Miami Dade Animal Services (MDAS) along with the PETCO Foundation, held their “BE A HERO EVENT” on September 24th. The event celebrated the volunteers, cat trappers and foster and rescue families who save the lives of thousands of shelter pets every year. Shelter staff expressed heartfelt gratitude for the volunteers in a video that kicked off the event, followed by an award ceremony and lunch.

When I first stepped into the shelter a few months ago, I had no idea they accept and care for every animal that comes in (100 a day,) and I knew nothing about how dedicated and passionate the staff are. I listened to a presentation by director, Alex Munoz and the lead veterinarian, and I was moved almost to tears by how much the staff love the animals along with their intelligent dedication to the wellbeing of every animal in their care.

No one at the shelter wants to see animals die, and they fight hard to implement programs and find partners, sponsors and volunteers. All their efforts have resulted in the wonderful news that the MDAS shelter is now a no kill facility. In 2015, 90% of the dogs and cats were saved, and the 10% that weren’t were too sick, injured or aggressive to be helped by anyone.

A staff member who is in charge of the “Kitten Cuddling Program” is a perfect example of the dedication expressed by every staff member at MDAS. Yes, kitten cuddling is an actual task! She explained how she takes home orphaned kittens who need round the clock care to stay alive. She wakes up every two hours to care for and feed the kittens and still gets to work on time to continue doing what she loves most, helping the animals!

Everyone who loves animals should consider stopping by the shelter to see what a great job they do and find some way to assist. As Yolanda Berkowitz, a long-time resident of Miami who serves on several community-oriented boards says in her Miami Herald op-ed piece, “Animals that end up at our open shelter are the community’s dogs and cats, and we all have a responsibility to be a part of the solution.” Yolanda Berkowitz’s new foundation, Friends of Miami Animals (FOMA,) will continue the work she has started in support of our community’s needy animals, including fundraising to support existing programs and innovate new programs to assist the work done by MDAS.

Luis Cuellar, shelter programs coordinator, urges people to connect with MDAS on social media and check out the website. He'd like people to stop by the center to see it for themselves and form their own opinion of what is being done there. He was happy when I spoke with him because he’d just managed the adoption of a senior dog, a gentle, 10 year old Golden Lab named Rola. He showed me a dozen bags in his office containing beds, blankets, toys, collars, leashes and food, all provided by the ASPCA to every family adopting a senior dog. Luis said they have trouble finding homes for senior dogs even though they are usually the most mellow and affectionate residents of the shelter!

For more information about MDAS and how to help, click here. There is lots to learn about the innovative programs, such as mobile pet adoption events and pet retention programs. The Transport Partners program moves animals to less crowded shelters in other communities, and the “Trap, Neuter, Return” (TNR) program has sterilized, vaccinated and returned 6,648 feral cats this year alone, thanks to community volunteers who trap the cats and bring them to MDAS for care. 

The brand new 7000 sq ft Pet Adoption and Protection Center is a vast improvement over the old shelter. It is the largest air conditioned shelter in the country, and the air conditioned kennels and layout of the facility streamline the adoption process. The state-of-the-art clinic permits an expansion of the spay and neuter services that save many lives.

Thierry Isambert Culinary and Event Design was happy to be able to help out along with other sponsors, Milams Market and PETCO.

Janko, photographed by Eric Monteiro. Janko needs a forever home, click here for more information about how to help: https://www.gofundme.com/savejanko

Benji, photographed by Eric Monteiro

Photo above: ZEUS, trained, kid and dog friendly, needs a permanent home.