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Pet Rescue by Judy erects new million-dollar animal shelter in Sanford

Nonprofit rescue group says the project was built almost entirely on community donations



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Sarullo is an almost-accidental advocate. She originally wanted to be a vet, but her family didn’t have money for vet school. Her interest in pet rescue began when she and her husband set out to adopt a dog at an Orlando shelter in 1986. Sarullo fell for a Doberman, but her husband fell for the shelter’s oldest canine, an Old English sheepdog, who at 8 years old faced a death sentence on the coming Monday. Her husband’s insistence on adopting that particular dog resonated with Sarullo, and while she didn’t get her Doberman, she did get a new direction in life.

The sheepdog lived for eight more years, and during that time Sarullo decided she was going to personally ensure that every dog or cat she encountered would have the same opportunity for a better life. That mission has driven her for more than 20 years, thanks to a seemingly endless stream of volunteers who’ve flocked to help her. Area animal-rescue services frequently contact Sarullo to help with special-needs cases or to relieve overcrowding by taking animals that are considered highly adoptable. She helps thousands of animals per year, and though her rescue organization does charge adoption fees (which netted the organization nearly half a million dollars in revenue in 2011, according to documents on file with the IRS), she refuses to draw a salary for her work – instead, she makes sure the funding goes back to the care of the animals.

Despite the organization’s growth, though, the bills loom. And the calls keep coming in, from animal shelters as far north as Georgia and as far south as Naples. She also receives email blasts from county animal services and shelters in Seminole, Orange, Alachua and Lake counties about animals who are about to be put down. Most animal rescues in the area don’t have the resources to maintain shelters and instead operate through networks of volunteer foster homes. Many focus their efforts on a single breed. Pet Rescue by Judy takes in all breeds, ages, shapes and sizes. Her hope is that her new shelter will finally give both her and the animals room to breathe and space to grow. Orange County Animal Services takes in more than 23,000 animals annually and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Central Florida another 14,000; Pet Rescue by Judy hopes its improved shelter facility will help make a meaningful dent in the burden on shelters that frequently have no choice but to dispose of unclaimed animals due to overcrowding.

“It’s been my dream and my hope for 21 years. Now, it’s coming to fruition,” Sarullo says. “It’s just to make the animals safe and comfortable and find them a home. … Even today – I haven’t been here, I’ve been running around for four days – and now today, to see more walls going up and all the silver on the walls, it’s just unbelievable. I mean, I’ve lived in the woods, I’ve lived in the weirdest places with the animals and now to think that they’re going to be out in fresh air, and have a nice yard, and the cats are going to be able to look out the window – it’s just something I’ve been dreaming of and now it’s here, and it’s here for the animals.”

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