Dade Shelter Dealing With Possible Distemper Outbreak

MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade’s Animal Services has temporarily stopped taking in dogs and puppies until they can get a possible outbreak of distemper under control.

As for the dogs and puppies they are currently sheltering, spokeswoman Xiomara Mordcovich said they will get as many as they can to other rescue shelters or adopted them out. So far they have not imposed a deadline as to when they all have to be out.

Once the shelter, at 7401 NW 74th Street, is empty it will be sterilized.

“Eventually (the animals) would be euthanized but there wont be any large-scale euthanasia today,” said Dr. Sara Pizano, Director of Miami-Dade Animal Services. “Were sending animals home when people want them.”

Other services which have also been temporarily suspended include the Rabies/Microchip Clinic, stray dog pick up by Animal Control Officers (if unconfined) and all spay/neuter surgery for current shelter dogs and puppies.

“There should be some sort of a back-up plan,” said dog owner Jorge Rodriguez, whose dog was one of the last to receive a rabies vaccine before the lockdown. ” This should have been planned out.”

Distemper is caused by an unidentified virus and characterized by lethargy, fever, inflammation of the mucous membranes, sensitivity to light and vomiting.

Mordcovich said trying to control the spread of infectious diseases is a challenge for every open admission shelter. Many dogs and puppies are not vaccinated prior to entering shelters and are incubating viruses, such as Parvo and Distemper.

Distemper, in particular, has become endemic in the shelter and all dogs and puppies are ill or considered exposed and at risk. In Fiscal Year 2009-2010, 36,000 animals were abandoned at Animal Services, creating overcrowding and stressful conditions for the shelter pets, which leads to the spread of infectious diseases.

  • J


    We have learned that Dr. Sarah Pizano went on camera again this afternoon (local channel 4-CBS) to categorically DENY there will be a MASS KILL tonight at her animal shelter. Our sources on the inside had earlier reported, in spite of her first Live Press conference [allegedly] Dr. Pizano did in fact give the “Kill Order”.

    One thing is for certain, the animal advocates of South Florida and beyond have all eyes on Pet; a nationwide search directory of impounded, lost and found companion animals. Pet Harbor is used by many rescue organizations to monitor the “kill list” and subsequently send out rescue alerts. Rescues all over the country will be watching Pet Harbor’s report very closely to account for every animal in that hell-hole; “we are counting on the fact that either the lucky get adopted or they will still be listed on the morning report. In that case the animal has survived MDAS for one more day.
    Sources now speculate Dr. Pizano has backed herself into a corner and the mass-kill may not be tonight, but it’s inevitable unless the community itself arranges for an organized mass-rescue. Ordinarily, a disease outbreak of this proportion is announced by the shelter director in advance, allowing rescue plans to be coordinated, according to sources that were present at the University of Florida Shelter Medicine meeting, BUT, not so in Miami-Dade Animal “Shelter”.
    It is said that the representatives of the university’s shelter medicine department would never recommend a mass kill in any animal shelter. There you have it. Welcome to Miami-Dade Animal Services.

    • LynneMarie Lowe

      What I want to know is, why hasn’t Pizano been fired yet? She should have been long gone, long ago!

      • terry watts

        AMEN Lynne ! She is the Devil !!!!

      • vic

        Lets remeber that she is not the only one to blame unfortunately she is being blamed for mistakes other people do isn’t it always like that in these high positions. at least she is doing something.

        They shoulod have a separate building were dogs stay in some sort of quarantine until they are put with the dogs that are setup for adoption. the problem is they propably don’t have a budget for this. no money is given to these places that is the problem. so don’t blame the face they put in front of it. have some intellligence

  • Amanda Cienfuegos

    This is not new. It has been several Distemper outbreaks over there in the last six month at least. Nobody wants to board or treat a dog fro the animal control services. they have the most incredible bad reputation of all. I went to adopt a pet there and my 5 year all told me so enthusiastic Look mommy! They even have rats! thinking that they were there for adoption as well and not permanent residents. The Miami Animal shelter need and intervention immediately! and yesterday was to late!

  • Grace Avila


    • myriam

      They are beyond unorganized, but very cruel and inhumane towards these poor animals. These animals have suffered plenty just beign abandoned to then arrive at this shelter and get sick because of negligence. Now all they want is get rid of the problem fast with a mass killing. Horrible!!!!

