Monday, June 18, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Rescue - Right or Wrong?
There are plenty of homeless animals that need to be saved in South Florida, but one rescue group is under fire for taking a pregnant dog from a gated property. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has the story.
WSVN -- This video was posted on-line by the president of a rescue group that went in search of homeless animals in West Miami-Dade.
The volunteers coaxed a pregnant dog to them even though it and others were behind a locked gate.
Rescuer: "She wants to trust us, not sure if she can."
When the dog got close she was grabbed. Another video, this one posted on YouTube shows the dog being taken over the top of the gate and then away.
Carmel Cafiero: "Miami-Dade Animal Services says that dog and the others that were with her do not appear to have been in need of rescue, and that what the video shows is a possible theft."
Kathy Labrada: "The video is disturbing."
Kathy Labrada manages enforcement for Miami-Dade Animal Services.
Kathy Labrada: "Dogs are considered property in the state of Florida, and this certainly does have the potential to be a theft case."
She says all of the dogs on the property appear to be healthy.
Kathy Labrada: "It doesn't appear to have been a justifiable seizure. The dogs were not in distress."
Kathy Labrada: "They're not underweight. Their coats looked good. They were bright and alert. These didn't look like the type of dogs that needed rescue."
Amy Restucci a licensed nail specialist from West Palm Beach is the president of the organization behind the rescue.
Restucci has gained national attention through this Facebook page, 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida.
She has been the subject of several news reports and was even featured in the "National Enquirer" as the woman who "Rescues Pets From Gators."
Amy Restucci: "My group alone has rescued 248 dogs."
Two months later, at a fundraiser, those numbers almost doubled.
Amy Restucci: "462 dogs, 30 cats."
The county doubts Restucci's rescue claims.
Kathy Labrada: "And our responses to that area have not revealed large numbers of dogs roaming the area."
Restucci collected donations at the fundraiser despite the fact she was not registered with the state to do so.
After a warning letter threatening a $1,000 fine per violation, Restucci's lawyer sent a letter to the state saying they were a new organization, and they did register in late May. Once she complied she received no fines.
Restucci's group posted pictures of three horses it also wanted to rescue and take away.
Some of the volunteers are on the farm property despite a locked fence and again, an expert says these rescuers are wrong.
The SPCA had been to the farm already and tells 7News two of them are in excellent condition, and the agency is working with the owner on a proper diet for the other horse.
A police report backs that up. It quotes an SPCA expert at the scene as saying the animals were not being neglected, and that the SPCA was monitoring the situation.
We repeatedly tried to talk with Restucci about this video. She did contact us just before this report was due to air. Restucci said someone asked her group to rescue the dogs because they were wandering on a public road, but once the group got there, the dogs ran behind the gate.
The mother dog gave birth to healthy puppies. Both Restucci and a vet who treated one of the puppies said they would not have survived being born in the streets.
Restucci also told us someone let them on the property to help the horses because they had not been fed in weeks.
This is the letter given to 7 News by Amy Restucci from the veterinarian who examined one of the puppies from the rescue on June 2, 2012 (Click on Link - Requires PDF Viewer)
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: