Sweet Water Rescue and Rehab is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit animal welfare organization and farm sanctuary located in Williston, Florida. We rescue all types of animals and provide rehabilitation services and a safe environment for them to flourish. There are currently over a hundred residents on the farm, many who have been mistreated or neglected in one way or another—most who have no other place to go and who might otherwise be destroyed. Sweet Water was founded by Rosario "Rosie" Gutierrez, who manages the day-to-day operations. We offer tours by appointment only and provide educational experiences for young people, so they may have firsthand experiences with our residents.
Rosie moved to Central Florida to study to be a veterinarian before a traumatic accident derailed her plans, although the education she received has been instrumental in her journey as an animal advocate. While working for a veterinarian, she got involved in the horse industry, which eventually led her to work in the animal welfare field. She has worked with many animal advocacy and rescue groups including Sheltering Hands, Inc. before creating Sweet Water, which she did because she saw a need to rescue and rehabilitate animals who were being turned away from other rescues and agencies, deemed as a lost cause, too medically needy or simply unadoptable.
"Right now, we live in a throwaway society and, sadly, we throw away animals a lot. It's sad," she offers. "We need to change the mindset of people to say, animals are not disposable."
Rosie is dedicated to growing and maintaining Sweet Water as a rescue, rehab and place of refuge by also maintaining it as a sanctuary where animals can live out their natural lives in an environment of comfort, peace and safety. It is her deepest wish to expand the educational and enrichment activities that she hosts at Sweet Water and offer both children and adult visitors a chance to engage with our residents in a respectful way and gain a better understanding of how animals view us and how to properly care for them.
We are committed to help the animals who are the most medically needy or neglected, even though their rehabilitation will be intensive and time consuming.
One example of this commitment involves a pitbull Rosie saved from euthanasia at an area animal control center. He had been subjected to terrible cruelty and the intense care he needed to treat and rehabilitate him were beyond what any other area rescue or agency was willing or able to take on.
“Someone had poured acid over three-quarters of his body,” Rosie recalls. “His head was raw, bleeding and cracked. They had poured acid on his rear end in his on his genitals as well, so all that was burned as well. The biggest concern was that they thought he would be blind, because when they poured the acid it ran into his eyes and he had two major corneal burns. He didn't need to die.”
Rosie cared for him for four months, treating his eyes and burns three to four times a day and giving him the love and encouragement he needed to heal. Eventually, he made a miraculous recovery. Rosie was even able to help him regain 80% of his vision in one eye and 100% in the other.
She then found a loving young family to adopt him and give him a forever home.
“He’s doing super well,” explains his adoptive mom Melissa Jane Pedersen. “We live on a beach, so he gets to go on walks, play in the water and just hang out. We have another pitbull who is about 10 and they’re best friends.”
This is just one of tragic stories that eventually became a happy ending
thanks to Sweet Water.