  • Jill Ramirez

    There are so many rescue organizations that are scrambling to get as many dogs out of MDAS tonight. That will undoubtedly have an effect on the dogs listed on Pet Harbor. So watching that site will not give you clear answers on who was adopted or killed…..

  • Gillian Garcia

    THey are still charging the rescues too to get these dogs out, why? the alternative is death. They should be paying the rescues especially as most of the animals need vet care!

    • terry watts

      Yes i want to know why to ? That is wrong for any Shelter to do that ! Rescues have only so much funds to Vet these animalls when they get them.. This should and needs to be addressed..

  • K

    Pizano needs to be removed in urgent fashion. I have worked closely within this shelter and it is a tragic day when an animal is safer on the streets than in the county shelter. The fact is Pizano does not lead and educate her staff in the manner she should. I have seen personally staff and volunteers take a dog out of a cage and place a new one in without any cleaning done. A spray bottle of bleach an water would eliminate 95% of the illness in that death trap. So many changes could be made to make that place workable but either Pizano does not care or she really has no idea what to do. Either way she is incapable of being an effective leader and manager. It shocks me that she is still in this position, how does a city like Miami allow this to continue? I watch the news reports and sadly they are so sugar coated and do not convey the reality. I would love to see some real investigative reporting done. Interview the rescues that work tirelessly to save animals from there only to be met with obstacles. It is deplorable that in this day and age to have a shelter operating in such a fashion.

    Come on Miami get it together and come together for the innocent souls who by no fault of their own are being killed at this very moment. Please do not think for one moment that any remaining animals that had no adoptors or rescue holds will be there in the morning. Check the dumpster behind there and I am confident the sight will be alarming. When an animal going into the shelter has greater odds of being killed than adopted you have a serious problem on your hands. The answer starts with the removal of Pizano.
    The sheter has had these illnesses for years and Pizano never care enough to clean it before why now? Ask yourself why now, when guilty people are put in an uncomfortable position they panic. Did Pizano allow an employee to torture several cats via an unethical Heartstick procedure? Fact is Yes she did! When confronted did she panic and remove the camera to eliminate any possibility of getting caught again and state she did not want to give the media any ammunition? Hmmm if you are doing every thing properly and within the laws then what ammunition could the media gain with a camera watching?
    An organization is only as strong as it’s weakest link, and Pizano is the weakest link, as long as she is in charge nothing will change, NOTHING!

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”
    Mahatma Gandhi quote

  • dogs love u

    wow i guess killing is the easy way out
    u would think with some of the highest property taxes in the nation
    we could save more of these dogs..

    Cant they just quarantine the sick ones?
    or instead of killing them all save the ones that aren’t sick?

  • Mis Fit Res Q

    OK for the record.. i was interviewed after taking out Helen and her 6 + 9 extra pups…. and not a stitch of what I said was placed on air, EDUCATION is mandatory for both public and MDAS!

  • JJ

    I found out about this horrible news (disease spreading through shelter) tonight on the 11pm news! This shouldn’t have happened if the correct sanitation methods were being used on a daily basis. It should be a habit to sanitize and have proper hygiene when taking in animals. It makes me sick to think that all of this could have been avoided with the proper leadership! Something must be done about this!

  • myriam


  • Dr. Oscar Canosa

    It has been proven that massive doses of Vit A(up to 300,000IU) stops the virus from replicating and is curative. My dog has it and I will try it beguining with 24,000IU. I will let you know how it went.

    • dogs love u

      hmmm it is worth a shot
      i heard high doses of vitamin c can reduce a tumor

  • Pablo

    I adopted 2 puppies in 2008 and they both died of distemper. It was so sad.

  • Ms. McDavid

    Should ANY of these animals be permitted for adoption? Distemper is highly virulent. Any animal that has been in that shelter has been exposed to it, and could be incubating the virus. Adopting them out could spread it beyond the shelter.

  • Phyliss June Rinis Myers

    Education of the public. Stop allowing backyard breeding. Enforce mandatory sterilization, unless you can prove you are a qualified, certified, breeder and then do inspections to make sure that breeders are properly caring for their animals.

    I have been to this shelter, many times, it is a pig sty. Mismangement is rampant. I have seen how these animals are treated and they should be ashamed of themselves.

