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202 Forest Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204


The NY Cat & Dog Film Fest Comes to Jacksonville This Weekend!

Tracey Lukkarila



  • Saturday, August 31, 2019

  • 12:00 PM 2:00 PM

  • Sunray Cinema (map)

The NY Dog Film Festival™ is an annual celebration of the love between dogs and their people, through short films from around the world that inspire, educate and entertain, benefiting the Friends of Jacksonville Animals (FOJA).

Buy Dog Film Fest tickets:
Follow the Dog Film Fest on Facebook
See the Dog Film Fest lineup

[These films are free of physical or verbal abuse toward people or animals. The only tears you might shed would be tears of joy for happy endings. The programs are designed for adult audiences but can be enjoyed by all members of the family, including mature children.]


  • Sunday, September 1, 2019

  • 12:00 PM 2:00 PM

  • Sunray Cinema (map)

The NY Cat Film Festival™ is an annual celebration of the cats who share our lives, through short films from around the world that inspire, educate and entertain, benefiting The Friends of Jacksonville Animals (FOJA).

Buy Cat Film Fest tickets:
Follow the Cat Film Fest on Facebook
See the Cat Film Fest lineup

Adopt Zorro the Amazing Tripod!

Tracey Lukkarila


Meet Zorro the amazing tripod! This wonderful boy has stolen the hearts of us here at FOJA. Zorro has been in a loving foster home for many months recuperating with a leg injury that would not heal. He recently had his front leg amputated, but that's not stopping him from having fun! Zorro now thinks 4 paws are overrated and is getting along just great with 3!

  • 60 lbs, 5 years old

  • Crate trained

  • House trained

  • Plays fetch

  • Good leash manners

  • Won't chew or destroy your personal property

This baby boy is great at dog parks! He loves to play with other medium to large size dogs like himself. (Zorro prefers older children, and is not a big fan of cats.)

It's time for this very affectionate snuggle boy to go to his furever home! Schedule a meet and greet so you can fall in love with him like we all have!

Zorro is currently being fostered at Kamp Kritter Rescue. Please contact Allison Abbott at (904) 607-2438 to met Zorro!

Amazon Prime Day is July 15-16! Shop to Benefit FOJA!

Tracey Lukkarila

Did you know AmazonSmile donates to the charity of your choice when you shop? Same prices, same products you know and love on Amazon. Only difference is when you shop, Amazon donates up to 5% of the purchase price to charity.

And don’t worry! AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.


Get ready for Amazon Prime Days July 15-16. It’s like Black Friday but in July!

Set up FOJA as your charity now
so when you’re shopping those epic Prime Day deals,
you’ll help Jacksonville’s shelter animals too!

Here’s how:

1. Go to

2. Log in to your Amazon account.

3. You will be prompted to select a charity.

4. If FOJA doesn’t display, search Friends of Jacksonville Animals Inc.

5. Important! Be sure to select the right charity located in Jacksonville FL.

6. Every time to you shop, go to first so FOJA gets $$$!

Click here to learn more.

Shop at Winn-Dixie Chaffee Road to Benefit FOJA!

Tracey Lukkarila


Friends of Jacksonville Animals has been selected by as the benefiting non-profit in the Community Bag Program for the entire month of May!

Friends of Jacksonville Animals will receive a $1 donation every time a $2.50 reusable Community Bag is sold during the month of May at the store located at: 

Winn-Dixie 703 Chaffee Road, Jacksonville FL 



April is Heartworm Awareness Month!

Amy Samson

Each year, FOJA likes to remind everyone that April is Heartworm Awareness Month and of the importance of heartworm prevention. 

Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease in pets. It is caused by foot-long worms (heartworms) that live in the heart, lungs and blood vessels, causing severe lung disease, heart failure and damage to other organs in the body. Heartworm disease affects our pet dogs, cats and ferrets.

Our pets get heartworms from mosquitoes. Here in Florida, we have lots of mosquitoes which means our pets are in danger year-round. Once our pets are infected, treatment is costly and very difficult on the animal. FOJA urges everyone to give their pets heartworm preventive each and every month. If you can’t afford medicine for your pet, visit our resource page for options in the Jacksonville FL area.

30% of the dogs that enter the shelter system are heartworm positive.

FOJA provides life-saving medication so these shelter dogs can be treated in-house at the shelter or through an adopter assistance program with seven participating veterinary practices throughout the Jacksonville area.

FOJA’s mission is and will always be to do anything we can to get these infected dogs treated so they can move on to a healthy and happy life.  With wonderful supporters like you, we are able accomplish this.  As always, thank you to all of our very generous donors for being a part of Team FOJA!

When you donate to FOJA, you’re helping save the lives of these dogs!
To date, over
3,300 dogs have been treated thanks to your donations! 

Did you know…
A single dog can be infected with as many as 250 heartworms.
A heartworm can live up to seven years inside a dog.
A heartworm can live up to three years inside a cat.

Approximately 30% of the dogs that come through Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services each year are heartworm positive. Your donations allow us to provide treatment opportunities to shelter dogs making them healthy and more adoptable. Please help us continue our mission of treating heartworm positive shelter dogs and educating the public on this deadly, but preventable disease. Your donation saves lives!

