A tiny black and tan puppy snuggled his wrinkled nose into Annemarie Potts’ arms. “I’m just so happy right now,” said Potts, a sophomore. “I don’t think it’s possible not to be happy with a little dog in your hands.” This little life was one of thousands saved through Pet Rescue by Judy in Sanford.

Several of the shelter’s dogs were brought to UCF on April 19 through the Burnett Honors College “Rent-a-Puppy” event. For a small fee, students were allowed 30 minutes of playtime with a rescue animal.

Sophomore Maddie Cangiolosi, a criminal justice major, “rented” a puppy who spent most of his half hour with her fast asleep. “It was so worth the $5,” she said.

The event raised about $130 in just a few hours, every cent of which went to Pet Rescue by Judy.

“It’s a really good organization,” said Potts, a social science education major and Honors Congress officer. “They do great things.”

Pet Rescue by Judy is a nonprofit, no-kill animal shelter dedicated to rescuing homeless pets, especially those who are abused, ill, elderly or soon to be euthanized. According to the Humane Society of the United States’ website, 6 million to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year. More than half of these pets will be put to sleep.

Thanks to founder Judy Sarullo’s passion and dedication, Pet Rescue by Judy has saved the lives of countless animals. “More than I can even imagine,” Sarullo said.

She estimates that they rescue a couple thousand dogs and cats each year.  Each animal that comes through the shelter’s doors receives medical treatment and vaccinations, as well as microchips for tracking. Once they are spayed or neutered, the animals are put up for adoption on the shelter’s website.

“Our most urgent goal is to rescue animals that are abandoned or in distress, update their vaccines and find good new homes for them,” the website states. “But we attempt to be more proactive than that.”

Pet Rescue by Judy seeks to inform the public of proper pet care and the importance of preventing animal overpopulation. They are in the process of organizing a low-cost spay and neuter clinic.

On a typical day at the shelter, Sarullo runs back and forth, juggling two phones, but she still finds time to scratch a rescue dog behind the ears. Her office is cluttered with pictures and folders.

A rumpled Bichon Frise mix peers out beneath the desk with lopsided ears, tongue lolling. The kennel behind the door echoes with endless barks. And the phone keeps ringing.

Sarullo said she now works 365 days a year, 99 hours a day and manages to keep the rescue running through “adoptions, donations, a lot of prayers and credit cards.”

Before founding the shelter, Sarullo worked as a pet foster and volunteer for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She was inspired to open Pet Rescue by Judy after her husband saved an old English sheepdog named Chelsea from being euthanized. “Chelsea adopted my husband,” Sarullo said. “She was the love of my life.”

Sarullo’s biggest struggle has been the overabundance of animals across the country, and her inability to save them all.  “I’m drowning,” she said repeatedly. “We’re so full, it’s overwhelming. It seems like cats are just falling out of trees.”

The state of the economy continually forces owners to give up their pets. Each day Sarullo is faced with more than 100 e-mails begging her to take in another homeless animal.

Soon after Sarullo lamented the lack of space, a local woman brought in two six-week-old kittens found in an abandoned car. The tiny, flea-bitten tabbies gazed up at Sarullo with terrified blue eyes, hissing behind baby teeth. Within minutes, the pair of kittens had a place in the shelter and appropriate names: Spunky and Catrina.

Sarullo encourages community members to volunteer or foster a pet for the shelter, whether it’s for an hour, a day, a week, or a lifetime. “When you adopt a rescued pet, you have saved a life,” its website states. “There is a certain joy in just that last statement: You have saved a life!”

Source: Central Florida Future, Puppy love on the lawn, by Hillary Casavant. Published: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 Updated: Wednesday, April 28, 2010