On the shore of Lake Thunderbird sits just under seven acres of grassy land, home to a nurse, her roommate and 60 dogs.
Naomi Gooch, owner of Dogs Love You Forever, has been rescuing dogs and housing them on her property since 2011.
She always wanted to lead a rescue, and the rural farming rank allowed her to have more animals than Moore, who was limited to four. Over the years, Gooch has built a community of rescue owners, veterinarians and other animal care professionals. Now the community has supported Gooch in his efforts to obtain a kennel license and keep his sanctuary.
On August 9, Nicolette Collins, a Gooch Sanctuary rescue associate, appeared before Norman City Council to plead Gooch’s case for a kennel license and potentially expand the city’s ordinances.
Gooch is now on his third attempt to obtain a license and is awaiting an official court date. According to a Facebook post, she also hopes to stop Norman’s animal protection officers from taking her dogs.
Gooch started his rescue mostly with Chihuahuas, then pit bulls after getting a mix of pit bulls delivered to him. She initially tried to find someone to take the dog, but every shelter she called refused, telling her that pit bulls and chihuahuas are the most over-bred, under-adopted and euthanized breeds. in shelters.
Eventually, Gooch found a rescue ready to take on the pitbull mix, but not without bad news. The rescue told her the dog would spend the rest of her life in a 10-by-6 slab because Pit Bull mixes are not generally adopted, which she found unacceptable.
At that moment, everything fell into place for her, and she knew what her sanctuary would be for.
“(It’s) for those who aren’t adopted,” Gooch said. “They’re not locked in a 10 x 6 concrete slab where someone comes in, gives them food and water every day and that’s it. They will be home.
Gooch defines her kennel as a “sanctuary” because she takes senior dogs and aggressive dogs for people or unadoptable animals on a long-term basis because, given their circumstances, they would otherwise be euthanized. The town of Norman, however, does not define the sanctuary in its municipal ordinances.
“They don’t have any sanctuary verbiage,” Gooch said. “They probably don’t see it as financially feasible for one person, but that’s why I’m limiting my numbers. I can’t take more than I can afford.
With her earnings as a registered nurse, Gooch pays for the microchipping, spaying, neutering and food out of her own pocket. Because she is funding the rescue herself, she said she was a state-incorporated LLC, despite what the city would prefer her to do.
Norman, she said, wants her to register as a 501(c)(3), which allows nonprofits to be exempt from federal income tax. Gooch said no, because the registration only allows tax exemptions for non-profit organizations, which is not necessary for animal welfare.
Gooch said she’s applied for a kennel license three times over the past two decades, and each time she’s hit a roadblock with the city.
The process involves filling out an application, sending certified letters to everyone within 300 feet of the property, making legal publication with the Norman Transcript, obtaining proof of publication, and then sending it all to the kennel licensing board.
The last time she applied, she said an animal protection officer came to her sanctuary and told her to get a license, but not without issuing a warning.
“I started the process again, except this time (the) officer said, ‘Yeah, you’re not going to be allowed to keep those dogs. We’re not going to do that,” Gooch said.
She said the situation had been a “huge ordeal” and she had even considered getting a kennel license from the United States Department of Agriculture through the state, but said that the city would not recognize her. Gooch said it would be easier to register as a zoo than as a sanctuary, which she says has no description in city ordinances.
“If I had a federal license as a zoo, I could open one,” Gooch said. “But it’s dogs and cats (so animal protection officers) are threatening – after all has been well for years – to take the dogs from the sanctuary who are only there to live their lives.”
Brenda Hall, Town Clerk of Norman, said it’s not that the town of Norman doesn’t recognize a USDA license, but in order for her to keep a large number of dogs on her property, the town would need she has a private, commercial or hospitality license with the city.
Tara Sharp, owner and director of Safe Haven Animal Birth Control Clinic, said she’s worked with Gooch for years, and Gooch is what she calls a “referral client.” Norman, she said, is lucky to have someone like Gooch for the service she provides.
“To give him a hard time about a kennel license for the number of animals, which we consider small in the grand scheme of things, is mind-boggling to me,” Sharp said. “(How could they) not welcome and support someone in the community who spends their own funds to provide housing and animal care?”
She said that as someone working for animal welfare, municipalities are usually focused on complaints about animal issues, especially since animal welfare currently has few staff in Norman. .
Sharp said she was shocked when she first saw Gooch’s Facebook post about her fight, but was ready to help if needed.
“I can vouch on her behalf that she takes very good care of these animals,” Sharp said. “It’s just very concerning that Norman decided to give her a hard time. It would be different if she was a backyard breeder, a puppy mill or in a situation where those animals won’t be cared for, but she It’s not. That’s not the point at all.”
Collins wrote in a message to the OU Daily that Gooch knows how to deal with foster families properly and is a competent caretaker.
“(Gooch) is a godsend,” Collins wrote. “She takes those who aren’t cute enough to be adopted, those who are old and won’t be adopted, and those who have physical disabilities. These animals in a shelter are the first to be euthanized even if they have more life left or are struggling to overcome their problems.
From her perspective, Collins wrote that she couldn’t imagine any reason anyone would confront Gooch about the number of dogs in her care. Collins wrote that Gooch’s sanctuary has been in operation for more than 15 years and that it seems “incorrect” to ask him about his licensing situation seemingly out of nowhere.
“(Gooch) helps shelters that are overcrowded,” Collins wrote. “Naomi lives quite a distance from the city and on a large plot where her dogs do not disturb her neighbours. She uses her own money to feed, house and care for these dogs. She doesn’t hurt anyone. »
Gooch said her ultimate goal is to educate and encourage the city council and kennel board to recognize sanctuaries and the need for long-term animal care.
“My goal is to get them to recognize the sanctuary by changing verbiage or adding verbiage to city ordinances,” Gooch said. “Even if they say I can’t take in any more dogs (at least I want them), let those who are here – who are happy, healthy and safe – stay. … They just want to live their life.