Stephen Bennett, founder of Suncoast Organized Animal Relief (SOAR)

by | Oct 9, 2019

Stephen Bennett—the founder and executive director of Suncoast Organized Animal Relief, or SOAR, which pursues a mission that involves an unusually broad portfolio of objectives, including providing funding and assistance, and pet food to other animal organizations—recounts growing up in Ithica, NY in a home where pets weren’t allowed, but later on, deeper into adulthood, he made up for lost time, at one point having four dogs and four cats. Bennett describes his foray into the dog grooming business, at the suggestion of a friend, having just started taking grooming classes when an opportunity arose to purchase a shop—as something akin to an impulse buy at the grocery store, he cobbled together the dough and bought it. He discusses running that business for many years, the challenges of grooming a cat, and what he learned about animals and pet owners over those years. With overlapping volunteer experience in animal rescue for more than a quarter of a century–and short stints operating a pet boutique then as a pet photographer with aspirations to produce a book–Bennett explains that he was keen to launch an organization that could help animals (and, ideally, their humans) in a myriad of ways, including food drives and fundraisers that he’d already helped with…so, in 2015, he founded Suncoast Organized Animal Relief. He addresses SOAR’s elastic, even sprawling, mission which involves providing funding to rescues, addressing animal overpopulation and animal abuse, creating and maintaining pet food banks (SOAR recently opened its first at Daystar Life Center in St. Pete), helping manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds and other aquatic wildlife. Bennett notes that SOAR has forged alliances with several organizations, and was asked to join St. Pete Paws. (,

COMEDY CORNER: Jim Gaffigan’s “Saw A Bear” (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: The Everly Bros.’ “Bird Dog”


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