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Save Our Seabirds sanctuary founder fired

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Lee Fox Lee Fox
PHILADELPHIA, PA (WFLA) -

Save Our Seabirds founder Lee Fox says she has been fired from the wildlife rescue organization she started in the garage of her Tierra Verde home under another name 23 years ago and built into a model nonprofit at the former Pelican Man Sanctuary in Sarasota. 

Fox played a lead role in rescuing dozens of oil-soaked seabirds during the Tampa Bay oil spill in 1993 and has been a formidable presence in the bird rescue community for decades.

At her home in Wimauma, you'll find all wide varieties of birds, many in need of her care.

She pointed out a Sandhill crane in a cage saying, "That one's about five months old and he has a fractured carpus, or [what you would call] your fingers."

Fox has been embroiled in a growing dispute with SOS management for months over the direction and policies of that rescue organization regarding the acceptance of injured birds from neighboring counties. 

She was the former executive director but last year assumed the role of Chief Medical Administrator and worked under the new top executive, David Pilston.

Fox says management fired her two weeks ago.

"I feel like it's an injustice," said Fox. "The way they did it, they're treating me like a criminal."

Fox really doesn't know why she lost her job.

Now she can't get access to her belongings or the animals she worked so hard to rescue.

"I have fought very hard to get here, to get where I am," said Fox.

David Pilston, Executive Director of SOS said her statement is inaccurate. "At this point she's still an employee," said Pilston.

In a later statement he said- "This is an internal personnel matter. Our mission remains the same- to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured birds."

Fox said, "This is what I've been doing for 27 years, and it's kinda hard to stop."

Fox is concerned for the animals at the SOS, and says she will not go quietly.

"I'm not a giver upper, and this won't be the end," she said.

It's not clear what impact her departure will have on the bird rescue operation she founded.

Fox says she will continue to care for sick and injured animals at her Wimauma home.

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