Amazing Women of the Suncoast: Elise Matthes

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SARASOTA - Every Monday at this time we honor an amazing woman here on the Suncoast; someone who has accomplished great things for her community while overcoming obstacles in her own life.

Those who our amazing woman for this week has helped most are not able to speak up for her. Elise Matthes co-founded and operates an animal rescue facility called Sarasota in Defense of Animals, and thousands upon thousands of animals that would otherwise have been put to death owe their lives to her.

She and her husband founded the organization 24 years ago. Elise lives alongside the animals on ten acres of shade trees, pastures and a pond in East Sarasota County. "We only take animals that have no place to go and have been turned into a shelter," says Matthes.

The animals at the facility will live out their lives there well-fed and cared for. "We have sheep, we have ducks, geese, we have sheep, goats, and I think there are a few chickens scattered around in here. They have a pond."

They have a lot of pot belly pigs. "Sometimes people get these animals and they think they can take care of them in a home, and they find it's just not their thing and they put them out as strays. And the county picks them up and that's how we end up with them; same thing with rabbits."

There's a cow with cancer, two horses that used to spend their lives going round and round on a pony ride, and a 150 cats in two catteries.

"This is our geriatric center for dogs. We take a lot of dogs that are 14 and 15 years old that don't have a chance for adoption at Animals Services."

It costs $10,000 a month to feed these animals. All the money must be raised through donations. Elise has faced some hard times. "The worst was when my husband passed away 2 years ago. He was one of the backbones, because we were cofounders of the sanctuary. And that was such a big loss because he did most of the administrative work."

Suddenly Elise had to carry the whole load. "That was very difficult to go through a grieving process and the adjustment to take all this on myself. But I have to do it. I'm not going to abandon my mission in life."

Elise says the work brings great highs and great lows. "This work makes people bi-polar; you are extremely happy when you can save an animal, and you are extremely sad and depressed when there is a situation you cannot solve."

Sarasota in Defense of Animals relies totally on donations. So if you'd like to help out they would appreciate it.

Elise Matthes was nominated by Leann Fellmeth, who saw the wonderful work she is doing and wanted others to know about her. If you'd like to nominate an amazing woman, just email us at Tell us about her and send her picture.