A small group of people is rescuing dogs and puppies from mangroves, alleyways, train tracks, even the Everglades — taking in strays off the streets of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
They plead with neglectful owners to untether dogs tied to trees and to bring dogs down from sweltering rooftops. They pick up strays en route to rescues and get calls at all hours from concerned people reporting strays and animal abuse.
“Our mission is to rescue them, bring them back to health, and show them that not all humans are bad. We want them to know that love and a warm bed are just around the corner,” said Amy Roman, founder of the rescue group 100+ Abandoned Dogs of the Everglades. “Beyond that, we work to raise awareness about this brutal reality happening right here in our community.”
On this day, Roman, 45, and her small rescue crew are attempting to rescue puppies that have been surviving within the twisted mangroves in a fenced-in lot off Ives Dairy Road.
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Their plan is to rescue the puppies first, worried that they might have parvovirus and need immediate treatment, and then come back for the leader — the mother, a shaggy black dog that has been living there for five years. The mother has had hardly any human contact and has birthed many litters with few survivors, except for a handful of 9-week-old pups, according to a neighbor who has been feeding them.
Carol Daniello, 42, Roman’s partner and fellow rescuer, waits by the chain-link fence that separates the lot from the busy street with her hand on a button that will, when pressed, release the trap’s door.
They’re against time as the multi-acre grassy mangrove site is slated for development, and the fence, the only protection the dogs have from the street, will be opened.
They vet all the dogs they take in and so far it’s been nearly 3,000, Roman says, since she started her first rescue in 2011, after a trip to the Redlands where her encounter with numerous homeless dogs prompted her to take action.
She and Daniello take each new arrival to Imperial Point Animal Clinic or Pet Emergency Center, both near Fort Lauderdale, where each dog is given a bath and groomed, vaccinated, tested for parvovirus and heartworm — and if positive, treated for it. Each dog is then spayed or neutered and microchipped if it isn’t already. As soon as they’re healthy enough, and if they’re friendly, Roman and Daniello take the dogs to Camp Canine in Fort Lauderdale, a cage-free doggy day care, for boarding, until they are fostered or adopted.
At first, they concentrated their efforts on rural areas in Homestead, the Redlands and the Everglades to feed and rescue dogs that owners had dumped there.
“People are dumping dogs everywhere, they’re throwing them out of their cars,” Daniello said.
They then expanded to the streets of the rest of Miami-Dade and Broward after calls started pouring in about more cases of neglect and strays.
Michael Leiva, shelter program manager of Miami-Dade Animal Services, emphasized that dogs are being abandoned everywhere in South Florida, not just the Everglades, but even closer — like just a few blocks away from the shelter.
Though he’s acquainted with Roman and her rescue group, he's more familiar with Dogs on the Move, a local nonprofit that works with the shelter to save dogs that are due to be euthanized by transporting them to other rescues and no-kill shelters for re-homing.
Intake at the shelter ranges from 75 to 100 animals daily.
Powder, Ruby, Maya, Lola, Titan, Viana and Venice are just some of the 60 dogs 100+ is trying to provide a second chance by fundraising, Facebooking and hosting adoption events to get them into good homes.
More than $8,000 has been spent on a single dog, Titan, because of the medical attention he needed in order to survive. Currently available for adoption, he was tied to a pole by a wire on an abandoned property and was attacked repeatedly by other dogs.
In order to be financially able to take in more abandoned animals, they depend solely on donations from people as 100+ is a 501c3 organization.
“Our most-ambitious rescue to date yielded more than 30 dogs in one day in rural Miami — Cutler Bay, Everglades National Park area,” Roman said. “Some dogs had broken limbs, dangling legs, missing limbs from alligator bites — all were in serious need of food, water and medical attention,” she said. “Our biggest heartbreak is that we must leave so many behind each time.”
What should you do if you come across a homeless animal?
“Pick it up, take it to any vet’s office and have it scanned for a microchip. If there’s no microchip, reach out to a rescue, and if all the rescues are full try to foster it until you can find someone to adopt it,” Roman said. “The last resort should be a shelter, and we all know what that means, but they're better off being humanely euthanized rather than suffer a slow and painful death on the streets.”
If someone is trying to find a home for a dog, Roman said that she’ll post the dog’s information on Facebook if the person promises to do a home check if someone is interested in adopting.
“Mandatory spaying and neutering should be in place. How are we going to get anywhere? They just keep reproducing while we’re fighting a mentality war — a third-world country mentality, where people don’t respect animals,” Roman said. “Stricter laws and fines need to be in place and enforcement from government officials needs to happen to try to alleviate South Florida’s stray animal epidemic.”