A Few Minutes With … Sonya White
Sonya White discusses her plans for our four-legged friends in Leon CountyFor the Love of AnimalsSonya White Says Cooperation is the Key to Helping ‘Four-Leggeds’
Sonya White has loved animals since she was a young girl growing up on a Central Florida farm. Her passion carries on to this day and serves her well in her position as the executive director of the Leon County Humane Society (LCHS).
White, a Brooksville native and Florida State University grad, has experience with the position. Prior to her May 2007 appointment as executive director of LCHS, she headed up the Jacksonville Humane Society for eight years. In Jacksonville, White focused her efforts on fundraising projects, adoption programs and spay/neuter programs. She is taking a similar approach in Tallahassee.
“We’ll be writing more grants, expanding fundraising and working on education in public and private schools to increase awareness of responsible pet ownership and bite prevention,” said White. “I really just want to expand and strengthen the wonderful programs that have already been established.”
White’s specific duties include coordinating events such as the annual Fur Ball, the organization’s largest fundraising event of the year, and dog washes held every second Saturday from April through September. “[The events are] a great opportunity for volunteers to come out,” White said.
And the volunteers, White said, are the best part of the job. “There are so many wonderful volunteers in Tallahassee,” White said. “There’s a great community here for animals.”
Since the society opened in 1960, it has been a solid establishment, built mainly on the efforts of volunteers – it sees about 200 to 300 on a regular basis, who help with everything from cleaning cages to organizing fundraising events. “That’s what keeps the place functioning as well as it does,” White said.
The worst part of the job for White is seeing the large scale of abuse and neglect of animals. “My philosophy is that every animal deserves to be in a loving lifetime home,” White said.
To help create more loving lifetime homes, the membership-funded LCHS works in cooperation with other organizations in the area, including the Gadsden County Humane Society, Big Dog Rescue and the Tallahassee-Leon County Animal Services Center, the local government-funded shelter that houses as many as 400 animals at a time.
Many residents confuse LCHS and the animal shelter, thinking they are the same entity. While they share the common goals to promote animal well-being, reduce pet overpopulation and help homeless animals, their biggest difference is that LCHS is a no-kill agency, while the shelter must resort to euthanasia due to the sheer volume of pets they take in. White, however, sees the difference as a chance to work together.
“Our programs overlap and are complementary. It’s a partnership,” she said. “We work hard to promote our spay/neuter programs in order to help reduce the number of animals that end up in shelters.”
“People don’t need to look badly on shelters for euthanization,” said White. “The shelter is a valuable facility that provides a valuable service to this community. The problem will always come back to being a human problem until every pet owner realizes that animals are a lifetime commitment.”
During her tenure as executive director, White hopes to foster healthy, mutual respect between all of the animal organizations and to partner on as many projects as possible.
“I respect the differences between the groups but recognize that we all have the same goal, which is to help the four-leggeds as much as possible,” White said.
She wants also to continue creating the Humane Society’s positive image around its strong foster and adoption programs. At any given time, the society has 250 animals placed in foster homes waiting for adoption.
Not only is White heading up LCHS, she’s also a client: The avid animal lover has three dogs and a cat, a few of which she adopted from local humane societies.
Humane Society adoption booths also are held every first and third Saturday at PetSmart on Northeast Capital Circle from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. All proceeds raised from the dog washes are used to provide medical assistance for animals up for adoption.
You can make donations and volunteer at the Leon County Humane Society by calling (850) 224-9193 or visiting the offices at 413 Timberlane Road or the Web site, lchs.info.