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Gulfport Rescue Saves Dogs From High-Kill Shelters

Resident Mary Barrett started Limbo Chihuahuas-Chihuahua Rescue last year to help foster and find homes for dogs in need.

Mary Barrett has fostered homeless and orphaned dogs for the past 10 years at her Gulfport home.

She decided to create the non-profit organization Limbo Chihuahuas-Chihuahua Rescue when a rescue she fostered for left the state last year. 

But now her organization is being fined and ordered to remove foster dogs, because she was found to be in violation of city ordinance for operating a kennel in a residential district.

Many of the animals she takes in are seniors from high-kill shelters that have a death sentence. They are not only old but they also have medical problems, making adoptions a challenge. Ailments include blindness, enlarged hearts, hernias and crippled legs.

Barrett takes in the dogs that are hardest to adopt out and may work for months to find them homes. She says that at any one time she can have five dogs or 25 dogs, but she knows when to refuse accepting animals.

"I know when I have enough on my plate. I know when I have enough dogs," Barrett said. "I've never had a problem with any neighbors."

Barrett says she's turned down seven dogs from Pasco County and another six from Lake County just this past week. She accepts animals only after dogs are adopted out and disputes any claims that she's hoarding animals or breeding dogs.

However, Pinellas County Animal Control Officer Jason Anderson believes Barrett has too many animals under her care. “There’s too many animals, there’s not enough ventilation, we need to get some better treatment for the animals,” he stated at the Thursday hearing.

Barrett says that she is determined to fight the Special Master's ruling.

"The rescue still goes on, but I have to be able to foster for my own organization. We’re gonna fight it," Barrett said.

While her attorney files an appeal, Barrett said she's going to look into applying for a conditional use permit and possibly pay the city fee of $70 to operate a kennel, even though she maintains her services are not-for-profit and operates just to find good homes for dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.

The fees that are accepted help pay for vet services, and in some cases, senior dogs have been adopted out for free.

In the past two weeks, the organization has adopted out eight dogs.

She's concerned that Special Master James Thaler's ruling will affect other rescues in Gulfport.

“They can put every rescue under a microscope if they want to . . . this magistrate said it’s OK to do that,” she said.

In the meantime, Barrett said she's always looking for foster homes. Learn more about the organization on the group's Facebook page.

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Lynda October 02, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Many, many thanks to Mary Barrett for choosing tiny dogs with age or health issues that make finding home more difficult. This is exactly what rescue groups are intended to do. The big institutions can usually handle adoptions of young, healthy dogs, but any dog with special needs that enters the shelter system poses a problem. I hope a solution can be worked out so this rescue group can continue its good work here in Gulfport.
Lynda October 02, 2012 at 01:17 PM
I believe that the two cases the Special Magistrate has handled prove how effective this approach can be in getting the community involved and in creating a chance for a solution rather than just a penalty. If these cases had been in the normal court system, who would actually hear about them? What I have read about the two cases so far indicate it is not about raising revenue; it is about balancing competing interests and then working for a solution. Complicated problems are hard for communities to deal with; the special magistrate approach should be given a fair chance to see if it is more successful than the court system.
Mary M. Barrett October 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I'm sorry Lynda - the magistrate is not effective if thee magistrate does not know their own codes. In this case - not effective,. It is not effective when the decision is predetermined before the hearing gets started and slander is on the agenda where slander has no basis in the legal argument. The junior Anderson is not a well educated person and not an authority on anything but handling stray dogs. The house has central heat and air and the dogs are have great care - 13 of the dogs he saw are now adopted and dong just fine. I get dogs with no fur - and they get fur back - dogs with how that leave with no worms so - are older dogs get dental and so forth. This boy has not know me yet he is passing his own judgement. He has no business at this hearing and it has caused exactly what they wanted - the topic is now off what the real issue is - they think I am operating a business and not volunteering by fostering. But ruining one's reputation is just another way to hurt the situation. By the way - it is a sad day when someone can mention euthanize animals and the animal officer smiles-
Dianne Griffith October 02, 2012 at 09:20 PM
You're right, no one mentioned the little victory dance Officer Anderson did in the back of the court room when the Special Magistrate made his ruling. I believe Cherlene witnessed it though.
pegi larson October 28, 2012 at 12:01 AM
Mary, is there any way at all that I can help you, your organization, or any of the little dogs? I'm well-educated and believe I can possibly articulate favorably for any help I could give. I'd also like to donate to your organization. My chihuahua, my precious Itty Bitty died 3 weeks ago and I'd like to help other little "fur-people" in her beloved memory. God bless you.... I wish I had your courage so that I could help even more. Most sincerely, Sharon

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