While many people are saddened by the idea of unclaimed pets being killed, Bernie Alfonso, 51, is doing everything he can to keep as many animals as possible from being euthanized.
Alfonso, who works as a trainee instructor at Norwegian Cruise Line, decided to use his home, off Bird Road in Olympia Heights, to create a shelter where he can rescue animals and find them a home.
“One thing is to rescue animals from the shelter, but another thing is to keep them from going to the shelter to begin with,” he said. “I try to educate the community on the alternatives to surrendering their pets and help people who want to keep their pets.”
Alfonso also is on the board of No Kill Nation, a national organization dedicated to ending widespread euthanasia in shelters. He established his shelter as a non-profit organization, which he named Pet Partners Rescue Home, in 2010.
He uses his own money and donations from the public as the only two sources of funding for what he refers to as a sanctuary for pets, which currently holds 82 cats, four dogs, three birds and two rabbits. (He said zoning rules limit the number of dogs he can have, but not cats.)
“Unfortunately, my county shelter is a kill shelter,” he said. “They kill untreatable animals, which to me is nothing else other than barbaric.”
Pet Partners teamed up with Miami-Dade Animal Services, and with their permission, put posters up at their location. It also gained much popularity through social media and has more than 5,000 likes on its Facebook page.
One of Pet Partners’ supporters, Camille Loge, also fosters animals and attempts to find homes for them in Naples.
Loge calls Alfonso to send her cats and dogs from Miami.
“When you see that healthy and treatable animals are being killed for no good reason, it makes you want to help,” said Loge, who works in a veterinarian’s office. “People need to be more aware that there are wonderful animals that they can buy from a shelter.”
Like Loge, Larry Cohen, who is a retired teacher in Miami, believes that helping Alfonso in his cause serves to better the community.
Cohen, who has helped Alfonso save several animals in the community, believes that more people should care about this issue.
“People end up seeing their pet as an inconvenience, and they don’t care about what they’re thinking,” Cohen said. “Just because they end up being an inconvenience, what’s the alternative? Death?”
Alfonso, who has been working with Cohen for two years, feels that it is his duty to send a message to the community on behalf of the animals in it.
“I feel like I have to be the voice they don’t have,” Alfonso said. “What makes it all worthwhile for me is seeing an animal finally find a home and being able to live instead of being killed.”