By Brittany Llorente
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- In 2006, Jacque Petrone was given the opportunity to take over an old boarding and grooming establishment.
Never, in her wildest dreams did she think that it would become an animal shelter or that seven years later her and her team would rescue about 1,500 animals a year.
H.A.L.O., meaning Helping Animals Live and Overcome, celebrated their seven year anniversary in August, a momentous occasion and a time to look back at their successes and the obstacles that they overcame.
It all started with a phone call.
"I had someone call about a litter of kittens that needed a home," Ms. Petrone said. "Their mom was hit by a car and we took them in. That was the start."
Soon after she filed for nonprofit status and soon the ball began rolling and doors opened up.
Every shelter that is named a 'no-kill' shelter operates by their own rules. H.A.L.O. makes the pledge to care for each animal physically, emotionally and medically until they can be rehabilitated and find a forever home.
For some animals, their forever home is the shelter.
"We take in all age groups," Ms. Petrone said while a 13-year-old dachshund, that was very eager to go out for play time, yapped at her. "(The daschshund) was brought in with a lump on her stomach and we took her to the vet. Now the lump is a hernia repair."
The shelter has had a few hurdles to jump since its creation, but met each obstacle head on.
The costs to the nonprofit were staggering for repairs that exceeded $30,000 the first year, a leaky roof in the second year and the ongoing replacement of the kennels.
Space was also an issue with the shelter. The demand caused a waiting list for the shelter to bring in animals.
With help from the community, fundraisers and local businesses, all repairs have been taken care of, with the exception of the kennels which is a work in progress.
"We have replaced 20, but we still have 60 more to go," Ms. Petrone said. "We started with the worst ones and have kept going."
Their biggest hurdle happened during 2013 when the shelter was handed a $14,000 vet bill that needed immediate payment.
"It was a rush to pay off in a month's time," Ms. Petrone said. "Luckily, because of the media, fundraisers and community, we were able to pay it off. We've now developed a medical emergency fund and fundraisers for that fund to keep it in the positive. Our medical expenses average $150,000 a year."
She said that 90 percent of the animals who come into the shelter are strays.
In the past few months, every animal rescued from Fellsmere has been heartworm positive.
"One treatment for heartworm can run $2,000 to $3,000," she said.
These costs are supplemented by the shelter's grooming, boarding, pest control and boutique services.
Ms. Petrone's ultimate goal is to make Indian River County a no-kill county by the time she retires.
"I really think there is a lot of love in this community," she said. "I can't even tell you the amount of love and support I've gotten here. The county takes in about 6,000 animals a year. If I'm taking in 1,500 of those animals, in the future, we can hopefully work together to make it no kill and we wouldn't have to euthanize animals for things that are treatable. It just takes the space and finances. That would be my perfect future."
For more information on H.A.L.O., call (772) 589-PAWS (7297) or visit www.HALORescueFL.org.