Though many are skittish of adopting bully breeds, the Loughney family
says their newest member, Apollo, is a loving and gentle companion to
their 4-year-old son, Jack.
that the shelter takes in any animal in need, including very
elderly, ill, aggressive, or injured animals that may not be able
to be rehomed.”
As part of the contract with the City of Fort Pierce, Kittams
says Sunrise Humane Society also provides housing for animals
involved in legal cases, like animals whose owners are incarcerated,
hospitalized, or charged with neglect, abuse or hoarding
of animals. On March 1, 2021, with the blessing and support of
the Fort Piece City Commission, SHS took over the shelter.
Immediately, volunteers and staff members began scrubbing,
painting, and renovating the shelter.
“The shelter had been in great disrepair, and the municipalities
put hundreds of thousands of dollars into investing
in repairs for the major issues,” Kittams says. “Kennels were
re-epoxied, light fixtures were replaced and the building’s interior
and exterior repainted. But what was even more important
was the strength of the relationship we have been able to forge
with the City of Fort Pierce.”
Kittams says that strong partnership means that the city
animal control officers will have their offices within the shelter
to do their paperwork.
“We can work together as a team to help the animals and the
community we all serve,” she says.
Passionately dedicated to the cause, the board of directors for
Operation SOS used a generous bequest as a loan to help keep
Sunrise Humane Society afloat until it could get up and running.
“Not only did we reopen a shelter that had been closed,”
Kittams says, “but the gift will continue to give in the community.
Some people give a donation for one spay or neuter. What
this bequest did was allow us to use it as an investment to help
create healthy cats and dogs.
“The reality is that the public typically goes to the humane
society for spay and neuter services, and when the original
Humane Society of St. Lucie County closed, that service was
lost. Part of our goal is to get a spay/neuter clinic in the shelter
at SHS, but our budget is very small, so we operate one day at
a time, and I am so proud of our tiny staff for their dedication
And proud she should be — since it opened, the shelter has
moved more than 1,600 animals through its doors and projects
moving 2,200 animals annually.
“We learned a lot really quickly,” Kittams says, “and we
are proud of what we’ve accomplished. Despite being an
open admission shelter, we have a less than 7 percent euthanasia
Life is already hard enough, but providing
a safe and loving home to a cat or dog is a
gift of unconditional love you can give to
yourself and your family for years to come
38 Port St. Lucie Magazine
rate, which also classifies us as a no-kill shelter.”
Ten percent is the cutoff for a kill shelter. This distinction
is important to Kittams, who says shelters in municipalities
are often wrongly accused of taking animals in only to
“We have 127 kennels at SHS,” Kittams says, “and they
are all always full. Animals stay here as long as it takes to
get them adopted; sometimes it’s a day and some have been
here for over a year waiting to find a forever home.”
On a weekly basis, Sunrise Humane Society averages two
adoptions a day. Kittams says SHS has very accommodating
adoption requirements, meaning that potential owners need
not be homeowners or have giant yards, explaining that,
“National studies have shown that more stringent barriers to
adoption rarely change the success of the adoption outcome.”
Prior to being adopted, each animal is assessed medically,
surgically and behaviorally. Much of the legwork being
done falls to committed volunteers, something they can
always use more of, according to Kittams.
“We welcome volunteers with any skill level,” Kittams
says, “whether it’s the ability to play with the cats or clean
their living area, assist with the mountains of laundry a shelter
produces, help with fundraising, or provide handyperson
services for general maintenance around the shelter.”
Other volunteers can assist by taking animals to a variety
of public events to help find them homes.
And since she knows the question will be asked, she
preemptively adds, “Yes, it’s true that approximately 90
percent of our dogs are what are known as bully breeds,
some permutation of pit bull. And every one of them is preassessed
for behavior, so while we can’t guarantee your new
dog won’t ever pee on the floor, we can promise that if the
adoption isn’t working out, SHS will gladly take it back.”
When asked about the reputation of bully breeds, she
shares the story of the Loughney family, as well as a photo
of their newest member, Apollo, resting peacefully with his
new best friend, the family’s 4-year-old Jack.
“As a shelter vet,” Kittams says, “the greatest reward
is watching any dog, regardless of breed, age, or size, become
part of a family, and I’m so glad we have a chance to
create that kind of magical moment every day at Sunrise
Humane Society.” E