The challenges are immense. Distressed pets arrive in agonizing conditions, injured, fearful, hit by a car, bleeding internally or from a bullet wound, tumor-ridden or despondent victims of cruelty at the hands of an abusive individual.
Most dogs arrive as strays or lost. Owners have failed to come look for them or didn’t get their pet a microchip or identification. Now the animal needs a new, loving home. Others, sadly can no longer be cared for by their owners. Many are free-roaming cats cared for by a community member and that need to be sterilized to curtail the cycle of reproduction and homelessness. Some animals, perhaps because of previous trauma, may have injured a person or another pet.
Yet, despite these challenges, Miami-Dade Animal Services achieved the unprecedented “no-kill” status in 2015 by saving 90 percent of the more than 28,000 pets that arrive at our shelter annually.
Where else in our community has such a goal been accomplished?
Years ago, a movement swept across America pushing animal shelters to aspire to become “no kill.” The designation is commonly accepted throughout the pet-shelter industry as saving 90 percent of animals entering a shelter. Some ask: Why not save 100 percent? Sadly, there are always pets suffering beyond redemption, diseased or injured beyond repair, in which veterinary care standards and public safety concerns must be considered.
At the same time the no kill movement was growing, a local effort asked Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the County Commission to implement a plan that would have resulted in a tax increase for residents to save pets. The mayor came up with more money and trained staff, and commissioners agreed to put more resources into the shelter without raising taxes.
We now have an industry-leading shelter that has become a model for other counties and cities. Without raising taxes, Miami-Dade Animal Services started new initiatives and expanded existing programs to save more pets, increased spay/neuter to reduce unwanted pet reproduction and expanded medical care to help save medically needy animals, such as in the cases of Canolo the dog and Alexis the cat.
The Miami-Dade Animal Services medical team mobilized to save Canolo, who was suffering terribly after being hit by a car. Years ago he likely would have been euthanized because of his severe injuries and the lack of resources to provide surgery. Canolo had sustained significant injuries to his chest and front right leg. After staff veterinarians performed life-saving surgery, not common in public shelters, and restored his quality of life, medical and kennel employees cared for Canolo for over a month while staff dedicated to finding new homes for lost pets worked to get him successfully adopted.
Alexis, an 8-month-old cat that entered the shelter as a stray with a traumatic injury resulting in her eye hanging out of its socket, causing her unbearable pain and suffering. Shelter veterinarians performed emergency surgery to remove her eye and stabilize Alexis.
Without this necessary and life-saving care, Alexis too may not have had a chance to find a new loving home. After receiving follow-up care from shelter staff, Alexis was adopted into a loving home.
These cases demonstrate Miami-Dade Animal Services’ commitment to abandoned animals and typify work not done before by Miami-Dade Animal Services to save pets in line with its no kill mission.
Even with this success some individuals and groups misrepresent the incredible accomplishments of the work done every day by the dedicated employees of your local Miami-Dade Animal Services shelter. Despite this challenge we continue working to save 9 out 10 pets and sustain the unprecedented, 90 percent no kill status first achieved in 2015.
For more information on Miami-Dade Animal Services no-kill success, visit www8.miamidade.gov/animals/animal-statistics.asp.
Alex Muñoz is the director of Miami-Dade Animal Services.