ARK’S Rescue Center
“In Rescue I lost my mind…but I found my Soul.” -- ARK’s Motto
ARK’s Center, manned by volunteers, was located downtown on DeLand’s main thoroughfare at 441 S. Woodland Boulevard. It was three blocks from the police station and city hall directly across the street from DeLand and Stetson’s multi-million dollar baseball complex. Adjacent on the Center’s north side was the site for DeLand’s bus station, a project which had been on hold for 13 years but due for groundbreaking spring 2013. The Center was in the Garden District’s southwest corner.
The city knew ARK’s facility was temporary as the city and ARK were searching for a mutual site for a shelter with acreage. ARK’s projected move date from the Center was June 2013 so ARK’s Board was scrambling to find a suitable location. After the animals were relocated ARK was turning the building into its intended use.
ARK purchased the 1,800 square foot three level structure with the intent to house a wildlife education and rescue center. The land was approximately half an acre situated in downtown DeLand for maximum visibility and adjacent to FloridaWild Veterinary Hospital where wildlife rehabilitation was conducted pro bono. The ten rooms at ARK’s Center were under heat and air including the basement. There were two bathrooms and a kitchen. When the economy crashed cats and dogs were abandoned in record numbers so ARK had no alternative than to expand its program. The city experienced the same problem, asking ARK for assistance.
Healthy adult cats ready for adoption were placed in ARK’s Cat Suite, a bright room with nine large windows. The room measured 15x20 feet and was filled with climbing apparatus, hideaways, soft beds, quilts, and toys. Litter boxes were cleaned twice daily, food and water replenished throughout the day, the limit 35.
Kittens were housed in large condos in the spacious reception room and on the porch during the day, weather permitting. Feral cats in the process of being tamed were housed in large condos in the reception room to interact with people. ARK’s success rate for feral adoptions was high.
A small room on the ground floor away from other animals served as isolation for sick and newly acquired felines. It could be closed off by two doors and was a bright room with two walls of windows. Cats able to be treated on site were medicated throughout the day. Severely ill felines were kept at two veterinary hospitals: FloridaWild and Altamonte.
Several weeks prior to the raid more than two dozen kittens and their mothers were abandoned at ARK in various stages of illness. Protocol required new felines isolated for two weeks, the majority sick or dying when abandoned at the Center. On the day of the raid the isolation room held approximately 30 cats and kittens suffering from a contagious non-lethal upper respiratory disorder, common among rescue groups including DeLand’s Second Chance facility.
An FIV/AIDS mother cat and five kittens were isolated in a large condo in the upstairs bathroom. These diseases were lethal and contagious. Several weeks prior to the raid ARK paid $100 for the mother to live out her life at a facility north of Ocala. The babies remained at the Center, due for a second blood test in two weeks to determine if they had FIV/AIDS or if the test had been a false positive. A sign on the condo stipulated only certain volunteers could handle the kittens.
Dogs were rotated every few days from outdoor runs to kennels located on the covered patio or in the building. Volunteers walked dogs a minimum of 5 times a day. Dogs daily interacted with people. In the evening dogs were allowed to roam the building, watch television with the tenants, or sit in volunteers’ laps.
Dogs received flea treatment monthly, were bathed weekly, fed twice daily with bowls removed after feedings. Water bowls were filled throughout the day. Dogs were temperament tested by volunteers including a licensed dog behaviorist. They wore a collar with ARK tag and were microchipped.
There were 27 dogs, three biters the city requested ARK take, the last delivered two days prior to the raid. All but those three were vetted and ready for adoption.