MYAKKA CITY -- A Myakka City dog rescue facility is again in danger of closing due to a variety of legal and financial difficulties.
BUDDIES Rescue Inc. needs a county permit to operate a kennel; must ensure its water supply and septic system comply with county rules; and has incurred impact and other fees it is having trouble paying, according to Keith L. Wandell, founder and rehabilitation specialist.
“While trying to expand and renovate our dog sanctuary, we violated a couple of ordinances,” Wandell said Friday, “I know ignorance is no excuse, but we didn’t obtain permitting on things we didn’t know we were required to.”
If he cannot resolve the situation, the dog rescue, rehabilitation and training facility might close, he said.
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BUDDIES, which now houses 41 dogs, rescues mostly “problem” animals and re-trains them so they can be adopted.
Wandell said he brought in buildings to shelter the dogs, thinking he would be exempt from code requirements.
“Code enforcement has, as of April 29, given us 90 days to be compliant, with $15,000 in impact fees and permits,” said Wandell.
“Or I guess if we can’t become compliant, we’ll have to shut our doors, and 40-plus dogs will be homeless,” not to mention Wandell’s family, which also lives on the property at 6209 Juel Gill Road, he said.
“We’re in dire straits. This isn’t a ‘help us get by,’ it’s a ‘do or die,’” he said.
Wandell met with county officials recently and has until Aug. 5 to file an application to operate a kennel, said Nick Azzara, a spokesman for the county. The county code enforcement chief, Joe Fenton, does not intend to take any action until that date, Azzara said.
“He needs an administrative permit for having a dog kennel,” said Toni Gibbons of Palmetto, a volunteer who is trying to help sort out the legal and financial issues.
Meanwhile, Manatee County Animal Services is monitoring to ensure the dogs are properly cared for, said Kris Weiskopf, chief of animal services.
“We had been out there several times maintaining the situation, and we still continue to do that,” said Weiskopf. “Back on March 14, after previous visits, he wasn’t coming into compliance with what we needed him to do.”
Wandell needed to provide proper shelter and to vaccinate some of the dogs that had not had rabies shots, Weiskopf said.
Wandell ended up with 63 charges, and owed $17,100 in fines, Weiskopf said.
By the time it went to court, Wandell had brought the facility into compliance. The judge eliminated half the charges, and ordered him to pay a fine of $1,500, Weiskopf said.
“We have literally bent over backwards for him,” said Weiskopf, adding that the county tried to help by taking some of the dogs to place for adoption.
Weiskopf was pleased that the number of dogs at the shelter, which had reached 80 at one point, is now half that.
As of last week, Wandell was complying fully with animal services’ regulations, Weiskopf said.
Two years ago, a Tampa life insurance firm and a group of adopters donated $5,500 to cover Wandell’s debts.
At the time, Wandell said he would have to euthanize most of the dogs if his financial troubles were not resolved. He was overwhelmed with dogs left by people whose homes were foreclosed.
Friday, Gibbons said that an accountant had volunteered to set up a charitable account for the facility. However, it was pending because Wandell’s taxes weren’t done, she said.
Gibbons recommended donations be sent directly to Wachovia Bank, 5005 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater, Fla. 33760; (727) 892-7403. The facility’s website is www.buddiesrescue.org.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.