The past four months have been a horror show for local animal rescuer Amy Restucci. Along with a group of volunteers, she has spent every weekend in rural South Dade rounding up dogs -- all of them former pets abandoned on the edge of the Everglades by feckless owners.
When she finds the animals, they're usually emaciated and sick from being tossed to the streets. "Some of them have needed leg amputations," Restucci says. "They have missing eyes. They have infections."
But here's the really bad news: After rescuing 178 dogs -- and three cats -- and spending roughly $65,000 on vet bills, Restucci can't afford to rescue the animals anymore.
She first heard about the packs of recently dumped dogs in September. They're found in Kendall, Homestead, Florida City, and -- most harrowing for the pets -- the predator-packed Everglades. They're not longtime strays: Many of them nuzzle Restucci when she approaches. It's unclear if the mass abandonment is a longtime phenomenon only now being discovered or a new by-product of the foreclosure spike and recession gripping the county.
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A public service announcement for the cretinous dog owners doing the dumping: Fido is not embarking on a fun Milo & Otis adventure with, like, talking owls. If you abandon your pet in the Glades, it will most likely die of starvation or under the wheels of a car. Miami-Dade Animal Services picks up the dogs only when called. Because the animals are in bad shape, Restucci says, they are almost always quickly euthanized.
None of the animals she has rescued has been put to sleep. She raised all of the cash through donations -- documented in detail on the effort's Facebook page -- and swung discounted vet care and boarding at Acacia Animal Hospital in Pompano Beach. But she ran out of funds a couple of weeks ago. (Want to help by donating cash or adopting a rescued animal? Visit the effort's Facebook page or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.)
"My heart is broken," Restucci says. "We've saved more than one hundred, but it should be one thousand. There are countless more out there suffering."