Help FOJA buy new kennels for ACPS cats!

Tracey Lukkarila


Our city shelter, ACPS, was built 10 years ago. The cat kennels have housed literally tens of thousands of cats and they’re more than a little rundown! They are also out-of-date with current shelter management best practices. FOJA is running a campaign to buy new kennels that will reduce stress on the cats, better control the spread of disease, and create a nicer environment for adopters to visit the cats (and help us get more adoptions!)

One cat cage at ACPS door closed with twist-tie

One cat cage at ACPS door closed with twist-tie

Donate now and double your donation!

To house the 75+ cats the shelter typically has in adoptions, FOJA needs to raise $40,000. Until January 31st, a generous donor will match your donation $1 for $1. (Minimum $5 donation required.)

With your donation, you get a memorial pet tag stamped with the initials of your choosing to honor yourself, your pet, or a human you love. You also have the option of sending in your own pet tag. A local artist will use the tags to create a permanent art sculpture that will display in the shelter’s lobby.

Be part of the art! Donate today!

And help us spread the word!

Share this article on your social media!

Meet Varick! A FOJA Artist Series Designer!

Amy Samson

Check out Varick! Varick has created an illustration for the first collection of our FOJA Artist Series merchandise designs. Learn more about Varick and why he loves FOJA, then go buy a shirt or two, or three, or four! Shop Here!

If you've already ordered, shirt start shipping this week! Yay!

Varick and his pup Wicket, adopted from AC&PS!

Varick and his pup Wicket, adopted from AC&PS!

1. Name, title, and website:
Varick Rosete
Designer, Illustrator, Creative
2. Why do you want to help FOJA?
I love animals. The effect they can have on people is amazing. I like helping FOJA because I believe in their love for Jacksonville's animals — providing for them the best way that they can.

3. What are the name(s) of your pet(s)? 
Wicket… Lil' Miss Wicket.

4. Why do you feel what FOJA does is important? 
Because FOJA is an all-volunteer effort that helps with the City of Jacksonville's Animal Care and Protective Services. They provide their time and services to help with the city shelter by helping find new homes for the animals while also providing lots of care and love.

5. What are some of your favorite activities that involve your pets? 
I love getting Wicket hyper. You can tell when that happens, too, because she gets into this low-profile running stance with her butt really low to the ground but her head's up high and she's just going around you in circles super, super fast. That girl can cut on a dime. She loves the beach – loves people watching, dog watching and just straight chillin', checking out the whole scene…'til you get her in the water and she goes crazy-happy-hyper! She also loves riding in the car with the windows down and the wind in her flybacks. Other times, she really likes taking my seat on the couch. Actually, she loves doing that all of the time.

6. What inspired your design?
We've stewed around ideas with how cool rescues are, so why not do an illustration of a cool-looking rescue, somewhat playing on a hipster-feel. This first design was inspired by Wicket because she does have a knack for wearing cool shit so why not use her as a reference. 

7. Random story??
Random story? Only a few people know this but some like to say that I didn't pick Wicket, but she picked me. How? Lil Miss Wicket was just a wee, little pup, 1 of 3, when she was being fostered by my good friends Amy and Gil. We had a get-together at their house to just hang out and meet the pups. Wicket was the odd one out because she didn't look like a little Lab like the others, but seriously more like a little "Wicket the Ewok" from Star Wars. As the night moved on, I got to play with the little ewok, who was feverishly shaking from all of the excitement so I was trying to calm her down, which she was getting more relaxed. So relaxed, I would imagine, that she ended up pooping on me. And that's when everyone said she picked me...and it's been love ever since. True story.

Wicket when she was a baby. 

Wicket when she was a baby. 

Meet Lauren! A FOJA Artist Series Designer!

Amy Samson

Check out Lauren! Lauren has created an illustration for the first collection of our FOJA Artist Series merchandise designs. Learn more about Lauren and why she loves FOJA, then go buy a shirt or multiple shirts! Shop Here! 


1. Name, Title, Website
Lauren M Trump
Designer and Illustrator or

2. Why do you want to help FOJA?
Plain and simple, I love animals and it tears me apart to see them neglected, abused, or misunderstood.

3. What are the name(s) of your pet(s)? 
Technically both of my pets belong to my mother, but my bubba loves me best. His name is Dooley.

4. Why do you feel what FOJA does is important? 
FOJA steps up when people don't or can't. They volunteer their time and effort into helping find animals homes. Animals can't do that for themselves. FOJA is their voice and their advocate.

5. What are some of your favorite activities that involve your pets? 
Well, Dooley is extremely lazy. He snores constantly. I love taking pictures of him when he decides the leather furniture is the perfect place for him to sleep or videos of his outrageously loud snoring. In the summertime, he also loves playing in the water. Bulldogs don't swim well, so we let him play in the hose and sprinkler.

6. What inspired your design?
I love images of dogs. I have a ton of great friends with great dogs. They too post them. My illustrations are an ode to those great dogs!

Lauren's design for the FOJA Artist Series.

Lauren's design for the FOJA Artist Series.

