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Woman goes above beyond at Crossed Paws Pet Rescue

November 11, 2018

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — Dogs survive in her care because she doesn’t give up.

That’s what Stefanie Badillo, 45, of Auburndale, said about herself. Badillo is the owner of the nonprofit Crossed Paws Pet Rescue at what used to be Winter Haven Kennels, 3205 Recker Highway.

“I’ve spent a lot of time, money and sleepless nights,” Badillo said. “I love animals and always have.”

Since 2009, Badillo estimates that she’s spent about $60,000 of her own money rehabilitating animals. She said it started when she took in two Jack Russell Terriers that had been thrown out of a car window.

“She’s done amazing things,” said volunteer Mariann Motola. “She’s literally crawled on her hands and knees to save dogs.”

Winter Haven Kennels was previously owned by Thomas Becker, who died in April 2017. His estate was later auctioned off. The location continued to be a boarding home, Badillo said, but the woman paid by the owner later abandoned the facility, which sat empty for about two weeks. Badillo took in the 17 dogs that had been abandoned in early October and started working out of the location Oct. 16.

“She’s all about the dogs,” said JoAnne Tickner, vice president of Crossed Paws. “It’s all about getting the dogs a forever home. We’re not just getting them adopted as quick as they can.”

Badillo said she’s been able to find homes for about 200 pets in the last six months alone — all online — from all across the Southeast. This is the first time she’s had a storefront.

“I’m very picky on where my dogs go,” she said. “They have to be forever homes. I take in dogs that can’t find a forever home and see to it they get one.”

Badillo said she has a strict, three-page application process and will take back dogs that are not a fit for families. The process includes background and in-home checks. She currently has 92 dogs at the facility and 140 total in her care — three on the verge of giving birth.

“Most of my puppies are born into rescue,” Badillo said. “I’ve worked really hard and I’m really tired. These dogs are my life.”

Currently, Badillo only has three volunteers but is looking for more and donations — both time and monetary. Information about adopting and volunteering can both be found online at https://crossedpawspetrescue.org/.

“Ultimately, she lets her dogs decide who their owner is,” Tickner said. “Healthy, full bred, sick — it doesn’t matter — she takes all dogs. We’ve spent nights there to make sure the dogs are safe. They’re her No. 1 priority.”

A security system was recently donated to the nonprofit, Badillo said. Costs for adoption are $200, but pets come wormed, spayed or neutered, microchipped and with all necessary shots.

“If we can come together as a community, we can really get things working,” Motola said. “She’s a wonderful person who loves these dogs. We can’t save these dogs without help.”

The building is currently owned by William Hobson, according to the Polk County Property Appraiser. Currently a leaser, Badillo hopes to one day purchase the building.

“She’s very well known in the community,” Tickner said. “I think she’s going to be very, very successful. As long as she gets the support she needs, she’s going to change the landscape in Polk County for a long time.”

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Information from: The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.), http://www.theledger.com

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