By Mike May
Wellington resident Siobhan Gallagher enjoys making a living as a real estate agent, but her true passion in life is helping animals, specifically rescue dogs.
Loving dogs and providing a home for them has been a lifelong passion for Gallagher since her childhood growing up in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
“We always had golden retrievers in my family,” Gallagher recalled.
Now, she is looking to connect with other like-minded people in Palm Beach County who share a similar passion for homeless dogs and cats.
Gallagher agreed with the sentiment that dogs are your best friend.
“Dogs are great,” she said. “They are always happy to see you, and they always wag their tail with excitement.”
For the last 18 months, Gallagher has been volunteering eight to 10 hours a week at Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control (ACC), which is located on Belvedere Road just west of the turnpike.
“I’m there every Monday and Thursday morning,” Gallagher said. “While there, I spend time with the dogs, take them for a walk, play ball with them, give them a bath and really just give them some attention.”
It was Gallagher’s love of a different animal that first brought her to Wellington. “My interest in horses is what brought me to Wellington,” Gallagher explained. “I have always ridden horses, managed barns and conducted training. I always had a horse to ride in my life.”
Now, she does not have a horse in her life. To fill that void, Gallagher is focusing on rescue dogs. ACC, meanwhile, has far too many dogs to find homes for — and Gallagher is there to lend a helping hand. She is on a mission to recruit more dog lovers.
According to Gallagher, there are more dogs living at ACC than they have kennels, and there are not enough volunteers to help look after the canine and feline residents.
“There are only 144 kennels at Animal Care & Control, and there are more than 250 dogs living there right now, which means many dogs are sharing a kennel,” Gallagher said. “It is a very stressful environment for the dogs.”
Gallagher added that being a volunteer is not a one-way street.
“You make great friends with people who have similar interests, and it’s a good networking opportunity,” she said.
What makes ACC different than other outlets for abandoned and homeless animals is that it must accept any dog or cat it receives, finds or discovers.
Currently, the supply of rescue dogs is greater than the demand for rescue dogs.
“At one point this past summer, Animal Care & Control was accepting an average of 12 new surrenders a day,” Gallagher said.
To that end, ACC needs more people like Gallagher who are willing to look after the animals on a regular basis. The shelter also needs more people to foster and adopt the animals, too, which will improve the living conditions for the ones left behind.
“There are some great dogs to adopt, but many get overlooked,” Gallagher said, noting that she is doing her part by fostering two dogs at the moment.
If anybody wants to adopt or foster a rescue dog or cat, the selection is diverse, and the price is right.
“Animal Care & Control has small dogs, big dogs, young dogs, older dogs and many types of dogs, such as huskies, German shepherds, poodles, bulldogs and others,” Gallagher said. “For a number of months, adoption fees have been waived, so there’s no cost to adopt. The animals will be spayed/neutered and vaccinated.”
If you want to foster a pet, the price is right, too.
“Fostering is free,” Gallagher added. “Animal Care & Control will provide all food and medical care for any animal that is fostered. You just have to welcome the animal into your home for a short stay.”
Another point that Gallagher emphasized is that ACC should not be labeled a “kill” shelter. In reality, it’s an open-admittance, temporary home that serves as a bridge between being homeless and finding a permanent home for a rescue.
“The only time that I am aware of an animal being euthanized is if there are severe behavior issues, a major illness such as cancer, or the quality of life for the animal is in decline,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher noted that ACC is receiving outside assistance, as it’s now working with the Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League on finding homes for rescue dogs.
“ACC has teamed up with Peggy Adams on a new program, where dogs from ACC go directly into Peggy Adams’ adoption program after a short-term foster,” Gallagher said. “It’s called Foster2Rescue.”
One of the biggest advocates of Gallagher’s volunteer efforts is Michela Green, the executive director of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, of which Gallagher is a member.
“Siobhan is a Wellington Chamber of Commerce member who participated in our Clear the Shelter campaign last year, and immediately became a volunteer at Palm Beach County Animal Care & Control,” Green said. “Now, she is the ‘rock star’ you often see fostering, facilitating Dogs Day Out, working adoption events and, of course, spending numerous hours at the shelter with the dogs. My goal is to show the community what Siobhan Gallagher is doing to, hopefully, recruit some new volunteers and reduce the stigma at the county shelter, so we may potentially get new adopters and foster families.”
If you want to join Gallagher as an ACC volunteer, visit https://discover.pbcgov.org/publicsafety/animalcare or call (561) 233-1200. Potential volunteers are also welcome to contact Gallagher at email@example.com or (561) 531-2763.