7. Random story??
Dooley is a unique dog. He's pretty old now and tries really hard to cuddle even though he's too big and bumbly, and slobbery. He is also a snob. He eats fresh fish, potatoes, and green beans. He'd eat that way even if he didn't have food allergies and was allergic to 99% of dog foods. He likes to jump on the leather furniture, even if you stare right at him. He'd do it anyway, even if you had the thickest carpet in your house or brand new dog beds. He knows what he likes, what can I say?


Happy Fourth Of July from FOJA!

Amy Samson

As we celebrate the 233rd Birthday of our nation this 4th of July, The Friends of Jacksonville Animals wants to remind all our Furry Guardians here in Jacksonville Florida that the “Here Comes the BOOM” is not dog or cat friendly. Our furry friends hearing is so much more acute than ours; so in basic terms, our little boom is a very loud boom for them. A few things happen when the repetitive boom of fireworks starts; 

1. Run away from the noise, fight or flight instinct takes over

2. Bark and chase the noise, protective fight of the fight or flight

The 5th of July is documented as one of the most intake days for strays nationwide. This is due to the runners and chasers of fireworks, and all things loud. So we ask  you Jacksonville, to calm, control and keep your furry family members away from the BOOM and loud celebrations this 4th of July. Keep them inside when festivities start. Kenneled securely outside if that’s their home too. Understand that noise really hurts their ears; and triggers instincts. Some Furry Guardians even get bit out of fear when trying to contain an animal that is reactive to the fanfare. So be safe! Contain your furry family members before the festivities start. The Friends of Jacksonville Animals want you to have a Safe and Wonderful 4th of July; 233 years is a very young Nation and worth celebrating. Just Keep the Furry ones inside, contained, safe and calm. Here are a few links from our Grantors and others to help you!


Happy Birthday America and Thank You Supporters & Members of Friends of Jacksonville Animals, have a safe and wonderful Holiday!

Supporter Spotlight: Sara Dougherty

Amy Samson

Name: Sara Dougherty

Occupation: Marketing and Product Development Consultant at Clearworks

Type of Support provided to FOJA: Fostering kittens and also fund-raising as part of running a half-marathon

Please tell us how you came to get involved with FOJA and why: I became involved with supporting ACPS and FOJA after being encouraged to do so by a few of my friends (Cathleen Murphy, Amy Ploss-Samson and Gil Samson) who were volunteering with the foster program. They knew I was an animal lover and I work from home so fostering was a good fit for me. It is hard to believe that it has been almost two years since I started volunteering!

How have you been able to provide support to FOJA? I have been fostering for almost two years. However, I recently decided to run a half-marathon to support FOJA. Which, by the way, is a little nuts since I was not a runner when I made that decision. I wanted to use the race and my training for it as an opportunity to raise money for FOJA. I decided to create a fundraising page for my race through a website called Crowdrise. It was really easy to do, since FOJA is one of the charities that you can choose to fundraise for on the site. By using Crowdrise you can turn any event or race into a way to raise money for FOJA. After getting my fundraising page all set up, I sent the link out to all of my friends and family as well as posting it on Facebook. So far I have raised over $1,000 of the $1,500 goal I set for myself. That money will go to support the FOJA Heart Care Program and the Kitten Foster Care Program. I am also happy to report that as a result of some serious training I am already up to running 11 miles. I am on my way to meeting both my fundraising goal and my running goal!

Do you have animals yourself? If so, what kind and what are their names? I have a dog and a cat. Both are rescues. Myles is a 100+ pounds sweetheart of a brown mutt and Ms. Kitty is a tortie cat with a feisty attitude. What would you say to someone looking to get involved with FOJA? FOJA does great work and supporting them and ACPS is easy. I know fostering animals might not be for everyone but it is important to remember that there are lots of other ways to help too. I know of people who have done drives at work to collect items that are needed at the shelter. Or you could run a 5K or other race and set up a Crowdrise fundraising page like I did to help fund the programs that save animals at the shelter.

What is your favorite quote/saying about pets or your pet specifically? I am not sure that I have a favorite quote or saying about pets… I have just always been an animal lover. They bring joy into my life. If I can save a furry friend so that they can bring joy into someone else’s life then I believe that puts a little more light out into this world. Which is a beautiful thing.

Do you have a company website, FB page, Twitter? If so, please list that information so that we can support your company as you have supported us! My company website is: My fundraising page is:

Thank you, Sara, for being an awesome FOJA supporter! 

Audrey Hepburn, Meet Greta Garbo

Amy Samson

By Katherine H.

My husband, Bryant, and I had been talking about adopting a second dog for what seemed like ages. We knew it was the right decision but it never seemed to be the right time. 

Admittedly, we were a little nervous. We adopted our first dog Audrey Hepburn, from Animal Care & Protective Services (ACPS) back in the spring of 2009. Audrey, a now six-year-old American Foxhound Mix reveled in the undivided attention of being our only child. Over time though it became clear, Audrey needed a companion. 

But then we were in the middle of buying our first home. 

And then, we were in the middle of renovating our new home.

And then we hosting out of town friends, or we were sick, or… Like I said, it never was the right time.

Finally at the urging of some of our FOJA friends, we threw caution to the wind, and on a whim, went to Animal Care & Protective Services one Saturday afternoon. I hadn’t made it half way through the first kennel when from the far end, I heard my husband: “Come see this one!” I knew from the inflection in Bryant’s voice, that this one, named Yo-Yo, had won his heart. Her personality seemed to be a match: playful yet meek. It was time to bring home Audrey’s little sister.

