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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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So far, more than $600,000 in supplies, labor and cash have been donated toward the $775,000 estimated cost of the first phase of the shelter. The project was made possible in the first place by an anonymous donor who gave Sarullo’s organization the keys to two historic buildings located directly behind Sanford’s Paw Park. Sarullo says she couldn’t have asked for a better location. But on this particular construction project, dubbed Save the Tails (savethetails.com), it’s frequently not Sarullo doing the asking anyway.

Project coordinator Susan Elliott-Rink met Sarullo earlier this year the same way just about everyone does: She was looking to adopt a dog, so she visited Pet Rescue by Judy’s site. She says she isn’t normally “a cat person,” but she was, oddly, drawn to a picture of a pair of kittens. It was perhaps this decision, against her typical nature, that opened her up to other lifestyle changes, including putting her career as a business executive earning a six-figure salary on pause so she could manage Save the Tails for a year pro bono. The work has brought her into a close partnership with Sarullo, who taught Elliott-Rink how to keep a cool head and run a successful pet rescue.

“I would get attached, and then they’d get adopted, and I’d cry, ‘I’m gonna miss him!’” Elliott-Rink says of the animals who visit the Save the Tails construction site office. “And Judy’s like, ‘Nope, there’s a new one to love. On to the next one.’”

To build the shelter, which she wants to finish entirely before she moves on to build out the spay/neuter clinic next door, Elliott-Rink has brought in top-of-the-line experts, mostly friends she met while working for general contracting firm the EDC Group. Not only is she unafraid to ask for what the shelter needs, usually at no cost, she also has the balls to demand that the request be filled by the next day.

Some things can and have been donated: PVC pipes, electrical wiring, concrete. Other things are acquired at cost – the air conditioning they plan to install would cost $50,000 ordinarily, but the shelter will pay $8,600 for it, once they receive those funds. But that’s still $8,600 – a lot of money for a small community-based nonprofit – and Elliott-Rink chases the funds down as persistently as the donated supplies. The biggest financial drain, in terms of actual cash, however, is not construction expense. It’s the costs imposed by the city: impact fees, tapping into the sewer, connecting to the main line for water for a fire-suppression system. No amount of sweet-talking or cause-convincing, or even begging, can budge a city into discounts or waived fees.

“I understand that, politically, it’s impossible for them,” Elliott-Rink says. “They can’t do anything for Judy’s organization that they’re not willing to do for the other 450 nonprofits that exist in Sanford, and Sanford has the highest per capita nonprofit/churches/community-based organizations in the state.”

Click the photo to see a gallery of photos from the Save the Tails construction site:

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