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Jacksonville pet rescue dispute reveals many are zoned improperly

6:30 PM, Oct 23, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Oceanway residents are upset because they heard that Pit Sisters wants to put a rescue on Denton Road.

Jennifer Coscia runs TARA, which stands for The Animal Rescue and Adoption Agency.

"My husband and I thirteen years," said Coscia, "We've placed 4,004 animals into homes."

Coscia just discovered that her rescue is not properly zoned for what she does.

"Until this all began, I did not know the zoning does not allow what I'm doing here," she said.

What happened is the dispute over a possible pit bull rescue on Denton Road. Which means the same zoning would not allow it either.

"Whether it was dachshunds, German shepherds, bunnies, it is against the law," said Coscia, "It is against zoning."

Jennifer Watson, president and founder of Pit Sisters, wants to buy the property across the street from Coscia and she's against it.

"It's not about the breed," she said, "it is about the zoning. It is not allowed period."

Councilman Ray Holt's office has been flooded with concerns from residents.

"You've got a neighborhood that is concerned," said Holt. 

Watson said via email, "There are no plans to bring an animal rescue to Denton Road, nor have there ever been. I am moving in with my family, which includes my personal dogs."

"She is perfectly within her right. The neighborhood doesn't have a problem with that," said Coscia, "The minute she brings in other dogs that's a problem."

What the dispute has revealed is that all pet rescue operations, about 200, have a bigger problem: are they properly zoned?.

The Jacksonville City Council is now trying to correct the problem.

"City powers that be have all convened and in the midst of writing legislation to protect myself and the 201 other rescues," said Coscia. 

Holt said if Pit Sisters should buy the property on Denton Road, and plans to operate a rescue, it will have to apply for a zoning change, the property is now zoned Rural Residential.

No timeline on when the City Council will introduce a bill to make either exempted the pet rescue/adoption facilities that now operating in violation of the zoning code.

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