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Good Samaritan Charged in Pet Flap

November 20, 1999

MILLSTONE, N.J. (AP) _ When Tropical Storm Floyd struck, flooding out thousands of people, Lorraine Zdeb rushed to the aid of friends, neighbors and strangers and took in nearly 100 of their pets.

``Animals were dying; people were calling me in tears, hysterical that they didn’t want to abandon their pets, begging me to come get them,″ said Zdeb, a professional pet sitter. ``What could I do? I did what I had to do, and I did it quick.″

For her trouble, she was issued a summons for violating the borough’s zoning ordinance by operating a temporary animal shelter, a non-permitted use in her residential neighborhood. She could face a fine of up to $1,000.

Zdeb used her home and 5 1/2 acre lot as a temporary treatment center and clearing house for 97 animals that had to be relocated because of the flooding in September.

She and other volunteers in 4-wheel-drive vehicles rounded up dogs, cats, birds, turtles, and even snakes, brought them to her home, fed, cleaned and gave them medical treatment if needed, and sent them out to temporary foster homes.

They set up little intravenous kits in a back room, hauled in dozens of blankets, and took in more than 9,000 pounds of pet food.

Municipal attorney Steve Offen said Zdeb is charged with doing something she was already told not to do last year when the planning board rejected her application to open an animal shelter on her property.

Zdeb’s attorney, Drew Hurley, said there is a question as to whether what she did is forbidden by the zoning law, and also questioned whether the emergency situation created by the storm temporarily superseded the local zoning ordinance.

``Believe me, the last thing on my mind was violating any zoning ordinance,″ Zdeb said. ``I had a higher calling.″

The case is scheduled to be heard Dec. 1.

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