After Charlotte County neighbors oppose, animal sanctuary seeks new site

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:

The Peace River Wildlife Center wants to open a new sanctuary near Taylor Rd., but people who live there have concerns their community will become a zoo.

Injured birds and small mammals at the Peace River Wildlife Center need a new place to heal. Keith Hilgenfeldt loves the passion it has for the animals it rehabs. But he said the site was “not an appropriate location.”

The Peace River Wildlife Center asked a Charlotte County zoning board for a special exception to put the non-profit in a residential area off Taylor Rd. Dozens of neighbors, including Hilgenfeldt, showed up at a special meeting on Wednesday to share their long list of worries.

“When we got the notice,” Hilgenfeldt said, “was the concern about possible disease or rodents, rats being attracted there?”

“Rodents are all over the place,” said Jerry Jones, the board president of the Peace River Wildlife Center. “It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten animals or actors.”

Peace River Wildlife Center said it wants happy neighbors living near the animals and ultimately asked the board to deny its special exception request. The move, drawing cheers from the audience and forcing the Peace River Wildlife Center to go back to the drawing board.

Peace River Wildlife Center is looking at splitting up its exhibits and rehab center when it relocates. It sees potential in property in Punta Gorda for its exhibits, which the non-profit expects the city council to discuss at its meeting next Wednesday.

“It is very disappointing,” said Dr. Robin Jenkins, a veterinarian for the Peace River Wildlife Center. “We really thought we found a great place for our rehab.”

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