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In November 2007, Robbie Coy rescued a dog that was being abused. He was later charged with felony burglary.
That didn't matter to him. The renegade has gained fame for such unyielding defense of the canine set. Approximately 125 formerly stray dogs roam freely on his nine-acre no-kill complex near Homestead. This past May, he received a donation of ten tons of dog chow from TV chef Rachael Ray.
Coy relishes his canine kingpin status. He also despises Miami-Dade Animal Services: "We've always butted heads because they kill too many animals, and they do it carelessly."
But now, he says, county interference could spell the demise of his complex, Sabbath Memorial Dog Rescue. Trouble began in March, when three Animal Services investigators and four county cops showed up to look into a dog fighting tip. A camera crew for Animal Planet's Miami Animal Police accompanied them. There wasn't any battling, but they did learn Coy lacks a kennel license, which is required to keep more than four dogs.
Since then, Coy says, his landlord has been hit with $5,500 in fines from code enforcers. "The worst-case scenario is they come in here and take my dogs and kill them," he frets. "Or if my landlord evicts me, there's nowhere to go, and there's no money to rebuild this shelter."
So why doesn't he just get the license? As Miami-Dade Animal Services enforcement manager Raquel Cruz admits, it's "not a simple process and can cost thousands of dollars." Coy would have to win a zoning change from his local community council before even applying for the license. (Riptide was unable to reach a representative of CJM Investment Group, which owns the plot, for comment.)
Cruz allows the shelter has never been hit with any violations related to treatment of dogs. "But the fact is he's not in compliance with Miami-Dade law."