Robbie Coy, founder of Homestead's Sabbath Memorial Dog Rescue operation, includes in his adoption contracts a clause stating that the new owners cannot leave the animals leashed outside. So inn November, 2007, when Coy was driving by an adopter's home amd saw a former rescue dog tethered in the yard, he simply stole it back. He was charged with felony burglary for the reclamation, though those charges were dropped.
The renegade rescuer's gained fame for such unyielding defense of dogs. His sprawling, 9-acre no-kill complex, where approximately 125 formerly stray dogs roam freely and sleep on old mattresses, has been featured on nightly news shows and, in May, received a donation on ten tons of dog chow from TV chef Raechel Ray. Coy's relishes his grassroots status, and has no love for 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 Sabbath Memorial, and all of the dogs currently housed there.
Trouble began in March, when three Miami-Dade Animal Services
investigators and four county cops showed up to look into a dogfighting
tip, accompanied by a camera crew for Animal Planet's Miami Animal
Police. They turned up nothing so nefarious, but did discover that
Sabbath Memorial is run without a kennel license, which is required by
county code to keep more than four dogs. Since then, says Coy, his
landlord has been hit with $5,500 in fines from code enforcers, and
he's afraid he may be evicted or have his dogs seized by Animal
Services. "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 re-build 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 pass a zoning change
through his local community council, before even applying for the
license from the county, which he is not guaranteed to get. And the
rescuer says his landlord is not intent on changing the property's
zoning, which could lower property value. (Riptide was unable to reach
a representative of CJM Investment Group, which owns the plot, for
a lot of money involved and he's been operating for so long without a
license, that he doesn't feel he needs to deal with it," says Cruz, who
allows that the shelter has never had any violations related to the
treatment of his dogs. "But the fact is he's not in compliance with
once a wealthy printing company owner, says he's sunk every last penny
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into his rescue operation. He committed bankruptcy in 2007. He's risked
imprisonment and endured poverty for his dogs, but does he have it in
him to wage a red-tape battle?