Polka Dogz Pet Rescue – a nonprofit that rehabilitates and re-homes dogs – needs a new facility to house their growing operations.
| 1:23 p.m. December 13, 2018
West Orange Times & Observer
WINTER GARDEN – Operating a nonprofit dog rescue that has managed to save more than 500 dogs is challenging work, but doing it all from a 33-foot travel trailer is a feat in itself.
And yet, that’s what Polka Dogz Pet Rescue – a Winter Garden-based nonprofit that makes it its mission to help needy dogs – has accomplished the last three years.
The nonprofit, which was founded in late 2015, got its start with cofounders Aaron Stein and Heidi Hardman, who worked together in the pet rescue business before launching their Polka Dogz.
“We decided we wanted to try and do things better than what we had seen,” Stein said. “Rescue organizations always have their challenges. Some rescues have too many dogs. Some rescues, we feel, don't do enough vetting or research into potential adopters or don't do home visits. And we wanted to do the best job we could.”
And so they did. But their success has brought on a new kind of challenge: the need to expand and buy a new facility to home the dogs.
Right now, the duo uses a modified travel trailer. At any given time, about eight to 10 dogs are kept in the trailer, and about 20 to 30 dogs are kept in foster homes, Stein said. But operating out of a small trailer comes with its fair share of complications.
“We’ve built specially designed kennels that have worked out well, but they still don't have enough space,” Stein said. “So we want to build them suites that are bigger and more private. And one of the biggest problems we run into is that we have no office space. ... We don't have a central location to keep everything, so we have files at my house, a volunteer's house, Heidi's house and the trailer.”
Due to these challenges, they intend to get a location that has room for office space, as well as space for a fenced-in yard.
They also plan to use their trailer to quarantine new rescues until it’s deemed safe for them to reside with other dogs once they buy a new location. They currently use a separate camper to keep a sick dog or a dog with puppies away from the other dogs.
“Another concern of ours is not having a proper quarantine facility,” Stein said. “In theory, new dogs should not go into general population. And if we know there's something wrong, they don't. We haven't had any issues, but it's still a high-risk.”
Stein and Hardman are looking into properties in either west Orange County or east Lake County. They currently have about $20,000 saved up for their new housing funds but hope to reach a minimum of $50,000 before moving forward with their future expansion plans.