It’s finally Judy’s time. In this place, her legacy is secured; her “babies” will always have a home. She’ll always have a home.
“She’s found all these animals a forever home and now finally she has a forever home,” said Susan Elliott-Rink, project manager for the construction of the new location for nonprofit, no-kill rescue organization Pet Rescue by Judy.
Judy Sarullo, founder of PRBJ, received her certificate of occupation on the new 6,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Pet Rescue by Judy Animal Resource Campus on Feb. 27. Within minutes she was already moving in. The grand opening is tentatively set for March 23, where the public can meet the famed animal lover, who has saved tens of thousands of abandoned animals, and see her new home. The Sanford facility was made possible over the last year through $704,000 of donated money, labor and materials.
“To to see all these people who came forward to help the animals is just kind of life building,” Sarullo said. “It’s going to take me so much time to really inhale this; that it’s here, after 21 years.”
It’s been a dramatic 21 years. There’ve been 11 moves – one leaving Sarullo with nowhere to go, caring for her rescues in a warehouse in the woods for seven months without running water. She had to have the water brought in by van. But with this building that will never happen again. It was an incredible amount of money to raise, and it was possible because people believe what Sarullo does is worthwhile, Rink said.
“You can’t not be inspired being around her, her passion and her commitment,” she said.
For now, it’s business as usual at the Oviedo Mall, where you can check out pets to adopt and drop off much needed supplies for the rescue animals, while they continue the finishing touches and move all the animals to the new location over the next few weeks. The public is welcome to celebrate Pet Rescue by Judy’s grand opening at the new location, 401 S. Laurel Ave. in Sanford, on March 23. For more information about the construction process, and how you can help the nonprofit, visit savethetails.com. To see adoptable pets, visit petrescuebyjudy.com or facebook.com/petrescuebyjudy
At the new facility, 100 dogs can wait for their forever homes in spacious kennels with natural light shining in from the sun and stars, and cats can jump from branch to branch on life-like cat trees adorned with butterflies and cardinals. One of the very first residents of the new cat space is Buster, who raced to claim his spot on an extra wide window sill — custom made for the cats’ lazing enjoyment — to gaze outside and feel some warm sun trickling in.
For Cheryl Zambrano, a volunteer from PRBJ’s beginnings, it’s hard not to cry with happiness every time she walks in the new shelter. She’ll be crying for weeks, she said, smiling as her voice cracked in emotion.
“It’s overwhelming because I know it’s going to make their quality of life better,” she said. “When it gets dark at the other shelter, it’s just pitch dark, so now when it’s nighttime they’ll get to see the stars, they’ll be able to see the moon shine.”
“I get goose bumps,” Sarullo said. “I always get the chills; every time I come in here I get the chills.”
The building was donated to PRBJ along with the one next door, which will be torn down to build a low-cost spay and neuter clinic, and has come a long way from the falling apart, holes in the floor place it once was. Sarullo cried when she got new poured cement floors, and loves that she can pump in serene music for her babies to listen to all day. They have a room for puppies with nearly floor-to-ceiling windows so that the kids who come by can look right in, Sarullo said, and a living room area for people to relax and get to know their future pets before they adopt.
They also have an enrichment center open to the public where Sarullo wants to teach the community how to care for animals and educate future pet fosterers and volunteers. That’s why it’s called the PRBJ Resource Campus – they want to be more than just a shelter.
During the day Sarullo lives PRBJ constantly, dog and cat fur always under her fingertips as she pets animals eager for attention, her phone glued to her ear, professing genuine love to each person who helps her cause. But it’s only started to feel real in her dreams, what she’s finally accomplished – and it feels pretty good.
“All of sudden I’m dreaming and I’m doing like a cheerleader, and my arms are stretched out and I’m flying in the air,” she said. “… And everybody was applauding me and I was just out there screaming and jumping up in the air, and then I wake up and I’m going ‘Was I dreaming?’ I get the chills.”
“This is Judy’s dream; it finally came true,” Zambrano said.