Gulf Coast Humane Society rescued 64 dogs Tuesday afternoon from a hoarding case in Clewiston. It was part of a multi-agency initiative that took approximately 250 animals. Animal control officers say the dogs were all in good shape but the woman admitted she couldn’t take care of them all anymore.
The dogs, which include a variety of purebreds, will be available for adoption or foster care within the next few days.
The agency is putting out an urgent plea for volunteers and fosters.
The owner will not face any charges because she willingly gave up the dogs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its annual Household Food Security Report earlier this month. It shows 14 percent of Americans rely on the federal government food stamps program. In Florida, that’s nearly one out of every eight residents.
USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Kincannon says everywhere he goes he meets people struggling in the economy. He recently chatted with a woman working at a newsstand in a hotel where he was attending a conference.
“She mentioned that she worked 20 hours a week and would really like to work more hours a week but the hotel could not afford to hire for her for those additional hours. Then she mentioned, ‘I really depend on the food stamp program’ and she really didn’t know who I was at the time,” he said.
Kincannon says the food safety net is working.
In Southwest Florida, many providers are reaching out to let struggling families know help is available. Sarah Owen is director of Community Cooperative Ministries Incorporated (CCMI), which provides about 20,000 meals a month in Lee County. It’s adopted new strategies for serving families, many of whom are dealing with food insecurity for the first time. Owen says its soup kitchens have been reinvented as “community cafes.”
“So, now we’re open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. rather than just being open during the lunch hours and that was directly in relation to our seeing a new group of new hungry that needed a much wider variety of hours and services to help them get back on their feet,” she said.
CCMI’s Everyday Café in Cape Coral is bustling at 10:30 in the morning. Painted a cheerful yellow with café style tables and chairs, tasteful artwork on the walls and the day’s menu choices chalked neatly on a blackboard it could be any restaurant. Volunteers take orders and serve. Johnni Trinidad is here with her 3-year-old daughter Caroleena having breakfast. She just relocated to Cape Coral with hopes of a new job and says money is tight.
“My last paycheck from my previous job went to a down payment security deposit for the apartment, electric and water so I have all that. So, I just came here to fill in the gap with food and that sort of thing,” she said.
Anyone who needs a meal is free to come to the Everyday Café – no questions asked. But, CCMI also provides help to people who don’t have gas money or can’t pay their utility bills.
Meet Brian Fearn -- he’s underemployed in Cape Coral. He lives in a spacious home with his wife and three kids. It was affordable during the building boom when he worked fulltime selling paint. But, that job is gone and this summer the family couldn’t afford to pay their electric bill and also buy food. That brought Brian to CCMI.
“Because my bill was a little over $600 and with me only working a few hours in a night at UPS and me having the only income for a while in the house it’s hard to make ends meet,” he said.
CCMI helped the family pay the electric bill and got them enrolled in the food stamp program. Now things are improving. Brian’s wife landed a teaching position and he’s picking up jobs as a handyman. Their food stamp assistance ends in December. Families on average receive nutrition help for ten months.
The good news is the latest household food security numbers from the USDA showed no increase from the year before. USDA Undersecretary Kevin Kincannon says he hopes Congress keeps funding the program at least the present level.
“The message we’ve tried to convey clearly to Congress is that we are being good stewards of the American taxpayer dollars and these programs are operating as they should in that they’re very responsive to what’s going on in the economy,” he said.
The budget appropriation for the USDA’s food stamp program in 2012 is $71 billion, a 9 percent increase from the year before. Critics say it’s too large given the budget deficit.
A Collier County judge will hear a request for an injunction Thursday morning to restore access to the historic Smallwood Store Museum in Chokoloskee.
Mamie Street, the paved road leading to the 105-year-old Smallwood Store, was bulldozed and blocked by a chain link fence in April. Sources told the Naples Daily News that property owner Florida-Georgia Grove LLC tore up Mamie Street when it learned the Army Corps of Engineers would refuse a permit request for an alternate store entrance because of wetland issues. Taking out the road would force the Corps to reconsider.
The destruction infuriated area residents like Betsy Perdichizzi with the Marco Island Historical Society, which helped raise money to convert the store to a museum.
“This is worse than any hurricane. This old store and museum has survived so many hurricanes in the last 100 years and now a modern day developer can come in and ruin part of our history,” she said
The museum closed because there’s no way to get there.
Surviving members of the Smallwood family and the Collier County Commission brought the court challenge asking Florida Georgia Grove LLC to restore the road and pay for it. The county says Mamie Street was publicly maintained or more than 70 years, giving it “prescriptive easement” status.
The hearing at the Collier County Government Center will be preceded by a rally organized by Smallwood Store supporters. Calls to Florida Georgia LLC’s attorney were not returned.
A federally-protected loggerhead sea turtle that recovered from a serious illegal spearfishing wound was released Wednesday morning by Turtle Hospital officials in the Florida Keys.
About two months ago, a father and son were fishing off the Lower Keys when they saw the turtle struggling to come up for air with a 4-foot metal spear sticking out of its head. Director of the Marathon-based Turtle Hospital Richie Moretti said she was lucky in many ways, “She was lucky that she found people that would rescue her and we went ahead and took the spear all the way out.”
