Cruel pet owners are aban­doning dogs by the hundreds to face alligators and other deadly creatures in the Florida Everglades – and AMY RESTUCCI has come to the rescue.

Incredibly, Amy and a band of volunteers have saved 229 starving – and in many cases – badly injured pooches and 10 cats that were left to battle Mother Nature.

“People think the animals have a better chance there than they do in a shelter,” Amy, 43, of West Palm Beach, Fla., told The ENQUIRER. "They don’t."

Amy’s rescue efforts began last September when she and some friends stopped to feed a few hungry dogs they came across on a visit to the Everglades. Suddenly, a ravaged pit bull crawled up to them.

“She was covered in bite wounds,” said Amy. “Every rib and bone in her body was showing. But she was still sweet as sugar.”

Amy named the dog Debbie and took her to a vet, where she was nursed back to health.

During more trips to the Everglades, Amy came upon dozens of starving dogs who would creep out of the swamp to drink the water and eat the food that she brought. As she began to rescue them, Amy realized she was taking on a huge task.

She started a Facebook page – 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida – and posted photos of the poor creatures she’d been helping. Animal lovers responded and Amy raised more than $100,000 to support her cause.

“I was so thankful. The medicine and treatments to get these dogs healthy is expen­sive and then there’s the cost of boarding,” said Amy.

As word of her rescue effort spread, Amy began getting calls 24 hours a day from people who spotted abandoned dogs in the Everglades. Not every dog survives.

“Once we found a litter of pups. We took a few to the car. When we went back for the others they were gone. Who knows how many dogs are being eaten by alligators or pythons?”

Of the 229 dogs and 10 cats that Amy has rescued, all but 10 have been adopted. Amy always meets the new owners – “I want to know where all the dogs are.”

Her rescue fund has now dwindled down to $6,000. She’s tried to get public officials to help “but they tell me they don’t have the manpower or the money.”

She urges anyone who wants to help to visit her Facebook page or e-mail her at amy restucci@aol.com. “These are not animals that can survive in the wild,” said Amy. “They want a belly rub…and some love.”