Finding strays permanent homes is Ruskin woman's passion
Robin Roberts, 58, never intended to start a pet rescue but much of her life experience recently led her to do so. She had always taken in animals and tried to find homes for them but now she's making it a full-time effort. LOIS KINDLE/STAFF
RUSKIN - Robin Roberts never intended to start a pet rescue, but much of her life experience recently led her to do so. She had always taken in animals and tried to find homes for them but now she's making it a full-time effort and taking steps to become a nonprofit. It's called Critter Mama Rescue and guess what? She's the Critter Mama. "As a kid, I always had dogs growing up and groomed my family's poodles when I was in seventh grade," she said. "I raised two litters of their puppies and found homes for them." Things just evolved from there.
In the late 1980s, while living in California and working in the film and TV industry, Roberts bought a male English springer spaniel. The following year she purchased a female and intended to mate them eventually. "But they took things into their own hands and 60 days later I had nine huge puppies," she said. "I had to find homes for all of them." After that Roberts decided to take AKC dog obedience training became certified to teach companion dogs. She signed up to foster rescued springer spaniels and continued training dogs. In 2009 she moved to Ruskin with her cocker spaniel and two cats to marry Art DeAngelis. The following year she found a rat terrier puppy wandering along a rural back road. She and a woman coming from the opposite direction in a van full of kids both stopped to capture the dog to get it out of the street. Neither really needed a dog at the time, especially a tiny 6-pound puppy full of fleas, mange and worms. She was thin and had a distended belly. But when the other woman said she couldn't take the dog, Roberts caved. "I couldn't stand the thought of her being run over in the street," she said. Roberts took the pup to CARE but the rescue was full; she called every no-kill shelter in Tampa, no room. "So I brought her home, kept her my bathroom overnight, and then took her to Ruskin Animal Hospital the next day," she said. The vet gave her instructions for administering oral mange medication for 90 days, and by the time the treatment was over the dog went into heat. "Art named her Madelyn because he felt such a tiny dog should have a big name," said Roberts. "And I ended up having her spayed and she became my bed buddy." While all of this was going on, Roberts took on several part-time jobs. One of them was walking dogs for Sharon Roberts, the owner of All About Paws Pet Services. Last April she found a Staffordshire terrier mix whom she rescued and placed four days later, but it did work out and she took the dog back. At the same time she learned about a litter of 12 puppies who lived with a family nearby and convinced the owners to contractually relinquish their rights to five of them. Finding homes for the pups was the beginning. Critter Mama Rescue was born. Part of Roberts agreement with the former owners included her raising $300 to over a weekend so she could take the puppies to the vet and buy them food and supplies. She put a plea out on Facebook, folks gave her the cash and the pups were adopted. "After that I thought, 'You know, I think I'm supposed to do this,' " Roberts said. Last week Roberts officially filed papers with the state to become a Florida nonprofit organization. She's now in the process of raising funds to care for the four dogs, one adult cat and seven kittens she's trying to find homes. "Every time I take in an animal I have to immediately take it to the vet, have it examined, tested for heartworms and treated, if applicable, and vaccinated. Plus I have to feed them things like toys, bedding and pee pads. It can be pretty expensive." Adoption fees start at $150, and if an animal is not spayed or neutered, Roberts will board them until either procedure and microchipping is done. She uses a nonprofit vet and passes along his discounted rates to the prospective owner. Roberts requires an application and does home visits before placing pets. "I want to be sure they're going to a home that good for it," she said. "There have been times I've said, 'No.' " To contact Roberts, make a donation, or learn more about her rescue service, email email@example.com or visit Critter Mama Rescue on Facebook. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 731-8138