FREEPORT — Local rescue groups came together Friday morning to save roughly 35 animals from a property in Santa Rosa County.
Alaqua Animal Refuge founder Laurie Hood said the 20 border collie dogs and 15 feral cats belonged to a woman who rented a home on the property and could no longer care for them. Rescue groups including Alaqua, Save Underdogs, H.E.A.R.T. Animal Rescue, Saving Soul, Care Animal Rescue and Lucky Puppy joined together to care for the animals and remove them from the property.
The Santa Rosa County Animal Control was also on hand to oversee the animals' removal, according to Hood.
“It was a situation where the woman clearly loved the animals at one point and she was without family,” Hood said. “It was very sad because she became ill and she was unable to properly care for them any longer. The property was in a state of disarray and had become unlivable.”
The woman agreed to let the rescue groups remove all but four of the dogs and all the cats. Alaqua took 16 dogs and five cats to its refuge in Freeport.
The dogs, all purebred border collies, appeared to be in good shape despite being thin. Hood said the property was in a swampy area and heartworms were a concern for the animals, but Alaqua veterinarians plan to examine and treat the dogs for whatever issues they may have.
She said that despite having only interacted with the one woman for most of their lives, the dogs were very friendly and affectionate with their rescuers.
“After they realized we didn’t want to hurt them, they would climb up in our laps and give us kisses,” he said.
The border collies should be available for adoption in a couple weeks.
Friday's rescue was the latest in a string of hoarding cases that have tested local rescue groups. In the past 18 months, similar cases involving Great Pyrenees, Great Danes, dachshunds. mutts and cats have put a strain on shelter and refuge resources.
Hood said greater awareness about spaying and neutering could be the only thing that prevents more hoarding cases in the future.
“Just one dog can have 10 to 12 puppies, and it escalates and can get out of control quickly,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to have pets that are spayed and neutered. A lot of people don’t do that, thinking they’re going to save money, but then they end up in these situations where they have all the dogs and they’re spending all this money caring for them..”