Polka Dogz Pet Rescue looking for a new home | West Orange Times & Observer

WINTER GARDEN – Running a non-profit dog shelter that has successfully rescued over 500 dogs is hard work, but doing it all from a 33ft travel trailer is an achievement in itself.

And yet, that’s what Polka Dogz Pet Rescue — a Winter Garden-based nonprofit with a mission to help dogs in need — has accomplished for the past three years.

The nonprofit, which was founded in late 2015, got its start with co-founders Aaron Stein and Heidi Hardman, who worked together in the pet rescue business before launching their Polka Dogz.

Polka Dogz Pet Rescue co-founder Aaron Stein and Polka Dogs mascot Maverick. (Courtesy picture)

“We decided we wanted to try to make things better than what we had seen,” Stein said. “Relief organizations always have their challenges. Some rescues have too many dogs. We believe that some rescues do not do enough vetting or research on potential adopters or do home visits. And we wanted to do the best we could.

And they did. But their success brought a new kind of challenge: the need to expand and buy a new facility to house the dogs.

At the moment, the duo is using a modified caravan. At any one time, about eight to 10 dogs are kept in the trailer and about 20 to 30 dogs are kept in foster homes, Stein said. But operating from a small trailer comes with its own set of complications.

“We’ve built purpose-built kennels that have worked well, but they still don’t have enough space,” Stein said. “So we want to build bigger, more private suites for them. And one of the biggest problems we have is that we don’t have office space. … We don’t have a central location to keep everything, so we have files at my house, at a volunteer’s, at Heidi’s and in the trailer.

Due to these challenges, they intend to secure a location that has room for offices, as well as space for a fenced yard.

They also plan to use their trailer to quarantine new rescues until it is deemed safe for them to reside with other dogs once they purchase a new location. They currently use a separate RV to keep a sick dog or a dog with puppies away from other dogs.

“Another concern of ours is not having a proper quarantine facility,” Stein said. “In theory, new dogs should not enter the general population. And if we know something is wrong, they don’t. We had no issues, but it’s still a high risk.

Stein and Hardman are looking for properties in western Orange County or eastern Lake County. They currently have about $20,000 saved for their new housing funds, but hope to reach a minimum of $50,000 before moving forward with future expansion plans.

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