By: Jen Russon
Since she was in elementary school, 18-year-old Dylan Warfel has been a game-changer in saving the lives of guinea pigs and rabbits, many seriously injured when they come to her at Penny and Wild.
“We’ve rescued nearly 300 animals this year already and still get weekly, often daily, pleas. We rarely ever accept owner surrenders, so every animal that we’ve taken in has a sad backstory,” said Warfel.
The teen, a North Broward Preparatory School graduate, started Penny and Wild Smalls of South Florida earlier this year with Kristina Gertser and Anna Rabovskiy.
The trio mainly takes in rabbits in life or death situations, who would otherwise be euthanized. Penny and Wild are based in Broward County and have additional fosters in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach.
“At this time, our foster homes stretch from Cutler Bay to Rockledge, but we prefer to keep as many of them within the tri-county area as possible unless the fosters can transport back here if needed,” said Warfel, who lives in Parkland.
Warfel said Penny and Wild rely on donations to cover surgeries, medicines, food and veterinary care, as well as providing fosters with the resources they will need.
She increases their adoptability, and posts professional snapshots of what great pets her rabbits make — something Warfel said she has known since rescuing her first injured rabbit at the age of 12.
Another rabbit in need quickly followed that adoption. The pair of varmints were named Penny and Wild, and an idea of a nonprofit was born, attracting many foster families from Warfel’s own backyard.
The Webb family, who live in Ramblewood South of Coral Springs, fostered two rabbits for service hours that satisfy Coral Springs Charter School requirements.
“Our foster rabbits were Fern and Magic. My three daughters and I helped train them. They were super sweet and smart rabbits, who got along great with our other pets, a dog and a cat,” said Liza Webb.
The Webb’s started fostering the rabbits in the spring and recently found them a forever home; the adoption proceedings were handled by Warfel.
The nonprofit is always looking for donated supplies, like toilet training pads, Oxbow pellets, and clean care hay. To make ends meet, they offer boarding and socialization training as space allows.
Warfel said Penny and Wild are also looking for adoption event volunteers to help her and her nonprofit partners feel less overwhelmed by the gratifying, yet exhausting work they do.
“It’s all an incredible amount of work and stress, but I don’t regret it for a second. I don’t make a penny off it, but I’m learning so much about animal rescue and wouldn’t change things for the world.”
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- Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.
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