Hibiscus Island Dog Rescue Endangers Animals, Complaints Say

On paper, Have a Heart Dog and Cat Rescue sounds like an animal lover's ideal. Its address on exclusive Hibiscus Island conjures scenes of puppies playing and kittens canoodling in luxury. Several nearby mansions are worth eight figures.

But nothing about 79 North Hibiscus Dr. is as it seems. Nowadays, the $2 million property looks more like a haunted house than an animal rescue. Spiderwebs smack visitors in the face. The ceilings are caving in. Everything reeks of mold, urine, and feces.

And then there are the dogs. Recently, neighbors have twice complained to code enforcement of painful howls piercing the night.

"These dogs are in imminent danger," one neighbor wrote in an anonymous email sent to New Times. "[They] are never taken outside for relief... This man should be arrested for animal cruelty."

That man would be Terrence Rosenberg, Have a Heart's founder. "I'm not interested in talking to you about it," he told New Times when asked about the complaints.

Like his house, Rosenberg himself is a mystery. Incredibly, back in 1976, he was a real estate attorney wealthy enough to buy the Hibiscus house. But in 1979, he was accused of writing worthless checks. The charges were dropped, but the next year Rosenberg was fined for a string of housing violations, records of which have been destroyed.

Legal problems kept coming. Feds issued a tax lien against him in 1982, and over the next two decades Rosenberg was sued dozens of times, mostly over real estate transactions. In 2003, the City of Miami Beach filed a $21,375 lien.

In January 2006, Rosenberg was arrested for fraud. Prosecutors claimed he and another man conspired to swindle several old ladies out of their houses. Charges against the lawyer were eventually reduced to third-degree grand theft. Rosenberg was sentenced to only a year of probation but was permanently disbarred.

Shortly thereafter, he lost the Hibiscus house to foreclosure. A corporation snatched up the place, only for a judge to nix the sale. The legal limbo could account for the house's current state. Then, this past October, Rosenberg was arrested again when a young female accomplice stole from Publix. He was caught returning the goods for a cash refund, but the charge was dropped.

Rosenberg's animal rescue operation has also been plagued by problems. Records show the state dissolved his previous nonprofit, only for him to reopen it under an altered name. The IRS, meanwhile, revoked Have a Heart's tax-exempt status in May 2011. Animal services is investigating the abuse complaints.

"The saddest part is that he must have cared about the dogs at the beginning," says a neighbor who asked to remain anonymous. "But now he's doing them more harm than good."

 
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