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Seneca rescue looks to move to country home

Little Bit is one of the puppies Denise and John Painter rescued from a local shelter last summer.
Denise Painter

City ordinances and animal rescue sometimes clash as one rescue in Seneca recently found out.

Denise and John Painter co-founded Dot's Place Animal Haven in 2002 as a cat rescue when they lived in Greenville County. In the summer of 2011 they moved to a one-acre lot inside of the city of Seneca to have more space.

“I researched the laws then.” says Denise, who does some part-time work to help support the rescue. “At that time, there were no limitations on the numbers of animals one could have as long as the animals had clean living space and adequate food and water. Since we had a separate heated and cooled building for our rescue cattery, we thought we were okay.”

Last summer Denise and John partnered with a Virginia-based rescue and a Maryland-based rescue to pull puppies from Oconee County Animal Shelter. The plan was to quarantine the puppies for two weeks and transport them to rescues and shelters in the northeast U.S. where they would have a greater chance of being adopted. In those states, strict licensing and spay/neuter laws result in fewer puppies being born, so the demand for adoptable puppies exceeds the supply.

At that point, everything was moving right along according to plan. At the time Seneca ordinances did not restrict the number puppies outside as long as they were less than 4 months old, had adequate shelter, food and water and were not a noise nuisance.

Denise and John, acting on behalf of their rescue partners, rescued thirteen puppies from the shelter, preventing the two litters from facing euthanasia for space. During spring and summer months, the shelters are especially crowded and open-access shelters which have to take all pets brought in frequently are forced to euthanize to make room for new arrivals.

Two weeks after the puppies were pulled from the shelter they had been fully vetted and had completed their quarantine period. They were ready for their trip up north.

Unfortunately, the northern rescues backed out at the last minute, and Denise and John have been left with having to find homes for the dogs ever since. They’ve been successful; out of the original 13 dogs, only five remain. The others have been adopted, or been transferred to foster care or other rescues.

The damage had been done; Denise and John received notification from the City of Seneca advising them that they were in violation of a number of ordinances.

The Painters have taken measures to bring themselves into compliance, but they have decided that it would be better if they relocated outside of the city limits.

They are looking for a farm or other property in the county where they can continue their rescue efforts.
“The only real fix on this though will be to move out of the city, out of any municipal or zoned district.” Denise concludes. “We want to continue to rescue animals from the shelter and we don't feel like we can do that here.”

They will consider almost any property where they can have a living space and space for their rescue animals in Oconee or Anderson counties. Denise says fixer uppers are fine as long as the roof is sound, and they would like to be in the country.

If you have a property available for long-term lease, please contact them at If you are interested in seeing the dogs they have for adoption, you can go to The Nine Seneca, SC Dogs on Facebook, and to see cats available for adoption, go to Dot's Place Animal Haven on Facebook.

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