Red Tape Entangles a Canine-Lovin' Samaritan
|Red tape makes this puppy sad.|
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 comment.)
"There's 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 Miami-Dade law."
Coy, once a wealthy printing company owner, says he's sunk every last penny 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?