Animal Rescue Force of South Florida, Inc, which incorporated on September 2, 2005, may sound like a new organization. However A.R.F. was originally founded as a result of ”Animal Day,” a proclamation signed by then Mayor Walling, and the dedication and guidance of Jo Anne and Ronald Garretson on October 12, 1974, in East Brunswick, New Jersey.
On that day, volunteers gathered at the Brunswick Square Mall with tears in their eyes full of anticipation, but also fearful that the ten animals that they had to adopt out would not be adopted. Soon enough, their concerns would become history. The exhibit doors were officially opened at 10:00 am and by 10:30 am not only were the ten homeless animals adopted, but the volunteers had returned to the shelter to rescue more animals.
During the next few months, many obstacles were overcome. In January of 1975, Ron Garretson suggested to build a ”Petmobile;” a vehicle that would go to the shelter, pick up the animals, and take them to the shopping malls, and adopt them out directly from the Petmobile. In other words, take the shelter to the people. Although raising the funds to cover the expenses was another challenge, the volunteers once again found a way to overcome this challenge. On July 26, 1975, the Animal Rescue Force "Petmobile" was officially put into operation. During their first year, the Petmobile found homes for 1,057 dogs and cats.
Several years and many rescues later, Jo Anne and her husband Ronny retired to Florida, and left a successful rescue group in the hands of dedicated volunteers. A few years later, Jo Anne and Ronny decided to start another rescue group in South Florida, and once again, with the help of others, A.R.F. was founded in Palm Beach County. After nine successful years, over 8,000 adoptions, and three presidents later, the third president decided to retire and dissolve the organization. Although, it was a decision not accepted by the members, the Board voted to dissolve A.R.F. Subsequently, A.R.F. was dissolved on August 9, 2005 and all of the assets, including the "Petmobile," were donated to other charities.
Immediately thereafter, some of the volunteers regrouped, formed a Board of Directors, and submitted an application for incorporation. The corporation was officially formed on September 2, 2005, followed by the 501(c)3 status. With the direction of the newly formed board, Animal Rescue Force of South Florida, Inc. was founded. A.R.F.’s kick-off event, the Delray Beach Garlic Fest, was a huge success. During the event, the group found loving homes for 11 animals, and raised a significant amount of funds. To date, A.R.F. has been able to find loving homes for several thousand homeless animals.
As the result of the volunteers’ tireless efforts, on April 4th, 2006 the purchase of an ”Adoption Shuttle” was made possible. The 37’ RV made its maiden voyage a week later, during the Delray Beach Easter Bonnet Parade. The Adoption Shuttle, which enabled various animals to be transported together, was driven to different sites on the weekends for the purpose of finding homeless animals loving homes. The shuttle finally was retired in 2011 and was replaced by a more economical van that still allows this organization to take the animals to the people every weekend.
In December, 2010, after extensive fundraising and two years of design and construction, a dream for the board members finally came true. The Animal Rescue Force of South Florida "Adoption Center" opened at 5115 S. Dixie Hwy in West Palm Beach, and A.R.F entered a new phase of the rescue world. The Adoption Center has a pet supply store, a grooming facility and a showcase for a few of the many cats and dogs for adoption. In addition, A.R.F. became a partner of Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control to be able to help save the lives of even more animals.
A.R.F is a unique rescue group in that all the animals are housed in foster homes. Thus, each animal's personality is known and the perfect "forever" home can be found. The increased socialization and family life makes each animal more adoptable. In addition to the Adoption Center, A.R.F. has secured several adoption locations, to include four PetSupermarkets and a PetSmart, throughout Palm Beach County, to showcase our animals.
The group’s diligent efforts continue to focus on finding homes for homeless pets and in rescuing animals from local shelters, while promoting that every animal should be spayed or neutered.