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October 29, 2009

A Comprehensive Look at Miami-Dade Animal Services

This comes from Dr. Sara Pizano, who heads the department, and is deeply grateful to everyone who has helped save animal's lives.

Thank you!  Because of you, Animal Services saved more animals this year than any other year in the history of the Department!


This year we shattered all adoption records!  8,330 pets were adopted into their forever homes.  That’s a 266% increase since we became an independent Department when 3,000 animals were adopted in one year (2004).  That number also represents a 30% increase over last year.  On October 4th, 80 pets were adopted in one day at our annual Birthday Party Adoption event celebrating the end of our 4th year!  Our next adoption event is Home for Every Holiday on Sunday, December 6th from 10am-3pm.


We now have 51 approved and active Rescue Partners that include 4 humane societies.  A record breaking 3,888 were pulled this year!  Thank you to all our contacts and pullers who network continuously on behalf of our shelter pets, drive all over the state, give up their weekends and guest rooms and make a difference for so many pets!


13,719 animals were saved in the FY 08/09, which was a combination of adoptions, return to owners and transfers to Rescue Partners.  3,092 more animals were saved in 08/09 as compared to 07/08.  Unfortunately, the return to owner rate has essentially flatlined for 3 years so please continue to encourage people to microchip their pets.  We now offer microchipping to the public for $10 that includes registration.


In October of 2008, we began our Puppy Foster Care program.  Shelter Volunteers attend an advanced orientation and care for puppies less than 8 weeks old.  When old enough, the puppies are returned for an adoption event or go straight to the Humane Society of Broward County to get spayed and neutered then to their Boca Raton satellite adoption center.  Over 200 young puppies who would have otherwise been euthanized were saved by our foster volunteers.


Unfortunately another record broken was the intake record.  For the fiscal year 2008/2009, 37,340 animals were abandoned at our shelter.  We are working on several initiatives to decrease shelter intake discussed below.  But one noteworthy and significant accomplishment was that even though the intake number increased by 3,000 animals, the euthanasia percentage decreased from 63 to 57%.  Typically when intake increases, so does the percentage euthanized.


The Animal Services Foundation has been created and each commissioner has appointed a board member.  We are now working towards the 501c3 status.  The mission and goal of the Foundation is to create programs that decrease shelter intake that will ultimately decrease euthanasia.  We have many model communities across the country that have drastically decreased shelter intake with aggressive and targeted spay/neuter programs.


Thanks to a partnership with the University of Miami School of Law-HOPE club, we will be conducting a survey of 500 owners who are relinquishing their pets.  Beyond the standard questions, we are looking to determine what might prevent an owner from surrendering, so we can develop programs to assist pet owners  keep their pets.


We are currently looking at a Doral warehouse to be retrofitted for our needs.  Plans are for a state of the art shelter that will be 100% under air.  A contract is now  being prepared that will be presented to the Board of County Commissioners for approval.


Along with the Humane Society of Greater Miami/Adopt-a-Pet, The Cat Network, Friends Forever Rescue and Pet Rescue, our coalition received a Starter Grant for $30,000 in January of 2009.  Animal Services was awarded $22,000 of that money due to our adoption numbers.  The money was dedicated to spaying and neutering cats for the public on our MAC unit each Thursday.  Over 700 cats were sterilized and we finished off the year using donations from the Animal Services Trust Fund so the total number of cats done between February and September of 2009 was 1,401!  We are now working on other funding sources such as the ASPCA’s Mission Orange and Petsmart Charities.


In August of 2009, we received our second spay/neuter grant!  We were awarded $25,000 from the Florida Animal Friends so are now able to continue our Thursday cat spay/neuter program on the MAC unit for $15 per surgery.  Again, this program will be supplemented by donations to the Animal Services Trust Fund.


In FY 06/07 we began tracking the number of visits to our website and that year had 111,000 hits.  In FY 07/08, we topped 300,000 and in FY 08/09, there were over 400,000 direct visits to our website!  In addition, we have partnered with many other sites such as petfinder.com, pedigree.com, adoptapet.com, mightydog.com and petsmart.com that added an additional 200,000 visits!  We are taking advantage of as much technology as possible and now have a Facebook page so check it out!


In 2007, half the fleet of older Animal Control Officer vehicles (dangerous for staff and animals) were replaced with new vans equipped with air conditioning.  For the last year and a half, we have been working on replacing the rest of the fleet.  Those purchases/decisions were made long before the budget cuts and we are looking forward to retiring the rest of the old trucks by the end of the calendar year.


Granada Productions has completed the first series of Miami Animal Cops that will premiere on Animal Planet in January of 2010.  At that time, the old show (6 years old) should be removed.  I know you will be impressed with the compassion and dedication of our staff and look forward to educating the public through this new series.  We are in negotiations now for a second series.


In March of 2009, we partnered with the Humane Society of Greater Miami, the Cat Network and the South Florida Veterinary Association and Foundation.  Over 100 volunteers including 28 veterinarians sterilized 214 cats in one day!  In July we partnered again with Cat Network, SOBE cats and SOBE Animal Hospital (thanks Dr. Tenzer!) and sterilized 74 free roaming beach cats.

 Our next event at the Humane Society Spay/Neuter Clinic will take place on Sunday, January 31 so please save the date!  We need volunteers, financial donations and snacks for volunteer people.  We will only be doing free roaming cats who will all be ear tipped.  Stay tuned for more information.


All county Departments have been impacted by the budget cuts and for Animal Services it has been severe.  14 positions were eliminated including 2 Assistant Directors, 1 Secretary, 1 Disposal Technician, 2 Customer Service clerks, 4 Enforcement clerks, 1 Budget and Finance Clerk, 1 Investigator and 3 Animal Control Officers totally over $1 million in cuts. The current budget is $8.9 million and there may be further cuts this year.  The clinic and kennel positions were preserved since they are the ‘direct care’ staff for the shelter animals although all positions are critical in our effort to save as many animals as possible and enforce public safety laws.  Please be patient with us as we continue to attempt to handle an overwhelming workload with less staff.


Now more than ever, we need your help!  Our shelter volunteers have once again beat their own record and donated almost 13,000 hours!!  We appreciate you encouraging your friends and family to get involved.  As you know, we always have a job for you or anyone you know!


In the past, we have received grant funding for lap tops for enforcement officers that have helped them reunite pets in the field and work more efficiently.  This year, we have been granted funding for a new cash management system.  To date, we have received over $100,000 from this fund.


Currently, only 40% of the estimated 500,000 dogs in our county are licensed with Animal Services as per Miami-Dade County Code.  The cost for a sterilized dog license is $25 and unsterilized is $50.  If 100% of the dogs were licensed, it would generate between $8-16 million a year!  That’s enough for plenty of subsidized spay/neuter programs and needed staff so please help us towards that goal and spread the word!



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