WMNF | How the opening of a vegan restaurant resulted in ongoing interstate animal adoption


Ellen Quinlan – executive director of the Darbster Foundation (& Darbster Rescue), whose main job is to pluck cats and dogs from overcrowded animal shelters in South Florida and to find a home for them in the adoption-friendly New England region – said in a “Talking Animals’ interview about how she grew up in a family that lived with cats and dogs, sometimes other pets, and finds in what may be a central part of the Quinlan and Darbster narrative that she stopped eating meat at the age of 12.

Quinlan said she continued her vegetarian journey into her 30s when she and her then-husband Alan Gould attended a presentation by a major animal welfare organization in 1999, after which the couple decided to go vegan. In 2003, Quinlan and Gould – who love to dine out – took a 40-minute hike to their beloved vegan restaurant in Fort Lauderdale after becoming full-time residents of West Palm Beach. Tired of doing this trip several times a week, however, complained about the lack of vegan restaurants in their town.

With a can-do attitude (and naivety, as Quinlan ironically confirmed) that characterized some of the couple’s ventures, they opened their own vegan restaurant – despite zero restaurant business experience. They named it after a rescue dog they adopted: Darby, nicknamed “Darbster”. That was in late 2009, and after a few tough episodes during the learning curve, they settled into a groove, and a dozen years later, Darbster is going strong, with some key people holding their positions for 8-9 years, Quinlan said.

The fact that they named their place after their adopted rescue dog is perfectly fitting, as Quinlan explains that over time the couple became aware that animal shelters in the New England area often suffer from a painful shortage of adoptable animals – in contrast to the scenario in South Florida: crowded, low adoption rates, high euthanasia rates; among the highest in the nation, says Quinlan. She explains how The Darbster Foundation / Darbster Rescue addresses this paradigm by turning it around in a way: with the help of local rescue organizations, the Darbster operation identifies cats and dogs that promise adoption, arranges ground transportation from South Florida to New England (some of the cats are flown) , The animals are then brought to Darbster’s own facilities in New Hampshire as an intermediate step before ending up in their permanent home.


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