Published: Feb 16, 2011 5:23 AM EST
Updated: Feb 16, 2011 12:40 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Despite a tough economy, Gulf Coast Humane Society is celebrating one of their best years yet. A new director is using his own creative twist to get more pets out the door and into happy homes.

GCHS took in hundreds more animals in 2010 than the year before, and still closed out the year with a 13% increase in adoptions. The secret to their success: a new spin on marketing shelter pets.

They're taking their four-legged friends out of their cages and into the community.

"We could be the Taj Mahal. We could be the Ritz Carleton. You can call it whatever you want, and there's going to be a segment of the population, and we totally understand this, that just won't come to a shelter," Gulf Coast Humane Society Executive Director David Stroud said Tuesday.

So, Stroud pushed to bring pets to the people. GCHS hosted 77 community events last year, compared to 12 in 2009. The results are in the numbers. In 2010, the shelter found forever homes for more than 900 animals, and drastically slashed how long pets stay in the shelter.

"If a dog or cat came in here on this date in 2009, a dog was going to be here until Labor Day. A cat was going to be here until Thanksgiving. If a dog or cat came in here on this date on 2010, they were home Easter," Stroud said.

While the numbers are promising, Stroud says Gulf Coast isn't slowing down until all 110 of their current pets land in a permanent place to call home.

"We're not going to settle for the status quo. We know that there's a lot of unwanted, abandoned and neglected animals in Southwest Florida. We're committed to helping those animals," Stroud said.

Gulf Coast Humane Society is also heightening their use of social media, like Facebook, to increase adoptions. So far, they're carrying their success into the new year with adoptions up 14% last month.

For more on adoptions at GCHS, visit their website at: http://www.gulfcoasthumanesociety.org/