By Pauline Derry
What started off as a division of a local animal rescue has now turned into a powerful, stand-alone, nonprofit organization that assists with the pets of veterans, the homeless and at-risk residents of Hillsborough County.
The Community Pet Project started four years ago and has since helped over 4,000 loved pets by providing care such as food, treats, collars, leashes and medical assistance.
“It takes a community and a lot of support to pull off what we did. When we first started, it was never our intent to be where we are at today. COVID forced us into a position where we had to step up as a community and partner with rescues, shelters and law enforcement to come together as one and make a real difference,” said Rhonda Eldridge, founder and executive director of the Community Pet Project.
To continue helping veterans receive the treatment they need without worrying about their pets, the Community Pet Project is partnering with My Warrior’s Place in Ruskin, a retreat-type facility for retired and active-duty service members where they will be setting up kennels for five dogs to stay in for up to 90 days free of charge.
During the start of COVID-19, the project established a COVID relief program as a result of the large amount of pets that were being surrendered to shelters, the owners not knowing there were other options for their beloved pets.
This project allowed free, weekly deliveries of food and basic care items to anyone living in Hillsborough County if you were affected by COVID financially or medically.
The care doesn’t stop at just pet dogs and cats, however. During COVID, the nonprofit fed pet rats, gerbils, hamsters, parakeets, parrots, chickens and even a pot-bellied pig.
Every month, there are events held at local bars and restaurants, such as Two Shepherds Taproom in Tampa, Showbar in Ybor and Duke’s Brewhouse in Brandon. Fun activities such as bingo, trivia and raffles are held to raise money.
For more information or to see where an event is being held near you, visit www.communitypetproject.org, YouTube at ‘The Community Pet Project’ or @communitypetproject on Facebook or TikTok.