Alaqua Animal Refuge Combating Abuse through Expansion - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Alaqua Animal Refuge Combating Abuse through Expansion and Education

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Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport has received a matching grant of a half a million dollars and a substantial land donation, bringing them one step closer towards expansion. The no-kill shelter is working to combat animal abuse and believe growth will help them do it.

They now have 85 acres at their disposal, donated by the Biophelia Center's MC Davis.

Now, not only will they be able to rehabilitate more animals, but that leaves room for an education center to foster knowledge about care and abuse prevention.

"We knew that we wanted to move years ago. The refuge grew much larger than any of us had ever anticipated and the need is much larger than anticipated," said Alaqua Director, Laurie Hood.

Hood scratched the surface of Walton County's need when she started this refuge in 2007. The no-kill shelter in Freeport is now the main partner with the Walton County Sheriff's Office as they combat animal abuse; 38 cases in 2013 alone.

"Unfortunately, I think these cases have always been in numbers of this proportion. It's finally coming to the point, though, that law enforcement is really stepping up to the plate and doing a fantastic job prosecuting these cases and investigating these cases," said Hood.

The crackdown brings an increasing number of animals to their 10 acre facility; the most recent case involved 102 counts of felony animal cruelty and the arrival of 97 sick or injured dogs to their door.

"The recent case has changed the facilities' operations tremendously," said Hood.

It's put them at capacity, exposing the need for expansion and education. With an 85 acre donation and the potential for $1 Million in total matched grant dollars, Hood is making way for an education center and zoological park to foster passion in animal care and abuse prevention to all who visit.

"Watching the public come out and support us…everything falls into place, knowing that there's a lot more that we need to do," said Hood.

To date, Alaqua has adopted out more than 9 thousand animals.

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