Animal Rescue battles to overcome storm damage

Animal Rescue Inc., is the oldest animal rescue and shelter in LaBelle. For twenty-eight years Diane Sheppard, owner and operator of the the non-profit organization, has run the shelter exclusively on charitable donations.

Diane Sheppard gives each dog a good morning hello. (Caloosa Belle/Val White)

“Twenty-eight years ago when we first moved here, me and my daughters would go down the road and pick up dogs and bring them home; that’s how we first got started.” Sheppard said. “There was nothing else here at that time. There was an old animal control where they used to gas the animals in a shed,” she added.

“Since we started up, we now have the Caloosa Humane Society and a good running animal control, and we all sort of update each other on what’s going on.”

Animal Rescue Inc., located at 463 East Lincoln Avenue in LaBelle, was hit quite hard during hurricane Irma. The roofing on the cat’s ‘outside’ area (a caged in playground of sorts for the felines to get some fresh air, run, and exercise while being contained safely) was blown away rendering the space unusable until it is repaired. Furthermore, the shelter itself incurred roof damage causing part of the ceiling to collapse, and rain to flood the bathroom.

The fencing is also down on much of the perimeter of the property which means they aren’t able to let the dogs out of their cages.

“We’ve cleaned out a lot, but there’s only so much two people can do,” said Diane speaking of herself and her helper at the Rescue, Angel Biles.

“I need help with the fencing, the roof on the outdoor cat play area, and clearing of limbs,” she concluded.

As I visited Animal Rescue Inc, The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office had dispatched inmates to begin the clearing and restoration to the grounds. Diane said she wanted to make sure to thank Sheriff Steve Whidden and the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office for providing some help.

I saw two sets of dogs that were brothers, and because of the difficulty of adopting them both out together, had been long time residents of the shelter. I accompanied Diane as she walked through a filled to the brim kennel with dogs of all shapes and sizes being cared for, stopping at each one to give a good morning ‘hello’ and scratch on the head. I visited with and a room full of cats that have full time care and support for their immune deficiencies including “Bash” who seemed to be the ‘meowing’ spokescat for the population.

The shelter is doing such a great job of caring for and supporting these often discarded animals that it makes the decision to support their efforts and help restore their daily operations a no brainer.

If you would like to help sort things out, the Animal Rescue is located at 463 E Lincoln Avenue in LaBelle. If you’d like to make a donation checks can be mailed to PO Box 2441, LaBelle FL 33975. The phone number is (863) 612-0228.

Val can be reached at

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