He is currently being cared for at Heartland on Sawyer Road, Sarasota.
Matt served 22 years in the United States Air Force and has been an animal rights advocate and activist for over 35 years not only with Sarasota in Defense of Animals (SDA) but also throughout the State of Florida, the United States, and globally as well.
In past years, he has served as Treasurer of The Humane Society of Sarasota County, with the Sarasota County Animal Welfare Board, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Animal Services, the World Society for Protection of Animals and on the Board of Directors of The Wild Animal Orphanage in San Antonio, Texas. He has saved the lives of thousands of wild and exotic animals sometimes having them transported for thousands of miles to give them life in a semi-natural environment in sanctuaries.
For stricter laws for animal protection, he has lobbied in the Florida Legislature and in the U. S. Congress along with notable activists and actresses Tippi Hedren, Mellanie Griffith, and Bo Derek. One of Matt’s amazing achievements that had national media coverage was the dramatic rescue of Texas Cougars that were used by the Florida Fish & Game Commission to re-institute the Florida Panther gene pool and had ended up on a canned hunting ranch in Texas. He not only saved the Cougars and put them in a sanctuary, but his efforts sparked a legislative investigation of the Florida Panther License Plate Fund resulting in exposure of misappropriation and subsequent realignment of the Panther Trust Fund.
On the local scene, Matt worked tirelessly for over 10 years for the building replacement of the Sarasota County Animal Shelter; for securing funding and administering for 5 years the first county spay/neuter program; successfully campaigning for county ordinances banning canned hunts in Sarasota County; lifting restrictions on the number of household pets, and to allow feral and un-owned neighborhood cats to exist under certain rules with care-givers.
In 1988, Matt purchased a 10-acre property in Myakka Valley Ranches in rural Sarasota County and the site of the SDA sanctuary which now provides lifetime care for 365 animals, including goats, ducks, geese, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, sheep, and cows. Matt has sacrificed personal luxuries for the past 22 years in order to pay for the sanctuary property, its taxes, insurance, utilities, improvements, etc. and to supplement the income of SDA to provide lifetime comfort and care for the animals to which he has given so much of his life.
He has carried heavy responsibilities without complaint and without regret.
On his death bed, his family has tearfully told him that he will soon be going to the Rainbow Bridge and he started naming all the many many precious animals that he has been privileged to care for and know over the past 22 years at the SDA sanctuary.
We MUST NOT let our grief prevent us from continuing Matt’s work.
In the coming days, months, and years there will be so many chores and duties that he did without fanfare or the need for giving him credit. His loyal children, Ashley, Kristi, and Russell and I, his wife, will be by his side until the end and hopefully, some of you will step up to help Matt’s family and his SDA family to carry on his unfinished work to make this world a better place for ALL.
Elise M. Matthes, President
Sarasota in Defense of Animals (SDA)
PO Box 15653
Sarasota, FL 34277-1653
SDA is a non-profit IRS 501(c)(3) corporation licensed in the State of Florida, rescuing and providing sanctuary care for animals since 1989