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Tony Caribaltes: A friend to Jacksonville animals

If you were to pass by the business office of Tony Caribaltes, you shouldn’t be surprised totony and dog.small. hear a sharp bark or a tiny meow escape from behind the closed door. Caribaltes is an animal lover who sometimes harbors a dog or (more infrequently, because of allergies) a cat in his office.

As a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Jacksonville Animals, Inc. (FOJA), Caribaltes sometimes has a hard time saying “no” when an animal needs fostering, even when the animal turns out to be ungrateful. “I once fostered a cat that was missing part of its jaw and was in bad shape. But, he ended up running away from me! He was about three years old, and I guess he liked his freedom more than getting all the food he could eat and having a cool place to sleep.”

More frequently, Caribaltes will take in a dog as part of the fostering program. “The Animal Care and Protective Services needs people to foster animals until they are healthy enough for adoption,” he explains. “I am getting a dog in the next day or two that has a cold—an upper respiratory infection. If he isn’t fostered and brought back to health, he would be put down at the [Animal Care and Protective Services] shelter. Unfortunately, the shelter is not no-kill. I’ll keep the dog and administer medications for about 10 days, then he’ll go back on the adoption block. That’s how we save a lot of animals.”

FOJA’s mission is to save the animals at the shelter, which receives about 2,000 animals a month, according to Caribaltes, and many of them are euthanized. Even those in good health only have 30 days to be adopted before they are put down.“Those numbers are pretty hard to take, especially when you see a perfectly healthy dog or cat that just needs a break and a home,” he says.

He says sick animals are tagged to be put down. But so are ones tagged as aggressive or hyperactive because of too much barking. “But barking doesn’t mean the dog is aggressive,” he says. “For example, I kept Sasha, a 6 year old mixed breed, for about a week. She was so well house-trained that she would not use the cage for her toilet, so she barked to go out. But, because the shelter is understaffed, the dogs don’t get walked often enough, so Sasha got constipated and was in pain, which caused her to bark even more. The shelter labeled her aggressive, but all she needed was to be relieved of her constipation. A FOJA member got her to the vet who fixed the problem, and then she recuperated in my office. She was adopted.”

Caribaltes admits fostering can be emotionally difficult, so instead of being a constant caregiver, he supports FOJA more actively in another way— by applying his skills, knowledge, and experience as a sales and marketing professional to FOJA fund raising and adoption events.

During business hours, he owns Caribaltes Consulting LLC., a year-old business that has two divisions with five employees. The sales division is called The Best of Jacksonville. “We act as the sales division to local small businesses who outsource that function to us because they don’t have the time, knowledge, skills, or money to do their own sales.” The marketing division of his company does social media management, marketing campaigns, fund raising, and event planning.

“FOJA is a nonprofit, and our mission is to save as many dogs from the shelter as possible,” he says. “One way our group does this is by holding adoption events. Recently we held an event at a local business from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We took five dogs and three cats, and before noon, we had all five dogs adopted. We went back to the shelter and brought back some more dogs. Within the four hours, we got nine dogs adopted and one cat. We were ecstatic, because all of those dogs were going to be put down within the next couple of days.”

FOJA volunteers hold adoptions almost every weekend at the PetSmarts at the Regency and Southside for cats and sometimes for dogs, and the group puts on one or two organized events a month at other sites, such as outside of a Winn Dixie.

“We also do fund-raising events two or three times a year,” he says. “For example, the company where we adopted out nine dogs and a cat was a fund raiser. All week the employees raised money, such as through a silent auction and a bake sale. Money from those events goes toward medications, toys, food, and blankets for the animals at the shelter.”

He adds, “When FOJA celebrated its first birthday in 2009, we turned that into a fundraiser. We had a first annual reunion and invited everyone who had adopted an animal from the shelter to bring their animals and celebrate. We had vendors, a show, a live band. It was a real party atmosphere.”

Parties and events are fun, but the real joy to Caribaltes is saving a dog from destruction and gaining a friend for life. His advice: “Adopt whenever you can. If you have a choice, try to save a life. The feeling is just incredible.”

FOJA welcomes volunteers. Tony Caribaltes, principal of Caribaltes Consulting LLC. can be reached at 904-379-9060 or through his Web site, www.caribaltesconsulting.com.


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