Officials Waiving Adoption Fees To Clear Out Animal Shelter Amid Outbreak

MIAMI (CBS4) – There’s a mad scramble Friday to rescue dozens of dogs after a virus outbreak at Miami-Dade Animal Services in Medley. One way or the other, all of the dogs and puppies need to go.

On the recommendation of Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Miami-Dade Animal Services is waiving adoption fees through Sunday to encourage people to adopt the dogs.

Those who have already adopted dogs under the emergency guidelines will be receiving a reimbursement.

Miami-Dade’s Animal Services has temporarily stopped taking in dogs and puppies until they can get an outbreak of distemper under control at the shelter at 7401 NW 74th Street.

As of Friday night, 100 dogs had been adopted. 180 are still available at the shelter.

Independent rescuer Lourdes Caveda said dogs are her passion and she is trying to save as many dogs as she can.

“I pulled four yesterday and I pulled five today,” she said.

If they go untreated, the dogs could die. But they could also die if they go un-adopted and many abandoned dogs might be euthanized.

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 adopt them out. So far they have not imposed a deadline as to when they all have to be out.

Once the shelter is empty, it will be sterilized.

“Eventually (the animals) would be euthanized but there won’t be any large-scale euthanasia today,” said Dr. Sara Pizano, Director of Miami-Dade Animal Services. “We’re sending animals home when people want them.”

Pizano said they are hoping to save all of the animals.

“As always, our goal is to save all of them, but we need to make this shelter a healthier environment,” she said.

The issue is so serious that Miami-Dade commissioner Jose Pepe Diaz came to the shelter Friday to, as he put it, dispel rumors.

“They are not euthanizing all of the animals,” he said. “As you can see, there are animals everywhere and the animals are being taken care of in the best possible condition.”

The affected services include the rabies/microchip clinic, intake of adult dogs and puppies by the public, stray-dog pickup by animal control officers, owner-surrendered pets, and spay and neuter surgery for current shelter dogs.

“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.”

Services that will continue as normal include investigations, buying licenses, paying citations, lost and found, intake of cats, cat adoptions, spaying and neutering of cats and the mobile animal clinic spay and neuter program.

Adoption of dogs also will continue but with a disclaimer about exposure to distemper.

Meanwhile,  in response to the Miami-Dade outbreak, Broward County Animal Care and the Humane Society of Broward County announce that they are open for business as usual, but urge residents to take proper precautions.

Miami-Dade  is encouraging residents who are giving up their dog or puppy to hold off relinquishing their pets to Miami-Dade Animal Services until the situation is under control. Both canine distemper and the parvovirus (parvo) are contagious and often fatal diseases that strike the respiratory, gastro-intestinal and central nervous systems. The viruses can be avoided through proper vaccination, which should begin in puppies as young as six weeks and continue through adulthood with an annual booster shot, according to the Broward County Commission’s office.

Broward County pet owners with dogs are encouraged to take their pets to be examined and vaccinated in order to build up and maintain the body’s immunity to distemper and parvo.

Vaccinations can be received at all licensed veterinarians in Broward County as well as the Humane Society of Broward County for a limited time in response to this situation.

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.

The suspension should last no more than two weeks, animal services said.

Independent rescuers said they are in need of foster homes for the dogs. Because of the distemper disease, the dogs have to be separated from any other dogs in the foster home.

Anyone interested in temporarily housing a dog can reach the independent rescuers at 305- 774-1184.

To schedule an appointment only with the Humane Society of Broward County, call 954-266-6858.

For more information on how to adopt, visit Miami-Dade’s website.

  • 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.

    • Nuria Rodriguez

      I can’t agree with you more. It’s shameful how the city has allowed this woman and this “shelter” to continue like this.

    • Kari

      I completely agree….Have been there several times and it was horrible conditions too,,,This just breaks my heart

  • Nuria Rodriguez

    I don’t believe a word this monster says. She’s had no issues killing thousands of animals in the time she’s been director there, so she will no doubt make her excuses and kill any dogs not taken tonight. She should be made to live in the same conditions she runs that place. It’s a concentration camp! It’s no wonder this has happened. Please help those dogs, and PLEASE get that monster out of there! Our tax dollars pay her salary! And dammit, I want her out!

