Jean Bomonti and a kitten named “Peter” snuggle at the shelter.
PINELLAS PARK – Friends of Strays has found homes for thousands of cats and dogs over the years.
The no-kill animal shelter is still matching furry critters with caring humans.
It was 27 years ago when Jean Bomonti and three others launched the organization that today runs two facilities.
One is a gift shop/shelter at U.S. 19 and Gandy Boulevard and the other is a temporary shelter at 2911 47th St. in St. Petersburg.
Bomonti is a former World War II Marine who taught troops how to fire machine guns. An Ohioan by birth, she retired as a Pinellas County elementary school teacher and now dedicates her life to Friends of Strays.
“I grew up on a farm so I’ve always loved animals,” Bomonti said.
She is a former volunteer of another animal agency, but they euthanized cats and dogs there so she quit.
“I walked into a room and saw a pile of bodies and it made me cry,” Bomonti said. “Many agencies kill off unwanted animals.”
Friends of Strays, however, never did and makes a genuine effort to place all dogs and cats.
Friends was launched in July 1978. The goal was to catch strays, neuter or spay them and return their freedom.
“We were boarding animals in our homes and adopting them out for $5 each,” Bomonti said.
Today a cat costs $25 and $40 for an adult or kitten, respectively, and $54 for a dog. The cost includes shots, spaying or neutering, the license and an identification chip.
Some stray cats are feral, meaning they were born and live in the wild. They, too, are picked up and treated and then returned to their environment.
Friends adopted cats from the Wagon Wheel Flea Market and even through Pets Mart.
Bomonti estimates that there are 45 cats and 15 dogs for each human being in the world.
Cats are easier to adopt out because they’re trouble free. Dogs, however, need to be walked and require more attention.
Besides the abundance of local strays, Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma stretched the facilities to the maximum.
“Many animals we took in from Mississippi arrived here sick,” Bomonti said. “That’s because of the terrible conditions there.”
Bomonti said cats and dogs have been left at the front door of the shelter or tied out back.
Sometimes volunteers take animals into their homes prior to adoption. One, the late Thelma Grossberndt, once had 72 cats and dogs at home. She left $200,000 to the shelter upon her death.
“Working for animals is so very rewarding,” Bomonti said. “It’s how I serve God.”
At 82 she is still going strong.
“It’s for the animals,” she said. “They are all God’s creatures.”
For more information, call the shelter at 527-9699.