We braced ourselves for the adjustment. How would Audrey react? What would she do? The ACPS staff member who helped us with the paper work also helped us with a plan: the very first thing to do was to bring Audrey outside, let her take the lead, and walk both Audrey and Yo-Yo around the neighborhood. This approach would provide a neutral setting and a gentle introduction. Plus, it would allow Audrey to establish the role of alpha dog in our new little pack.

Armed with this piece of advice, we brought Yo-Yo home. I held my breath and we did exactly as instructed. We walked both dogs through the neighborhood and around the park before heading back to the house and letting them off-leash in the backyard. At this moment, Yo-Yo, a Boxer-Labrador mix, reared up into the traditional boxer play-pose. Audrey looked at us as if to say, “Guys, what the heck is this?” then to our delight, responded in kind. An hour later, we were scrubbing down two very dirty, muddy, happy dogs. One day later, we settled on a new name for our little starlet: Greta Garbo.

And so we’ve gone from there, reinforcing Audrey’s role as alpha dog along the way, while making it clear that her new sister was here to stay. It’s not to say that there haven’t been scuffles along the way, but one month later, Audrey and Greta are doing a great job sharing the spotlight.

An Evening With Cesar Millan

Amy Samson

Tina with FOJA Vice President of Programs, Becky Hamilton and Cesar Milan

Before he even steps on the stage, we learn a little about his history through video clips of where he came from and interviews with his parents. Cesar Millan was born in rural Mexico and grew up in a  house with no running water or electricity. He spent most of his time on his grandfather’s farm where he observed the many dogs that lived there. When he was a teenager, the family purchased their first TV set. After watching “Lassie” and “The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin “, he dreamed about one day moving to California to become the world’s best dog trainer.
In December 1990 at the age of 21, Millan, who spoke no English, crossed the border into California and began living on the streets of San Diego. After a month, he landed a job grooming dogs, soon gaining a reputation for his calming effect on even the most difficult dogs. With a few dollars in his pocket, he moved north to Los Angeles and took a job washing cars.
During this time, Millan was surprised by how disconnected Americans seemed to be from nature and the world around them and the troubled dogs that we owned. It was at this time that he began to redirect his dream to becoming a “rehabilitator of dogs” and a “trainer of humans”. With the money he had saved, he started a freelance dog rehabilitation service, primarily offering his expertise with extreme cases. His client list quickly expanded as he was recommended around town. He came to the attention of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith in 1994 who referred him out to other celebrities. Millan was then inspired to upgrade his business and broaden his exposure in the community, which then led to the first Dog Psychology Center, a two-acre facility in South Los Angeles, designed to rehabilitate troubled, aggressive, and condemned dogs. The center, which housed a pack of thirty to forty “un-adoptable” and abandoned dogs, was moved to Santa Clarita Valley to allow for expansion and modernization. The new facility now includes a sheep herding area, swimming pool, obstacle course, and hiking trails on over 43 acres.
An empire was formed in 2002, when MPH Entertainment and Emery/Sumner Production contacted Millan after seeing a profile of him in the Los Angeles Times. Soon a TV series is born.
Cesar Millan steps onto the stage to applause and is soon followed by his famous Pit Bull, Junior. It is said that people should not work with kids or animals. Cesar  may be a master, but he was still upstaged by Junior. Junior comes out, finds a spot on the stage,  rolls over on his back and starts wiggling his butt. I, like many, wanted to go give him a belly rub. I know he would have been very happy if we all did that. He continued to insinuate himself onto center stage several times.

The show and laughter begins when Cesar starts impersonating all the ways we send mixed messages to our dogs. Whether greeting strange dogs with over-excitement, bringing on separation anxiety when we leave the house, or causing our dogs to be hyper and over-excited, we laughed but I think we saw a lot of ourselves in the way he acted.

He soon brings out a few dogs that have issues and the humans that may be causing them. Earlier in the day he spent time with them to assess their problems or issues. First out is Jaime with her dog Magnum. Magnum has a problem walking on a leash. Like a lot of dogs he is constantly pulling. Jaime has tried everything, including a double leash that is supposed to be designed specifically for this problem. Nothing works until Cesar gets ahold of the dog. Jaime is shown how to hold the collar higher up on the neck to get Magnum’s attention and to prevent the dog from choking. She is also shown how to walk with shoulders back confidently and not pay attention to the dog. Soon she masters the walk with Magnum.

Next out is Becky with Tina. Tina was confiscated in a cruelty case.  She was living on the end of a chain. There were other dogs there, as well, all living in muddy conditions with no food, water or shelter. They could see each other, but could not reach each other to play.  Because of this Tina does not know how to act around other dogs or people.  Becky is shown how to introduce Tina to other dogs and how to make her more comfortable with them. Junior is used in this demonstration.  Junior noticed the nervousness in Tina and reacted to that nervousness but was quickly corrected by Cesar. Soon they were both greeting each other and interacting like dogs should.

