Animal sanctuary, wedding venue owner at odds over gunfire in rural Sumter County

SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. — A dispute involving wild animals, guns and a wedding venue has two neighbors at odds in rural Sumter County.

Chase Animal Rescue and Sanctuary said it believes its neighbors have been purposely shooting guns near its animals.

“The lemurs and the tamarins are very critically endangered, on the verge of extinction,” said Nina Vassallo, who works at the sanctuary.

Read: DeSantis: Florida lawmakers to consider ending Disney’s self-governing power during special session

The sanctuary said it aims to educate the public about wildlife through special activities, including yoga, meditation, music and painting.

“You can see it’s really quiet and calm and peaceful,” Vassallo said. “It’s a sanctuary.”

But she said that peace has recently been disturbed by the sound of gunfire.

Read: DeSantis announces major changes to in-state tuition, tenure policies for college professors

“They will set up and shoot guns for three or four hours straight, and we may be having a meditation event,” Vassallo said.

The neighbor, who owns a wedding business, told Channel 9 by phone that the gunfire is unrelated to the business -- he shoots for pleasure.

He said he loves animals and has not intentions to bother those at the sanctuary.

The two parties tried to reach a compromise but were unsuccessful in doing so.

Read: Several Central Florida school districts may have to choose new math books for next year

“It really has us worried about about the future and about the animals’ wellbeing,” Vassallo said.

The owner of the wedding venue said the animal rescue is harassing him by having people call and message him.

The two parties said they have reached out to law enforcement and have considered what legal options there are to settle the dispute.


Jason Kelly

Jason Kelly, WFTV.com

Jason Kelly joined WFTV in 2014.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.