Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words


Animal Shelter Takes in 73 Purebred Great Danes

Pets had been abandoned after owner/breeder no longer aboe to care for them


October 30, 2016

Alaqua Animal Refuge

The Great Danes are all ages and colors.

Alaqua Animal Refuge, a no-kill animal shelter located in Northwest Florida, has taken custody of 73 Great Danes that were recently involved in a large scale breeding operation.

The Refuge was contacted by concerned family members of a "puppy mill" owner in declining health, after it was discovered he had abandoned the facility, no longer able to care for the animals.

"This was an enormous undertaking in every sense of the word, but we knew we had to help," said Laurie Hood, Alaqua founder. "It's one of the reasons the Refuge was founded. And for the most part, these gentle giants were healthy. All the dogs were fed and cared for. They were loved."

The Refuge immediately assessed the living conditions while staff and volunteers began taking the animals off property for immediate medical attention. Alaqua first took a litter of 13 puppies, the dogs with special needs, and those that were pregnant.

"In the non-profit's nine-year history, it has only had one Great Dane up for adoption," said Hood. "Coincidentally, the woman who adopted that particular animal has been a great resource in the rescue and care of these 73 Great Danes. Soon after that adoption, she relocated to Florida to become engaged in Alaqua's mission of giving animals a second chance of life."

News and photos of these adorable animals receiving care at the Refuge were shared on social media and word spread like wildfire. The newspaper that first reported the story had over three million views to the online article posted on its Facebook page. Over 500 applications were submitted over a two-day period from adoptive humans all over the United States. Applications are still pouring in; however, at this time no additional applications are being accepted.

"It completely blew up our Facebook page, our telephones, and it actually shorted out our website for small amount of time," said Hood. "We truly believe that the love and passion for these beautiful animals are the reason for the overwhelming response. People genuinely care and want to help them."

Hood says that all of the animals are very calm, sweet, and are just in need of a great home to provide the care and love they so desperately need, and deserve.

Although Great Danes are one of the best-natured dogs of all breeds, they are not for everyone. Great Danes can weigh up to 200 pounds, and some can stand at least 7-8 feet tall. Great Danes are indoor dogs; highly people oriented; and in need of plenty of room and training. These regal animals are a breed that requires much special attention with regard to diet, medical needs, and companionship.

Alaqua is taking its time to make sure each of these Great Danes goes to the right home for the owner, and for the dog. Each application is being carefully vetted against criteria set forth by Alaqua's veterinarian team as well as breed specialists. Because of the special needs required for owning and caring for a Great Dane, home visits will also be conducted for these dogs, which is something that isn't customary for the Refuge.

The Great Dane adoption effort comes at a time when the Refuge is looking to expand in order to meet the needs of the community. In a typical month, it costs about $80,000 to operate the Refuge, which is entirely dependent on private donations and fundraising events, and that is without the added expense of such a big group like the Great Danes.

The Refuge desperately needs help with medical care costs, as expenses are tremendous for dogs of this size.

Currently the dogs are eating over 150 pounds of food a day, and still need to be micro-chipped, spayed, and neutered before being placed in homes. They are also being given other medical care such as heartworm treatment, rabies and other shots necessary before adoption.

Any and all donations are appreciated, as each one adds up to help care for the animals.

Donations can be made on the Refuge website at:

About Alaqua Animal Refuge

Alaqua Animal Refuge is a no-kill animal sanctuary and adoption center located in Freeport, Florida. A member of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, Alaqua believes that every abused, neglected and homeless animal deserves a second chance. This private, non-profit animal sanctuary is committed to serving the Emerald Coast of Florida as the premier no-kill refuge, providing protection, shelter and care to animals in need. It is a full-service animal adoption center providing peaceful, proactive animal welfare advocacy through educational outreach and community programs.

The dream and vision for Alaqua Animal Refuge has been to grow the shelter and expand its scope of animal welfare services to the community and beyond. Plans are underway currently to expand and relocate the Refuge from 10 acres to 100 acres of donated land.

Alaqua Animal Refuge

While the gentle dogs appear to have been cared for and loved, they have a number of medical issues that need to be addressed.

This new facility will allow Alaqua to help more abandonment cases like the Great Danes and additional cruelty cases with expanded on-site services and programs. Alaqua's ultimate goal is to become a destination for animal welfare advocates throughout the country and a model for the future of animal refuges.

More than 250 animals can be found at the Refuge at any given time, including dogs, cats, horses, bunnies, birds, goats, pigs, and even emus. On average, 100 animals are adopted every month from this unique shelter and adoption center. For many animals, Alaqua serves as a true sanctuary where they can live out their life being care for and loved. Since its inception in 2007, the Refuge has placed more than 12,000 animals of all kinds, and has grown to become a recognized leader in animal welfare and animal cruelty prevention. For more information, visit


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