Overall, the evening was a huge success, and I think those of us that were there learned a lot from “The Dog Whisperer”. Please visit Animal Care and Protective Services for more information on Tina. She is a great dog that needs a loving second chance at life. And after all, how many people can say they have a dog that had a training session with Cesar Millan?! If you adopt Tina, YOU can!

Tina is still available for adoption. Contact ACPS for more information.

A Day in the Life of an Animal Control Officer

Amy Samson

The day starts at 7:30 am. As soon as I arrive at the city shelter, Animal Care & Protective Services (ACPS), I’m met by several of the officers waiting to start the day. There are nine active field officers and two trainees, each patrolling an area of about ninety square miles. Everyone checks the computer to see what calls have come in overnight. These can be anything from dogs roaming at large, aggressive animals, cruelty calls and dead animals. Each officer has an assigned area, but will go where needed. 

First, I am allowed to sit in on an oral test for a trainee. Three officers are involved in the test.  Each officer brings up a scenario that the trainee will probably come in contact with. The trainee is able to cite the ordinances involved and whether an officer is allowed to rescue dogs or cats under these circumstances. Although this particular trainee was an officer in another state, she must go through the same training as a new officer before she is allowed alone on the street.  

I spend the next one-and-a-half hours watching an officer prepare a cruelty case. He gets all the information together to take to the General Counsel’s office, who handles these cases. The information includes the animals kennel card, pictures, doctor’s evaluation and all citations to the owner. The kennel card is the information that the officer supplies when the animal is brought in to the intake room at ACPS, such as type of animal, sex, size and other information.

After we drop off the information to the General Counsel’s office, we go on our first call. The call is for a mother dog and her puppies living under someone’s house. We are going to meet up with two other officers to help on this case. I’m told that generally, each officer brings in about 12 animals a day. If the animal has an owner and that owner surrenders custody, it becomes the property of ACPS. The animal will then be assessed to determine the next step. If an animal comes in as a stray, there is a six day holding period to give the owner a chance to reclaim their pet.

On the way to the call site address, we come across another mother dog and puppy in the street. The officer stops to check on them. We end up taking the puppy, which appears to be sick. We leave the mother dog because a neighbor comes out and tells the officer that he knows the owner and will take care of the dog until the owner comes home.

When arrive at the call site, we find the mother dog under the rear portion of the house, with a four to five inch opening to get to her and her puppies. One of the officers shines a flashlight on the mother, and she doesn’t look good. She looks weak and just closes her eyes. She doesn’t show any aggression, but she isn’t friendly either. The officers decide to bring the mother out first, then the puppies. They start digging a little hole to get the mother dog through. I’m not somebody that can just observe, so whether I was supposed to or not, I got on my hands and knees and started moving dirt away with my hands. After we got the mother dog out, we started trying to get the puppies out.  There wasn’t much room, but since I was the smallest, I just dove in. I lied on my back and reached my arm under the house to get to the puppies. I couldn’t see anything, and we didn’t know how many puppies were under there. I finally got my hand on a little brown and white puppy. I passed it to one of the officers to put in a carrier. I felt like a hero. It was an amazing feeling. The other puppies were beyond my reach. One of the officers brought a shovel to enlarge the hole so they could reach the remaining puppies. Two more puppies were brought out. Unfortunately, there were others that did not make it. But I believe one nursing mother dog and three puppies is a good save.

On the way back to ACPS, we see a dead possum in the road. The officer stops the vehicle and collects the animal so it can be properly disposed of at the shelter. Once back at the shelter, the officer has to put the information on each of the collected dogs into ACPS’ computer database. Each animal that is brought in gets their flea medicine, dewormer and bordetella administered by the officers before taken to a kennel. The mother dog is brought in first. She is a very sweet and beautiful black dog. She is put in a kennel where she can be watched by veterinary technicians.  She is given a small plastic kiddie pool and a blanket to get comfortable in before her puppies are brought in. The puppies are soon reunited with their mother in the kennel. They start nursing right away. I’m told that they will go into foster care the next day to get healthy. 

Later, I’m told that we will go back out in the field to check on known “dumping sites”. Some people won’t bring their animals to the shelter because there is a $25 fee to surrender the animal, so they dump them somewhere. The officers have developed a rapport with businesses and homeowners around these “dumping sites” to notify the officers if they see any animals that have been dumped. Fortunately, we did not see any animals.

At the end of the day, I thanked the officers for allowing me to join them and for everything that they do. I had an amazing and eye-opening day with them. They are all heroes to the dogs and cats that they save every day. Whether a cruelty case or a scared stray on the streets, these animals know that they are being rescued. I was also able to meet my personal hero. He is the officer that saved a very special Pit Bull that was so emaciated and weak that he had to be carried to the officer’s vehicle. This special dog is now a part of my family. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough for some of these rescues. These officers have to walk a fine line to save these animals. They don’t want to take animals away from their owners unless absolutely necessary. The officers will educate the owners and give them options if they have problems feeding their pets or taking them to the vet.

Remember, these officers are here to protect the animals. They are not “dog catchers”. They do so much more. They go in to dangerous situations on a weekly basis, if not daily. If you see something, say something. Report any animal abuse, strays or any other problem that you see.  You can be a hero, too. These animals need us.

-Lisa G.

