Res­cue works to find homes for 21 seized dogs in Florida

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - News - BY BAR­BARA BEHRENDT

When Dol­phin ex­pe­ri­enced what likely was her first romp in a gar­den, the yel­low lab showed her amaze­ment in the most ba­sic way, dig­ging in the dirt and plop­ping her­self down in the mid­dle of it.

That might not have done much for the clean­li­ness of Gin­ger Smith’s Clear­wa­ter home, but it did a bunch for her heart.

Smith, a dog res­cuer for more than a decade, saw in Dol­phin’s be­hav­iors what a kind voice and a lit­tle free­dom can do for a dog dam­aged by sad cir­cum­stances.

Dol­phin is one of 21 fe­male Labrador re­triev­ers con­fis­cated just af­ter Christ­mas from Black­rock Ken­nels, a prop­erty on Ponce De Leon Boule­vard in Brooksville owned by Randy Joe Cox. Deputies from the Her­nando County Sher­iff’s Of­fice went to the site on De­cem­ber 16 to as­sist an­i­mal ser­vices of­fi­cers con­duct­ing a li­cense re­newal in­spec­tion.

Once on­site, care­taker James “Michael” Daye told of­fi­cers that Cox paid him to care for the an­i­mals. Cox, he said, op­er­ates a breed­ing ken­nel in Marion County “but brings the dogs that are too old for breed­ing pur­poses to his ken­nel in Brooksville,” ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

What of­fi­cers found were black and yel­low Labs in makeshift pens. Many had ob­vi­ous health is­sues, in­clud­ing skin le­sions, flea in­fes­ta­tions, bad teeth and eyes clouded with dis­charge. Some were ema­ci­ated and showed fur loss.

When con­tacted by of­fi­cers about the con­di­tions, Cox said he had treated the dogs for fleas, but knew they had not im­proved. Cox told a deputy that “if the dogs’ con­di­tions did not im­prove, he would just eu­th­a­nize the dogs.”

A county judge ruled on Dec. 20 that Cox was an un­fit an­i­mal owner as de­fined by Florida law, and that the dogs were “in dis­tress.” The judge ruled that Cox can­not own an­i­mals in the fu­ture and gave the dogs to Her­nando County An­i­mal Ser­vices.

“It was kind of a mixed bag,” said James Terry, the county an­i­mal ser­vices man­ager. “The ma­jor­ity of them had very bad skin con­di­tions. Many had been over-bred. Many were very skinny. None had any leash man­ners be­cause they had been kept in a ken­nel all of their lives.”

All of the dogs were re­leased to Labrador Re­triever Res­cue of Florida. Once the com­mu­nity heard about the sit­u­a­tion, Terry said, there was plenty of sup­port.

Within a few days, the res­cue net­work gath­ered up the ail­ing dogs and parceled them out to fos­ter homes across the state.

“We had seven or eight vol­un­teers who took dogs out on the first day,” said Linda Mau, the net­work’s lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive, who has worked be­fore with the county shel­ter on res­cues. “There were lots of cars and lots of crates.” The rest of the “Brooksville Se­niors,” as the res­cue has called them, went out the next day.

The Labs are in homes in Orlando, New Port Richey, Pinel­las and Hills­bor­ough coun­ties, and Mi­ami. One even went to the Florida Keys, she said.

That be­gan the res­cue’s work to clean up the dogs, be­gin vet ap­point­ments to spay those that were ready and as­sess those that had more press­ing med­i­cal is­sues. On the Face­book pages of the res­cue and its af­fil­i­ates, vol­un­teers showed dogs ex­plor­ing their first grassy yards, while oth­ers, like Dol­phin, were lux­u­ri­at­ing in bol­stered, plush dog beds.

Sooz Wool­ley, who has been a board mem­ber with the statewide res­cue for years, said that de­spite their poor liv­ing con­di­tions and med­i­cal prob­lems, “they are all very nice dogs.” Those tested so far are heart­worm neg­a­tive. Other med­i­cal con­di­tions will take time to ad­dress, but she is hope­ful the dogs soon will be ready for per­ma­nent homes.

They are thought to be be­tween 5 and 10 years old. Any­one in­ter­ested in adopt­ing a dog or con­tribut­ing to their med­i­cal costs can visit the res­cue’s web­site at https:// lr­rof.org. There is a spe­cial but­ton for the Brooksville Se­niors.

Lab res­cue vol­un­teers point out that the breed has been the most pop­u­lar for years. Labs are good fam­ily dogs, good hunt­ing dogs and good work­ing dogs, Wool­ley said. The res­cue does home vis­its and en­cour­ages new own­ers to take their dogs through obe­di­ence train­ing.

Smith is tak­ing things one day at a time with Dol­phin, who seems fas­ci­nated about ev­ery lit­tle thing she gets to ex­plore in Smith’s yard and home. Dol­phin suf­fers from den­tal is­sues, skin is­sues and is learn­ing about tak­ing walks.

But the ap­prox­i­mately 7-year-old dog knows the im­por­tant things al­ready.

“She is the sweet­est and most lov­ing dog,” Smith said. “She just looks at me just like she could eat me up with love, and it’s just be­cause I’m nice to her.”

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