Like many great legends, Abandoned Pet Rescue’s esteemed mission is rooted in humble beginnings. This month marks the 25th anniversary of Abandoned Pet Rescue (APR), widely known as one of the largest no-kill shelters in South Florida. At a time when animal shelters were much more limited, what was the catalyst for this saving grace to animals in need? Ironically, it was a colony of cats, backed by a network of kind-hearted community members who were dogged to help. Today you can visit the Abandoned Pet Rescue website and read the organization’s mission statement. By the end of this article, you can appreciate that it truly was a mission!
It was twenty-five years ago that Broward County resident, Karen Judge, noticed a group of cats congregating outside of her home. When Karen realized the endless breeding that was quickly creating a feline metropolis, she consulted a local veterinary clinic for help. It was there that she met Susie Hansen, now the most long-standing of the APR Board of Directors. The ladies determined that it was in the best interest of the cats to halt the colonization through trapping, neutering, and releasing.
The feline squatter initiative soon expanded, and Karen welcomed some of the cats, even some stray dogs, into her home. Karen continued to collaborate with Susie and other supporters to provide shelter and care for the animals. Operating on charitable donations, Abandoned Pet Rescue was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in March of 1996. The fast-growing rescue was manifested in 1998, when APR was gifted a former veterinary clinic by an anonymous (and very generous) donor. The facility was quickly equipped to house any type of animal possible, from iguanas to pigs and everything in between! You won’t find an adoptable goat there today, but Abandoned Pet Rescue is still operating in the same location off of North Flagler Drive. Today the structure is painted vividly and serves as a sanctuary for up to 200 cats and as many as 30 dogs. Though initially it was 100% operated by volunteers, APR has built a small staff of employees. Along with dedicated volunteers, the employees offer critical care to every animal, every day of the year.
APR staff and seasoned volunteers can attest that even small improvements have had a great impact. Dog-walking continues to be part of the daily routine; however, it used to be the only means to exercise each of the dogs – individually. A fenced play area has been built, and dogs can now safely jolt around through the grass (better known as “zoomies”). Even the former laundry process has been hung out to dry. APR has always had a washing machine but accompanying that with a dryer has added a luxurious touch of convenience. Despite the building’s initial use as a veterinary clinic, animals previously had to be transported off-site for veterinary care. Most care can now be performed on-site at the rescue, a highly preferable commute for the residents of Abandoned Pet Rescue.
Those who have been involved with the rescue since the early days can tell a story of its recognizable change. Through growth and awareness, the organization has undoubtedly altered its layout and clientele (it was determined that the facility is best equipped solely
for cats and dogs). What has remained unchanged, however, is the loyal support from animal lovers in the community. It is obvious that the staff, volunteers, donors, and adopters have been fueled by love and compassion for the animals in their efforts to support such a pivotal organization. As a result, thousands of animals have been, and will continue to be, cared for and transitioned into loving homes. Even if there wasn’t an on-site washer/dryer, no one is throwing in the towel on these beloved pets!