Plants vs. Pets: Many Household Plants Can Be Deadly to our Four-legged Friends

Amy Samson

Last week when I was at Publix, I noticed they had really pretty peace lilies on sale.  I bought one and brought it home to prettily reside on my counter.When I got home from work on Tuesday, one of my cats was really sick. Her face was swollen and eyes gunky—the poor girl was miserable. I called the vet and asked if I could give her Benadryl until I could get her in to see them—I thought it was a cold my cats have been passing around. The Benadryl seemed to help a little bit and today, even on Benadryl, her eyes are still gunky. 

This evening when I was walking by the counter, I looked at the beautiful lily and had a feeling that I needed to check toxicity on it—just a hunch.  Guess what? Toxic. I started reading more on what plants, both indoor and outdoor, are toxic to cats and dogs and was very surprised at what I found. I have two azalea bushes in my backyard that are being dug out tomorrow afternoon. How many of you have azalea bushes/plants in your yard? The whole plant, even the pollen, is toxic to animals. 

The Bookholt family recently experienced the devastating loss of their 9 month old puppy, Seven (pictured above), due to plant toxicity. While the family was on a short vacation for the Easter holiday, Seven ate some red berries/seeds from a Sago palm in their backyard. Their friend, who was watching the Bookholt’s three dogs, called them and told them what happened. After about an hour, Seven started throwing up, which the family thought was a good thing.  When they arrived home the next day, though, they were greeted by a Seven that wasn’t himself: he was moving slowly and looking sick. The Bookholt’s Googled sago palms and learned that sago seeds are very toxic to animals—and humans. Sadly, with Sago seeds, the damage is done quickly and the treatment window is very small. Sago seeds attack internal organs, starting with the liver, which makes for a lengthy and painful deterioration. After three days of treatment, monitoring, and watching Seven suffer, the Bookholt family made the unselfish but heart-wrenching decision to alleviate Seven’s suffering and mercifully helped him cross the Rainbow Bridge. 


Unfortunately, the damage was done quickly, and Seven was unable to survive her encounter with a toxic plant.

Sago and Coontie palms are all over in Florida, in private yards and even at businesses. Again, I ask: what’s in YOUR yard? Do you even know what’s planted? When you go plant shopping, do research to see what is toxic to animals? I didn’t—until now. I ask you to please do the same. I hope I won’t be the only one digging up plants in my backyard or taking indoor plants to work.

10 Most Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs AND Cats (Courtesy of Earth Clinic):

Marijuana - Animals who attempt to snack on this plant can suffer serious consequences such as diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, drooling, in-coordination, and even possibly seizures and coma.

Sago Palm - While the seeds and nuts of this plant are most poisonous, the entire plant is toxic. Animals ingesting parts of this plant may suffer from diarrhea, vomiting, depression, seizures and liver failure.

Lilies - Plants of the lily variety are very poisonous to cats. Even very small amounts of this plant could cause serious kidney damage.

Tulips - The toxic portion of this plant is the actual bulb, which can cause drooling, central nervous system depression, gastrointestinal irritation, cardiac issues and convulsions.

Azalea - The toxins in azalea plants can be very severe and potentially cause drooling, diarrhea, vomiting, central nervous system weakening and depression, and in some cases possibly coma or death.
Oleander - All portions of this plant are poisonous and can cause gastrointestinal irritation, hypothermia, heart problems and possibly death.

Castor Bean - Poisoning as a result of this plant can cause abdominal pain, drooling, diarrhea, vomiting increased thirst, loss of appetite and weakness. More serious cases could also lead to dehydration, tremors, seizures, twitching muscles, coma and possibly death.

Cyclamen - The most poisonous portion of this plant is located in the root. Ingestion of the plant can cause severe vomiting and gastrointestinal irritation. In some cases death has been reported as a result.

Kalanchoe - Ingestion of this plant can cause gastrointestinal irritation and cardiac rhythm and rate problems.

Yew - Poisoning as a result of the yew plant can affect the nervous system and cause in-coordination, trembling and breathing difficulties. It may also result in gastrointestinal irritation, cardiac failure and could possibly lead to death.

There are many other well-known and common plants that can be poisonous or toxic to pets, including the following: 

Apple - The seeds of an apple can be poisonous to pets.

Daffodil - Is a garden flower whose bulbs are poisonous.

Morning Glory - Is a wildflower containing poisonous seeds and roots.

Poinsettia - Is a houseplant with poisonous leaves, flowers and stems.

Rhododendron - Is an ornamental shrub whose leaves are poisonous.

Rhubarb - A garden plant with poisonous leaves.

NOTE: If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned, contact the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. This is 24 hour a day hotline.

ACPS : Not Your Average Animal Shelter

Amy Samson

“One way ticket to nowhere”.

“Killing factory”.


“And end, not a beginning”. 

When I asked my friends to tell me what comes to mind when they’re asked about local animal shelters, these are some of the responses. For decades, those descriptions were very close to the truth. However, our shelter, Duval County Animal Care and Protective Services, is working hard at changing those images and is, in large part, succeeding. Granted, ACPS isn’t changing perceptions on its own—it has MANY partners working in tandem (First Coast No More Homeless Pets, Jacksonville Humane Society, Friends of Jacksonville Animals, the many rescue groups and foster parents, etc). But, it sure is holding its own. 

