Martha Boden’s Extraordinary Passion for People and Pets

You might be surprised that a leading Florida animal welfare executive considers herself in the people business. But that’s exactly how Martha Boden, Chief Executive Officer of SPCA Tampa Bay, describes her job. “People tend to think this work is about animals, but it’s really about people and how they intersect with animals,” says Boden.

Boden left the business world behind over a decade ago to pursue her life-long passion of enriching people’s lives through their pets. But she believes her business experience and expertise in information technology and project management are skills that prepared her well for a role as an animal welfare executive. “Passion for animals is only half the story,” Boden stated.

“You know the old joke about ‘no money no mission?’ In our work you have to have business practices that cultivate revenue and preserve your resources. Someone asked me recently why my email signature has both PMP, the certification for project management professionals and CAWA, the certification for certified animal welfare specialists. The reason is because PMP is who I am and CAWA is what I do,” she explained.

Boden’s savvy business and leadership skills complement her life-long passion for animals. Growing up in Minnesota, her family was like many others in the neighborhood with dogs, cats, hamsters and horses. Foreshadowing her life’s work was her founding “The Hambulance,” a hamster rescue service. More than 600 ill or injured hamsters were rehabilitated and placed in new homes as a result of her program. Boden credits that experience in her youth as a stepping stone for understanding the challenges, and rewards, of managing an animal welfare nonprofit organization.

“She cares,” wrote the West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. “It makes a world of difference…”
Martha Boden was featured in an April, 2002 story for founding the Hambulance.

Taking the helm of SPCA Tampa Bay as CEO in 2011, Boden oversees the wide-range of services SPCA provides for people, their pets, and rescued animals of all varieties. Having an issue with your pet’s behavior? There’s the free pet behavior hotline. Interested in creating a nurturing relationship between your children and your pets? Summer camps offer hands-on learning experiences for pet care. Find an injured pelican on the beach? SPCA works with local partners to provide medical care and rehab for wildlife so they can be released back to their natural environment.

You’d expect SPCA to offer pet adoption, lost and found pet assistance, animal behavior training classes, and perhaps even animal cruelty investigation for wildlife and livestock. But you might not know that SPCA also offers a pet food bank for those experiencing financial hardships. One of their most innovative moves was building and opening a new full service, state-of-the-art veterinary center in 2016. Pet owners who use the center not only get all their pet’s health needs in one location, but a portion of all revenue supports programs and services at SPCA’s animal shelter and helps other families in need of their pet’s care.

Photo courtesy of SPCA Tampa Bay

The SPCA Veterinary Center has been spectacularly successful, and Boden credits SPCA’s board of directors for their vision in finding a social enterprise program that complements SPCA’s existing services and helps with funding. It took several years of planning and site selection research before plans were even drawn for the facility. Boden was impatient though, and the board supported her desire to seek financing for the project rather than wait for a capital campaign to secure the funding.

“The partnership with Bank OZK has been transformative,” Boden related. “Our banker understood our dream, but she also dug into our business, our growth, how we function. By the time we started looking at buildings she said ‘We’re going to help you. We’ll put together a financial package that makes sense for you.’”

Boden considered hiring a project manager to oversee construction, but “between our operations director and our banker, I felt they had the expertise to properly document and manage the process. And it came together beautifully,” Boden proclaimed.

Courtesy of SPCA Tampa Bay

She added, “The partnership with Bank OZK allowed me to focus on the project, making sure that the building delivered everything we needed it to. All the way through, the bank was there and it was really neat to be able to build on that strong foundation.”

While that banking relationship was important to SPCA, it was just a bridge to cultivate the relationships we crave as humans and that enrich our lives like no other, the value that our pets provide.
“There are so few sources of unconditional love in our lives. When you have that pair of brown eyes looking over the window sill waiting for you to come home, or that tail is wagging when you open the door, that’s a very unique experience.

There are so many benefits that come from being able to build on that unconditional love, and how that love complements and illuminates our lives. Our pets are a central part of what makes life a good and wonderful thing,” Boden added.


Susan Blair is Executive Vice President and Director of Corporate Communications at Bank OZK. She enjoys writing about our incredible clients, and how the amazing team at Bank OZK helps them achieve their financial dreams.

This is the first in an occasional series in which we highlight one of our phenomenal customers here at Bank OZK.