“It couldn’t have gone through in a better spot. It missed the back of her eye and the front of her throat and so it’s taken us now about six weeks. She’s finally up to eating. And when you see a turtle that works so hard to live – remember these are all dinosaurs – and that makes you feel really good when you have a turtle that’s one leg out of the world and you can bring ‘em back,” said Moretti.
An investigation is ongoing to find who speared the turtle. The Keys community has raised more than16,000 dollars in reward money. The release marked the 25th anniversary of one of the few, if not only, state-licensed veterinary hospitals in the world dedicated solely to the treatment of sea turtles.
According to Florida’s Department of Health, Lee and Collier Counties have the highest rate of deaths from falls in the state.
More than 130 people in Lee and 87 people in Collier died from falls in 2009, the most recent numbers available.
According to Lee Memorial Health System, falls are the number one cause of trauma death in Lee County – especially among seniors.
Trauma Prevention Educator at Lee Memorial Mark Tesoro says it’s hard to pinpoint why those number are so high in the area.
“Most people primarily think falls are a balance and strength issue, but there are a number of different factors when it comes to falls,” said Tesoro.
“There are vision issues, medication issues, footwear issues, lighting issues – all kinds of environmental issues…. That’s why it’s been difficult in trying to figure out why it’s occurring.”
Tesoro says falls are not a normal, natural part of aging and can be prevented.
He recommends clearing walkways and hallways, getting vision checked, and exercising regularly.
Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition will host free fall-risk assessments and health screenings on September 23 at Lake Kennedy Senior Center in Cape Coral.
Three youth football coaches and a 14-year-old player have been criminally charged with assaulting a referee in last weekend's videotaped brawl at a game in southwest Florida.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said Friday that all four will face a felony charge of battery on a sports official. If convicted they could face up to four years in prison.
The incident was captured on video Saturday in a game between 13- and 14-year-old players. It got national attention this week when the video was turned over to the sheriff's office and released to the media.
The video shows the referee, 41-year-old Jayme Ream, scuffling with the coaches over a call and then being tackled by the 14-year-old Sarasota Gators player.
The team has been kicked out of the league.
A new treatment that was tested at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa became available this week for patients with metastasized melanoma.
Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and can quickly spread to other parts of the body. Once that happens, the median survival rate is six to 12 months.
But, a new drug tested at Moffitt offers hope for extending life. Moffitt researcher Dr. Jeffrey Webber said it works by targeting and turning off a protein inside the tumor that makes it grow.
“What this drug does is give you a quick hit on the tumor, that is it gives a quick amount of shrinkage of the tumor and the hope is that you can add to it other drugs that will maintain shrinkage over the long term and prolong survival and give you a hope of curing these patients,” he said.
According to Webber, 50 percent of patients enrolled in the research trial benefitted from the drug, which is administered in pill form, twice a day. Webber says the side effects are quite moderate. Moffitt is one of three centers in the United States that ran trails that led to FDA approval.
Florida’s Redistricting Committee heard concerns of Collier County residents Wednesday morning at a crowded public meeting where there was standing room only.
The state lawmakers -- who are charged with redrawing Florida’s political boundaries -- listened to constituents for nearly three hours, but what they heard were basically three requests.
The No.1 issue on the minds of Southwest Florida voters seemed to be compact districts. Scott Duvall of Bonita Springs said the city suffers from a lack of political cohesion.
“One of our main issues is the bifurcation of the city of Bonita Springs – so we just ask for you to use wisdom in coming up with fair and logical boundaries,” he said.
A number of people, including Lydia Dalton with the League of Women Voters, were also concerned with the timeline for creating those new districts.
“It’s unfair to have the lines drawn after the date that candidates have to declare candidacy,” she said.
And, there was also concern about drawing compact districts that also provide for minority representation.
“Collier County is one of the only five counties in Florida whose entire electoral process is monitored by the Department of Justice due to past discrimination against Hispanics,” said Luis Bernal, who lives in North Naples.
Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who is chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said as far compact districts go the “listening tours” are providing valuable insight.
“Before today, I would not have understood there was any tension with regard to Bonita Springs,” said Weatherford. “Now, I understand what the citizens of Bonita Springs want -- they want to be together.”
But, creating districts that are compact, not drawn to favor one political party and assure minority representation at the state and federal level can be problematic, said senior committee member Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.
“There are some minority groups saying we need more opportunities. On the other hand, we have the fair districts language which says districts ought to be compact,” he said. “I think there will be tension and it will difficult to resolve and make everybody happy.”
As for the time frame for having political boundary maps in place that satisfy provisions of state and federal law, Weatherford said the committee is doing the best it can.
“It’s very important to point out that if we had the entire state of Florida drawn already, people would have said this whole process is rigged, you’ve already made up your mind this is a waste of time,” he said.
Weatherford and Gaetz both said they are committed to having maps drawn and approved as quickly as possible. The redistricting committee meets the week of Sept. 19 in Tallahassee. The longer the redistricting process takes, the more difficult it will be for potential challengers to campaign against incumbents.