110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Rescue group already working with new dogs, cats
By Jen Horton
posted Nov 19, 2012 - 5:37:18pm
The day after the Animal Rescue Korsortium (ARK) agreed to let the City of DeLand have 135 animals seized by the city from its shelter, the question remains: Is the ARK shelter open?
President Maggi Hall, said, "Yes. ARK is open."
In fact, the nonprofit rescue group has already taken in new animals.
"We have already gotten two circus dogs from Kissimmee," Hall said. "The performer is going back to South America, and there was nobody to take the dogs."
ARK adopted out an animal to a foster today, and someone left a sack of six kittens on the agency's doorstep during the night Nov. 19.
Support from the community has poured in to ARK following the DeLand Police Department's search and seizure at the shelter at 441 S. Woodland Blvd.
"We had $1,000 in donations to cover attorneys fees today," Hall said. "And The Muse Book Shop, Abbey and da Vinci will have fundraisers for us."
Hall is looking toward the sunny side of the storm that recently hit the rescue organization she founded in 2009.
"I really do look at the cup as half-full," Hall said. "When the helicopters were over us, and the yellow tape was up, I told members from the board of directors that I think this was going to help adoption. And it has. It's given us publicity."
There are likely still hurdles ahead for ARK. Just hours after an agreement between the City of DeLand and ARK was reached over the fate of the 135 seized animals, a new dispute erupted.
DeLand City Attorney Darren Elkind said ARK will no longer be allowed to use the restored historic home at 441 S. Woodland Blvd. as a residence for rescued animals.
Elkind said the practice of using the property to house animals was something that developed over the years, but was never properly permitted.
"It's not going to happen anymore," Elkind said.
ARK's attorney, Tanner Andrews, disagrees. The Nov. 19 court hearing, he said, was not about the zoning of ARK's property.
"Nothing changed about 441 N Woodland yesterday," Andrews said. "The code enforcement inspected July 24, and the only problem remaining was the outside dog pens, whose special exception appears to have been in the name of Florida Wild."
Florida Wild is a veterinary office operating next door to ARK, but not as a part of the rescue organization.
Andrews said the city has no basis for suddenly disallowing ARK to keep animals at its building.
"If Darren announced that ARK would no longer be allowed to shelter animals at 441 S. Woodland, then that was a policy decision on his part, being newly announced, and contrary to the city's practices," Andrews said.
Both Elkind and Andrews agree there is a zoning process ahead for ARK.
Elkind said he told Hall that, to be allowed to board ARK animals at the South Woodland Boulevard location, she would have to come to the city, and fill out the necessary paperwork, and go through the process of obtaining a special zoning exception.
In court Nov. 19, Elkind said the city would help Hall navigate the zoning process.
Andrews noted that, not only has the city not taken code-enforcement action against the ARK shelter, the city itself has used the shelter when its own Second Chance Animal Shelter was full.
"Through Nov. 6, the city not merely allowed it (see code inspection report 24-Jul-2012), but took part by sending animals to the facility," Andrews said.
No more, Elkind warned. Should the city find that animals are being housed at ARK's former shelter, code-enforcement action will be quickly taken.
"If she's got animals there, we're going to give her notice," Elkind said.
At the shelter today, the telephone rang and the volunteer who answered it called out, "Are we accepting animals?"
"Yes," the caregiver on duty replied.
The work of saving animals continues, Hall said.
REPORTED NOV. 19: The City of DeLand will keep 135 animals seized from Animal Rescue Konsortium (ARK) shelter Nov. 8. In turn, the city will relinquish those animals to the rescue homes and shelters that have been providing temporary homes.
The mutual agreement was reached just after 5 p.m. today, Monday, Nov. 19, abruptly ending a four-hour hearing over which Judge Shirley Green was presiding at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand.
ARK is not prohibited from rescuing more animals.
ARK has never had a permit to operate the home at 441 S. Woodland Blvd., where the seizure was conducted as a shelter.
However, the court hearing did not discuss zoning or permitted uses; the hearing was only to determine what would happen to the 135 animals.
The city has offered to work with ARK to navigate a permitting process.
Currently, there is a special exemption on file that permits Florida Wild Veterinarian to board animals inside of the facility.
In his opening statement, Elkind told the court the city and ARK had a longstanding good relationship.
The city's own Second Chance Animal Shelter, Elkind said, has been helped ARK in finding homes for stray and rescued animals.
"They've been very helpful taking the animals from the city," Elkind said.
However, conditions at the shelter when the DeLand Police Department executed a search warrant there Nov. 8 warranted action by the police, Elkind said.
While on the scene, the police called a veterinarian to assess the situation inside the shelter.
Dr. Erin Gray testified that she was on the site on Nov. 8, and performed an inspection before any animal was removed.
Gray showed pictures and narrated video of overused litter boxes, bloody stool, maggots in food, sick cats, and overcrowded conditions.
Jennifer Johnson, who lived at the shelter and provided much of the care for the cats, also took the stand and read aloud her journal entries, starting in September, that described her doing much of the work by herself, and that the work was too much for one person.
Johnson was provided free room and board to care for the animals.
Veterinarian Dr. Deborah Ulbrich testified that her business had taken in 22 of the seized animals, and only two of the 22 were healthy.
All but two of the cats had upper respiratory infections, Ulbrich said. She told the court the condition was highly contagious.
Putting a healthy animal in a facility with that many sick animals could almost guarantee that animal would get sick, Ulbrich said.
DeLand Police Officer Juan Millan talked about the odor of a home with 135 animals.
"You could smell it before you walked in the front door," he said.
Elkind said if ARK was allowed to have the animals back, it would set a too-low standard of animal care in the city of DeLand.
ARK was not a no-kill shelter, Elkind said, it was a "slow-kill shelter."
ARK founder and President Maggi Hall took the stand briefly before to refute the testimony of the city's witnesses, before a series of recesses culminating in the agreement between ARK and the city.
Representatives from ARK and the city had a consultation for 30 minutes, and then announced their joint agreement: the city would keep the animals.
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