The current “shelter” location, opened in August 2009, breaks the mold of dark, scary, dingy, smelly, depressing shelters. The building/compound is bright with natural sunlight, open, colorful, and oddly enough, isn’t depressing. In fact, it’s not even called a shelter. The new name signifies exactly what its mission is: Animal Care and Protective Services. Each and every animal that enters the building is treated with concern and dignity—and most of them that come in (through intake) now leave alive. Every month, the numbers are improving. Last month, over 90% of the animals that came into the “shelter” left the doors alive—that’s a HUGE feat! Those few who were euthanized were due to severe behavioral or medical issues—or were so badly abused/neglected that putting the animal out of its misery was the humane thing to do. Compare this to the numbers five years ago: in 2007, of the 23,000 animals brought into the shelter, 19,400 were euthanized. When I heard those numbers my heart broke. Last year, THANKFULLY, of the 19,000 animals brought in, only 4,000 were euthanized. Everything that can possibly be done to find each animal a “furever” home is done—believe me. And it’s done on a shoestring budget. 

In the past 2 years, our Animal Care and Protective Services has lost $2 million of a $5 million budget. They’ve lost 22 of 62 employees. Most companies, if they encounter those odds, would fold. But not OUR Animal Care and Protective Services. The dedicated people working there are spread incredibly thin, are overworked and underpaid, but wow—they sure are incredible people who truly care about each and every animal that come through the door. As one of my friends replied when I asked them about their perceptions of shelters, “the new digs has helped its reputation, AND the good people working there.” Ain’t that the truth?! 

So, the next time someone asks you about our shelter, tell them it’s AMAZING! That it’s not the depressing, ominous place that people may think it is—with OUR help, Animal Care and Protective Services can continue on the path to our county’s/area’s goal: NO Kill. Let’s get to work!

- Alli

Animal Care & Protective Services is located at 2020 Forest Street in the Riverside Area of Jacksonville, Florida.

Long-Timers in Danger

Amy Samson


This is an urgent plea. As of this morning, there are a total of 15 dogs that have been at Animal Care & Protective Services since December of 2012. These dogs have until the end of the day Saturday, March 9th, to either be adopted or placed in foster care. If they are not placed, the shelter will unfortunately have to do what it hasn’t done in over a year: euthanize for space. It’s terrible, I know. But it is also reality. There is a finite amount of space in any city shelter. Ours has been at capacity for some time now. 

So this is a legitimate cry for help. For those among us that do not have a voice of their own or even the awareness to realize their dire situation. “Help”. I think all of us at FOJA have come to grips with the sobering fact that it’s impossible to save every single dog and cat in Jacksonville. But I believe we can save these 15. With your help.

So please….

Share their story. With everyone you know. Give them a voice. 

Foster. Take one of these animals out of the shelter for a few weeks and help us find them a forever home in the mean time. You’ll be giving these animals two things they desperately need. Love and time.

Adopt. You may not be ready to take on a pet right now. But if and when that time comes, please consider saving the life of one of the animals at the shelter. Don’t buy into the misinformation and stereotypes associated with shelter pets. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. We really appreciate it. And I know the animals appreciate it too. 

Here is a list of the dogs in danger, along with their ID numbers. Click HERE to see the full list of adoptable dogs, along with pictures of all of them. 



The "Bully" That Changed My Life Forever

Amy Samson

He came in to my life on November 26, 2011 and changed it forever.

I had been fostering for Animal Care and Protective Services (ACPS) for several months, fostering many dogs from a Chihuahua to a Pit Bull. One dog had an embedded collar, and all were very thin and in need of socialization with people and other dogs. I saw a picture of a dog that needed help on November 21st. He was picked up by ACPS from an abusive situation. He was living on the end of a thick chain, covered in his own urine and feces, flies and fleas. There was no food or water. He was literally skin and bones. Ironically his name was Handsome. He did have companionship though.  A small puppy was there with him.

When the officer arrived he gave them food. Although he was starving, the older dog allowed the puppy to eat all the food. He wanted human contact more than he wanted food.. He just wanted the officer to pet him. Once he got to the shelter he was checked over by the vet. He wanted attention from everyone, and he got it. He gave out kisses to everyone that gave him attention. He weighed less than 34 pounds. Less than half of what a full grown Pit Bull should weigh. Yes, this sweet, unselfish, loving dog was a “mean and aggressive” Pit Bull.

I picked him up on Saturday. He had already started to gain weight since he was being fed regularly. As I took him out of the shelter, I knew he was a strong dog. He was pulling on the leash to go to his next adventure. I loaded him into the back of my SUV and headed home. As I’m driving, he decides he does not want to stay in the back. He jumps into the back seat and then starts moving into the front seat. I’m trying to keep him away from the gear shift and out of my lap as I’m driving down the highway. I manage to get him in to the passenger seat, but he’s still not happy. I finally get him to lay down on the passenger seat with his head across the center divider touching my leg. Then he was calm and happy. All he wanted was to see me and touch me. This was my first sign of what an amazing dog he was.

