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Office manager by day, pet advocate by night

September 5, 2014
by CRAIG GARRETT ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

They're wanted. But for different reasons than posters used to hang in federal buildings.

Photos in the Sanibel Post Office these days are of pets needing a home, mostly cats lost or displaced. Forget Al Capone, pictures pinned to the Post Office community board are of Sox or Sporty, felines in part dependent on Diane Barr, a Sanibel office manager spending lunch hours, evenings and weekends finding a home for displaced kitties. She also fosters cats, ferries them to vet appointments, bails them out of the Sanibel Police temporary pound, handles publicity and shooting out photos and information to local media. The pictures of the cats she sends are, endearingly, almost always slightly out of focus. But her efforts work: Most of the animals are quickly placed in a new home.

Barr is no secret over the last decade to the families accepting a cat (some dogs) offered by the Protection of Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, the Sanibel group that Barr helps with lost or abandoned animals. The group annually averages 30 to 40 adopted cats, Barr said.

Article Photos

Diane Barr

"And I hope to be doing (this) for a long time," said Barr, office manager for 16 years with the VIP Realty Group in Sanibel. "I just wish I could do more."

Barr has volunteered as an outreach volunteer with PAWS since 2004. She replaced Val Pool, another PAWS volunteer of equal passion in placing rescued cats and dogs.

Pool, Barr said, "is one of those people of incredible dedication to stray pets. I was completely inspired by her."

Barr on a lunch break will share her trove of news clippings, photos and other items over the years relating to the group's efforts. In her photo album, for instance, are pictures of Stormy and Charley, two cats recovered after the hurricane in 2004; a photo of Red, a dog with a neck tumor that the group had adopted and lived out his days with an island family; another dog nicknamed Sanibel, left tied to a tree when his family moved off island. That dog spent the first night as an orphan at Barr's home. He was later adopted.

"That," Barr said of the dog Sanibel, "was a nice and happy ending."

The work of PAWS is effective, witnessed recently with a photo sent to the Islander. Within an hour Barr had retracted the photo, messaging that the cat had been adopted.

Part of the group's effectiveness is in Barr's posters. In one she wrote:

"Sox was found on the East end of Sanibel. PAWS of Sanibel named him Sox because of his black and white markings, which make him look like he is wearing a tuxedo and white sox."

Pam Sullivan, PAWS president, said of the organization: "Currently, there are only two of us and sometimes it can be quite busy. We do have some folks here on the islands that provide continuing support, and without them, I don't know what we'd do. Our local newspapers, such as yours, provide a HUGE service by running our pictures and stories. We can't thank you all enough. For all animals we adopt out, we ask for a donation of $50 for cats, and $100 for dogs, but sometimes we don't get a donation. The most important thing is to find a good home."

Tina Hager with the Animal Refuge Center in Fort Myers said groups like PAWS and volunteers like Diane Barr serve an important role in the sometimes cruel world of lost pets.

"Most volunteers," said Hager, a marketing coordinator with the large shelter, "spend their own money and time to, literally, save a life. They take in animals that otherwise wouldn't stand a chance. They are completely selfless. Words can't quite describe their value."



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