Once the sun comes up over Echo Lake Park, an area outside of downtown Fort Worth, Texas, Judy Obregon starts searching for abandoned pets, mostly dogs, but also the occasional cat, who have been dumped. If she finds them alive, those are the lucky ones, because they get a second chance.
After finding these discarded pets, Judy and her team of volunteers provide them with veterinary care, rehabilitation, loving foster homes and eventually placement into devoted forever families. It’s the ones that are found dead, and must be buried, that break Judy’s heart.
“If there is an animal out there that is alive I get them,” she tells PEOPLE.
Judy started searching the Echo Lake area in 2010 after finding her first rescue, an injured Mastiff mix she named Buddy, while driving near a service road. From then on, Judy, haunted by all of the dogs she kept finding, returned regularly, sometimes twice a day and six times a week, to find more animals and rescue them.
These trips led to the creation of her rescue, an organization she named The Abandoned Ones because, “every animal I found here was abandoned. Whether found tied to the fence or in a trash bag, they were abandoned.”
Judy believes she has now saved more than 300 animals from Echo Lake Park in the last 7 years. She fears the large number of abandoned animals are linked to illegal dog fighting rings, where weaker canines are often used as bait dogs in fights and then dumped. She works closely with local law enforcement, but so far no culprits have been found.
Judy, who grew up in the Echo Lake area, was already standing up for animal rights at the age of five, according to her dad, when she rescued a mama cat and her kittens. Soon, she started rescuing any animal that crossed her path, with pit bulls and opossums being her personal favorites.
Her mission, she says, is not just to rescue animals, but also to educate and foster good relations within the Echo Lake community, teaching families about low cost spay-and-neuter programs, and she says, as needed, “we help mend fences and get dogs off of their tethers. I do follow up with them and create relationships with them and that is part of the impact I have made so far … the relationships with people, and they will then let me know when a dog is running around out here.”
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Judy remains fearless and undeterred in saving the animals that she knows will be there tomorrow and the next day.
“Every animal matters,” she says, “I won’t be going anywhere anytime soon until I can make a bigger impact. “