog Java, it was a difficult decision. Life changes, including a divorce, forced him to find a new home for the year-old chocolate Labrador retriever.
But Walker didn't want the pup going just anywhere. It needed to be a special home.
That's where Lovin' Pet Home Finders came in.
Within a few days, the pet-adoption agency in Winter Park had Java placed in a Kissimmee home. The company, started by Garvin Mark, specializes in pairing pets with adoptive owners. Its Web site says it helps "throughout the entire USA."
"I know the Humane Society is free, but I just like the idea of knowing my pet is all set," said Walker, who lives in the Baldwin Park neighborhood of Orlando.
It all started about three years ago, when Mark was in a similar situation with his own dog, Murphy. Mark, 40, had just married and was traveling more for his management-consulting job.
"I knew in my heart of hearts that I couldn't take him to a shelter," he said. "You just have to hope and pray that your pet goes to a good family."
He was lucky enough to find the right family for Murphy, but that experience was an eye-opener for Mark, who lives in Lake Mary. He started his pet-placement business two years ago.
Mark said pet owners use his placement service when they can no longer find the time in their lives for their pets, whether because of a job change, a baby or other circumstances.
He said many pet owners don't want to send their pets to shelters such as Orange County Animal Services' because there's uncertainty about whether the pet will be adopted.
Vanessa Bouffard, spokeswoman for Orange County Animal Services, said the average stay for a dog at the county shelter is 14 days and for a cat, about seven days. But some adoptable animals may stay for months, she said.
"When all else fails, some adoptable animals are humanely euthanized. This is the sad reality of pet overpopulation and lack of spaying and neutering by pet owners," she said.
She added that the county has a long list of pet-rescue agencies it works with daily. These agencies are registered with the county and are required to have inspections, among other things. She said consumers should be cautious when using private pet-placement agencies and understand the responsibilities of pet ownership.
"It's just like with any other business -- it's good to do your homework," she said. "People don't have to be leery. Just know what you're getting into."
Mark said Lovin' Pet Home Finders is not a pet rescue but rather a way for pet owners to get matched with caring new owners. The company is not registered with Orange County Animal Services because it deals only with pets that are already in loving homes, Mark said.
"Rescues usually deal with saving the lives of homeless and abandoned pets," he said. "We are different and did not want to be another rescue. There are [thousands] of rescues. We wanted to create our own niche."
For placement through Lovin' Pet Home Finders, people who have dogs or cats they want to be adopted must fill out an application about the animal's traits, health and habits. Prospective owners also fill out applications and answer questions about where the pet will live and their habits.
Mark said he searches his resources to find a match, including his waiting list for potential adoptive owners. He also advertises in online classifieds, among other places. The owner and prospective owner then meet. The company, which Mark said places most pets within seven days, charges both owner and prospective adopter a fee: $90 for both the owner and adopter of a dog, and $90 for the owner of a cat and $50 for the adopter.
Kyle Hawk of Windermere said he was skeptical at first when he found the company after an Internet search. But he needed to find a new home for his cat, Belle. The 3-year-old feline was not getting along with the dog in Hawk's home.
Belle's new owner traveled from Fort Myers to pick her up.
"I didn't want her to be caged and maybe mishandled," Hawk said of Belle. "It was just the perfect fit."