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Pup patrol among the politicos




Politicians easily out-numbered pets at Friday's "ground-breaking" ceremony of Miami-Dade's new animal shelter, which is set to open in the fall of 2015. But there were a handful of four-legged guests that naturally stole the show from camera-loving elected officials. 

"This is Princess Leia," Lawrence Percival said of a docile shepherd-lab mix sitting by his feet amid the crowd at the packed reception in Doral. "She just turned two in August. She came from Animal Services as an eight-pound puppy." 

Leia and Percival took a seat in the front row as county officials touted the planned $13 million shelter, which will feature retail-esque adoption areas, quarantined and air-conditioned kennels to prevent disease infestation, and outdoor play areas for cats and dogs.

The 70,000-square-foot facility will replace the county's lone animal shelter in Medley, which will be sold as surplus to help cover the construction costs, said animal-services chief Alex Munoz. The new facility includes 25 percent more space for homeless dogs, and twice the space for cats, he said. The new shelter is being built in a retro-fitted warehouse, with renovation work already underway. 

Munoz played master of ceremonies, which began with an invocation by Rev. Michael Roan, a member of the county's sergeant-at-arms force who addressed his remarks to Miami-Dade's pets. "We forgive them as they eat countless shoes, and stain many carpets, and even dig up our yards."

The event wasn't without controversy. Miami-Dade's animal-advocacy group, Pets' Trust Miami, complained to Mayor Carlos Gimenez about the timing:  four days before a primary election against Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, who spoke at length during the ceremony, and Marjorie Figueira, the challenger recruited by the pets group. 

Near the back row, Jennifer Diliz watched the proceedings while cradling Sophie, a three-year-old Shih Tzu, on her shoulder. "She's a rescue," Diliz said of the dog (pictured above). She said it wasn't clear if this was a "pets-welcome" type event, but "I just brought her in." No problem, as it turned out.

Miami-Dade's new portable adoption trailer was parked outside, with homeless dogs and cats looking out from kennels with plexiglass sides. Brandi Reddick, who works in Miami-Dade public art program, stopped by to "borrow" a foot-ball-sized terrier puppy, who spent the event curled up on her arm.

Tempted? "Oh, God yes," Reddick said. But a sick dog at home with kidney failure forced Reddick to return the puppy at the end of the reception. There were some takers, though. Animal Services reported guests adopted two dogs and one cat. "Not bad for one hour," Munoz said in a text message. 

(The photo below shows Princess Leia meeting the terrier puppy being held by Reddick.)




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Lawrence Percival

The need for this new animal shelter is long over due and greatly needed. I served on the Animal Services Task Force in 1995 when Public Works Department had the responsibility for Animal Services. The animals of Miami Dade County have been a step child of our government until our County Commissioners finally found the wisdom to create a stand alone Department of Animal Services, after the dismal failure of having the Police Department being responsible for this service.
Nearly 20 years have gone by and FINALLY, there will be a new "state of the art" 70,000 sf facility built. The projected date for the completion of this retrofitted building will be the Fall of 2015. I hope to be there to see it for myself, after such a long time has pasted that I have advocated for this. Thank you to all: Mayor Gimenez, Commissioners, Alina Hudak and Alex Munoz among many others. My greatest appreciation to you all! This will be a new start and a new ERA for the unwanted, abused and neglected pets that would otherwise be "put to sleep" if not for all the dedicated staff and pet rescue groups that work so hard to change the outcome and give terrific pets, like mine, a chance for a good home. My dogs have all come from rescue environments. They are my children and I treat them accordingly. All the animals deserve nothing less. ADOPT A PET, you will not regret!

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