Local News

Foster Families Care For Dogs As Animal Cruelty Case Drags On

Posted December 22, 2005

— More than a year after authorities took away 300 dogs in one of Lee County's biggest animal cruelty cases, attorneys say it could be yet anothe ryear before there is any resolution in the case.

Attorneys involved in the case say the delay is because of appeals and court scheduling. In the meantime, the dogs at the center of the case are spread out across the state.

Dog lover Maria Flanagan has two dogs, so adding two more wasn't a problem for her. She's taken in Georgia and Wink, two animals who were taken from Barbara Woodley in Sanford.

"They all deserve loving homes," said Flanagan.

Woodley has been charged with animal cruelty. Until her civil and criminal cases are resolved, the animals are with foster care families across the state.

Of the 327 dogs, about 40 still need temporary homes. Many of them remain at a temporary shelter the Animal Legal Defense Fund created when the case first started about a year ago.

"It took me four months before we could touch Ginger," said shelter director LeighAnn McCollum. "Now she gives kisses," .

Volunteers say the case is rewarding but tough too. They also say Barbara Woodley is abusive toward volunteers when she visits the shelter.

"It was just a lot of verbal harassment," said McCollum.

In September a judge cut back her visitation rights from 12 to 2 hours a day.

Woodley's attorney says many of the accusations just aren't true.

"I've personally witnessed extreme hostility and profanity toward Mrs. Woodley, unprovoked," said George Whitaker.

It's emotional for both sides. The defense fund is fighting to keep the dogs. Woodley is fighting to get the dogs back.

Wink has had an eye removed and been treated for a broken jaw. Flanagan took in Wink to help him recover. Now he needs another foster family.

"He embraces everything and appreciates everything because he hasn't had it in the past. It's been an amazing transformation to watch," said Flanagan.

There's no question this has been a huge undertaking. To date, volunteers have logged nearly 10,000 hours. More than $300,000 has been spent on the temporary shelter. To become a foster parent to a dog or find out more information, go to the defense fund's website

here

.

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