    I would almost bet that all those animals that are in there now, if they are not rescued will be put down.

  • sr

    Distemper (and Parvo) have been an issue at MDAS for years, way before Dr Pizano. It is not a new problem. The shelter facility is not set up to quarantine any incoming dog or cat. There is no separate ventilation systems between sections of the shelter that would be necessary to quarantine animals to prevent diseases from spreading. As it is there are areas that dont have ventilations systems. MDAS facility was never bulit to be a shelter. Dogs are crowded in small spaces because the facilty is not big enough to house all those dogs invidually. MDAS is a cookpot for infectious diseases to start.
    I blame the city commissioners/mayor for seeing this problem for years and never caring to give shelter directors the money to improve the facility or build a new one. Heck, we are building a baseball stadium but cant build a shelter!!!

    MDAS is the city shelter, it HAS to take in all the animals that walk into its doors- many of which are unvaccinated. So I also blame all the idiots of our Miami Dade citizens who surrendered/ abdoned their unvaccinated pets. If you have a pet you have to vaccinate it. And if you cant afford vaccines- then maybe you shouldnt have a pet. There are many low cost vaccine clinic in this city- so there is no excuse! Two weeks ago or so, MDAS vaccinated apprx 300 dogs for FREE for distemper and parvo. I was there! 300 dogs in 8 hours showed up for FREE vaccines. And these were not just puppies… many were adult dogs that had never been vaccinated!!!! Give me a break Miami pet owners- you need to vaccinate your pets!!!!!

    So the problem is not just Dr Pizano.



    • dogs love u

      yeah we were told we would have a dog park years ago
      and it never happened..

      on a side note can anybody tell me a place that has good prices
      on vaccinations in south Miami?

      • sr

        Animal Welfare Society is a non profit clinic with reasonable prices. They are near the Grove.

  • dogs love u

    11 am meetup today should i bring my dog or is that
    place so bad my dog could get sick being just in the vicinity?

  • Swerty13

    They all should be euthanized.
    Don’t expect non-pet owning taxpayers to pay for your irresponsible actions.
    Save these useless mutts with your own money!

    • dogs love u

      you sound like a cruel hack if we can find a billion dollars to build a stadium we don’t need then we can treat our animals with dignity..

      How somebody treats animals is likely how they treat people

  • swerty13

    Why don’t you people go to a shelter and take home black babies.
    Oh, I forgot, according to you people they aren’t as importnat as dogs !

    Sadly, in this country it’s easier to abort a human fetus that it is to euthanize an unwanted dog or cat.

    Hey dogs love u — Do you believe in a womans “right” to choose????

    These babies are God’s creatures too!!!!

    You people are a bunch of misguided, do-gooder LOONS !!!!!!

    • dogs love u

      I think all life is important to the human fetus
      to even the mosquito…you kill the mosquito you kill the fish..
      everything is a cycle nothing should be killed because it is easier..

      • swerty13

        If you got rid of all the dogs on the planet, nothing would be lost!
        They contribute ZERO to your “cycle” – they contribute only to your self-serving hobby.

        In fact, the planet would be a much cleaner and safer place to live and raise children.

        If you don’t want to see so many dogs euthanized you should adopt laws requiring a $250 dog registration fee per year per dog, $750 for non-spayed/non-neutered dogs, Eliminate ALL backyard, basement, garage breeding of dogs; $5,000 first offense, 2 yeras jail for next offense, increase breeders license to $5,000 per year with strict zoning laws to protect the community. SAME FOR CATS!!!! Millions upon millions of feral cat roaming communities, spreading diseases and destroying bone-fide wildlife!!!!

        You won’t do nany of this becasue you are loons. You think you are doing God’s work by producing dogs.

        You keep making them and cities will continue to put them down !!!!!!


      • dogs love u

        swerty tell a blind person that his seeing eye dog means zero to his well being..

        What about the the sick and dying in a hospital who get inspiration to keep living after being with an occupational therapy dog..

        Tell that to the old people whose family has abandoned them and the dog truly become a best friend..

        tell that to a mother in father in japan whose kid was found in rubble last week by a dog..

        tell that to the police officers on the street how dogs have saved their life

        Tell that to the parents of a crack addict who wish we had more drug sniffing dogs on the border to keep our streets drug free..

        u are crazy to think dogs do not benefit society.

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