When we get home, it’s time for the introduction to the three resident dogs in the house. Introductions are very important. You never know how the new abused dog will react or how your own dogs will react to a strange dog in their house. I start with my passive male lab/rottie mix, Logan. He loves every dog and proves to love Handsome as well. I now bring in my very picky female lab mix, Shylah. She doesn’t love him as much, but she does tolerate him. Now I bring in my female boxer/ lab mix, Lucy. She is the alpha mama dog. She greets him well but is a little standoffish. She is now the mama dog that must teach the new dog how to behave in the house. I always find it interesting to watch the signals between the dogs as they get to know each other. Handsome is very submissive and learns from his new friends.

Handsome is happy to get a nice bath and food in his belly. I feed him twice a day to help him gain weight. He is fed in the bathroom to keep him separate from the other dogs, in case of food aggression. I also feel that he needs quiet time and time to enjoy food again. After a couple of days I test him for food aggression. He does not care when I try to take his food away from him or when the dogs come in to the bathroom to lick his bowl after he is done. 

After a few days in the new house, he is now part of the family. He plays well with everyone and Lucy is acting like the perfect mama. She is taking care of her boy. She cleans his ears and teeth and watches over him as he learns house manners. I try to think of a new strong name for him. I go through all the usual Pit Bull names like Diesel, Tank and others. But nothing seems to fit. One day, I was looking at him and came up with the name Vinnie. I don’t like it. He needs something strong and tough. Vinnie keeps popping into my head and I can’t get rid of it. I start researching the name to see what it means. I found out that it means Conqueror and Victor. I thought it was very fitting for a dog that had survived what he had. So he became “Vinnie”.

I soon realized I was in trouble. Through the weeks of rehabilitation for skin issues as well as helping him gain weight, I was becoming attached to Vinnie. Was he going to be a foster failure? I knew that if I adopted him I couldn’t foster anymore. Four dogs was enough. When I started thinking about somebody adopting him, I wanted to do a home visit, background check and probably take some blood to make sure that they were good enough for him. I realized that nobody was good enough for him. I wasn’t good enough, but I knew I would fight for him and his breed with everything I had. And that was the best I could do. 

After a few setbacks with health issues, I took him in for neutering and heartworm treatment on January 23, 2012. He became an official member of the family January 24th when I adopted him. Needless to say, he was not feeling good. He was in pain and groggy from the surgery and heartworm treatment. I made a soft bed on the floor for him and he came in the house and just laid down on the bed. Soon Lucy came over and laid down next to him on the bed and placed her head on his side. She was taking care of her sick boy. Ironically, Lucy was a foster failure, too. As with Vinnie, it was meant to be. She has been very helpful in teaching and helping all the fosters I brought home.

- Lucy comforting Vinnie after his surgery

Since I have brought Vinnie into my home, I have become a vocal Pit Bull advocate. If you don’t like Pit Bulls, meet Vinnie and you will immediately change your mind. He is the most loving dog that I have ever had. Of all the dogs that have passed through my house, Vinnie has shown more love for all people and dogs that he comes in contact with than any other. He is always ready to give kisses, cuddle in your lap or play. All he asks in return is a belly rub now and then. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone being prejudiced against a dog they have never met. Just like every human being, every dog on the planet is an individual. They shouldn’t be stereotyped. You can’t judge all dogs by the actions of one. If I had done that, I would never have known one of the greatest loves I have ever experienced. Vinnie is now like my child, and I love him unconditionally. If you ever get to meet him, I am sure that you will love him, too.

-Lisa G.

Amy Samson

Peanut, Peanut Butter and Puppies… 
  Animal Care & Protective Services is adopting a new kennel enrichment program and protocol at both ACPS and MAC.  This program will be modeled after the “Open Paw Shelter Program” developed by Kelly Gorman (certified behavior counselor) with input from Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian and renowned animal behaviorist.        The program has minimum mental health requirements for shelter canines.  The primary requirement under this category is environmental enrichment or occupational therapy.  This calls for all dogs to be hand fed each day, with a portion of the food being placed in a Kong.  The Kong is lined with honey, then peanut butter is inserted in the bottom, the Kong is then filled with damp kibble and topped off with another layer of peanut butter.        We have a bee keeper that has agreed to donate honey.  We already have the kibble (which is damp dog food).  We need donations of creamy peanut butter to complete the Kongs.  
  Donations can be dropped off at ACPS, The Mandarin Adoption Center, or by contacting a  FOJA member ! 

Peanut, Peanut Butter and Puppies…

Animal Care & Protective Services is adopting a new kennel enrichment program and protocol at both ACPS and MAC.  This program will be modeled after the “Open Paw Shelter Program” developed by Kelly Gorman (certified behavior counselor) with input from Dr. Ian Dunbar, veterinarian and renowned animal behaviorist.

The program has minimum mental health requirements for shelter canines.  The primary requirement under this category is environmental enrichment or occupational therapy.  This calls for all dogs to be hand fed each day, with a portion of the food being placed in a Kong.  The Kong is lined with honey, then peanut butter is inserted in the bottom, the Kong is then filled with damp kibble and topped off with another layer of peanut butter.

We have a bee keeper that has agreed to donate honey.  We already have the kibble (which is damp dog food).  We need donations of creamy peanut butter to complete the Kongs.

Donations can be dropped off at ACPS, The Mandarin Adoption Center, or by contacting a FOJA member