WINTER HAVEN – Last year, an incredible 798 dogs got a second chance with forever homes thanks to Stefanie Badillo and her Crossed Paws Pet Rescue.
Badillo opened the non-profit four years ago, after saving two dogs that were thrown from a moving vehicle by their owner. For 11 days, she patiently waited, even laying on the ground until the dogs trusted her enough to go to her.
When the Rescue has space available, Badillo says she will take every dog — no matter what shape it is in. She’s known for loving the unloveables and saving the unsaveables. After she nurses them back to health and learns their temperament, she locates homes for them.
“I don’t pick and choose (which pets to take in),” she said. “Most are in horrible shape, sick or injured. Many are about half-dead and I still take them.”
One Husky had to be taken to the vet immediately when she received it and had to remain there for a month. The now healthy dog was adopted by a family last week.
She makes regular trips to Maine in the Rescue’s donated van to deliver dogs to dream homes she has handpicked. It is a 26-hour round trip.
Badillo sincerely loves animals — she doesn’t take any salary or money from the Rescue — and goes above and beyond to care for them. Since Crossed Paws’ doors opened four years ago, she estimates she has spent $60,000 of her own money.
Various organizations hold fundraisers and individuals make monetary and supply donations. Going to the Dogs Thrift Store in Auburndale is in existence to help Crossed Paws and donates all earnings to it.
“It’s expensive to take care of all these animals,” Badillo said. “I’m the type of person that doesn’t go cheap – I do what’s best for the dogs.”
After the day-to-day expenses are taken care of, there is still a vital need that must be met soon. Unless the organization finds a new location, Crossed Paws will close its door in October.
“The building is falling in around us,” Badillo said.
She added that she has spent thousands of dollars toward the upkeep of the building that should have been taken care of by the owner.
“I’m just not going to put any more money into this building,” she said.
The organization has received about $20,000 of $250,000 for the purchase of a new location.
To adopt a precious pet or donate to Crossed Paws as the team there seeks to construct a new building, call 863.514.0131.