    • SoSa Luciano

      I so agree with you. How dare she allow this to happen. Im so amazed at how the city has allowed this to go on as long as it has. This woman need to be put to sleep herself. she is nothing but a monster

      • Ginny

        There is something called feline distemper, but it is an unrelated virus (according to what I have read on the internet).

  • John Wood

    This is not a new problem. Several rescues in Palm Beach County pulled kittens from MDAS in January and many of them died of distemper. I agree, Pizano should have to live in the same conditions as these animals as a condition of her 100k plus salary. There are rumors amongst the South Florida Animal Rescue community that a mass execution is taking place tonite, which she has denied.

    • Jennifer

      Cats do not get distemper. It is a canine only disease.

      • B Johnson

        Feline distemper, also referred to as Feline Panleukopenia, is a serious disease with a high mortality rate. It is caused by a highly contagious virus that can survive in the environment for years. The virus can be transmitted to the cat through contact with humans or other cats. Feline distemper is often transmitted via food and water bowls, bedding, litter pans, and mutual grooming with other cats.

  • Terri

    The shelter I work in isolates animals when they come in and checks their health, bathes them and gives them shots unless they have vaccination papers. Sick dogs are never put out with other animals, Pinzo is a Vet and should know this. She can get shots at wholesale. I have given shots and know most only cost less than $1.00. Much cheaper tp prevent an outbreak, than to treat it after the fact. Negligence on her side and is no excuse. She gets well over $100,000. to do a proper job

  • Ginny

    I can’t believe this is happening. We adopted a dog from the Broward Humane Society Shelter on Jan. 31. Within one week, he developed diahrrea and a cough. He was treated for upset stomach and kennel cough. Before the next week was over, he became nearly imobile and he stopped eating. By that weekend he began shaking and twitching uncontrollably. At first, the humane society and the vet we were seeing didn’t think it could be distemper because it’s rare, our dog was more than a year old, and he had a previous owner (who apparently didn’t keep him current on his vaccinations). It was frustrating that it is so hard to get a diagnosis of distemper since there is no test for it (when my dog’s nose became hard and crusty, three weeks into his illness, that made it a positive diagnosis for distemper since that’s a common distemper side effect). He was hospitalized for three days and the humane society, thankfully, agreed to pay for his medical care as long as my family would provide him the needed home care. The care was difficult (our vet’s office had to train us in how to feed him and give him medications) and time consuming (my husband and I work full-time, and it was not easy) and involved force feeding him two times a day (pushing food into his mouth via a syringe), giving him pills (antibiotics, prednisone, and stomach upset medicine), putting eye ointment in his eyes (he developed an eye infection), taking him to the vet’s office for fluids and check-ups sometimes more than once a week, cleaning up vomit and other accidents, and finally when he started to have an appetite again, I cooked him chicken and rice two times a day for about a week (and I don’t cook, so thank God, he’s eating dog food again now!). It has been nearly 8 weeks and we are only just now weening him off the prednisone. The emotional toll was great, too, since there were a couple of days that I thought it was cruel to be keeping him alive. But, I can say that I am happy we did it. Our dog is now fully recovered. He has re-gained all the weight he lost and then some. He is sweet and wonderful, and our vet thinks he will be able to live a happy and normal life. He does have one after effect of the disease, his head still has muscle twitches, and our vet thinks this may be something that won’t go away. It doesn’t seem to bother him, though. All of the online info about distemper is scary and says the animal will probably die. Our dog survived distemper and if you’re willing to go through a few really bad weeks, the cost and effort can be worth it. For the people adopting the dogs, I hope they understand what they are getting into if the dog really does have distemper.

    • Nora Janvier

      I agree. We adopted our first pet from MDAS and later adopted another puppy that we did not know had been exposed. The first puppy began to seizure and suffered horrible central nervous symptoms. The most hmane thing to do was to put him down. It broke my son’s heart to loe is first puppy within a few weeks of bringing him home. At that time, we did not have the knowledge or experience to be prepared for this. It is traumatic and remains a painfl memory. Because we love pets, we adopted others from MDAS and they have been fine because we are conscientious about getting vet care immediately and ensuring that we watch the pets closely. A pet is like having a two year old. You have to be prepared to provide for total care, feeding, cleaning, training, and loving.

    • Jenny

      I had a distemper dog, too. It was a real process to get her through it, but we did. The only residual effects that she had were yellowed teeth and a muscle twitch in her jaw. She lived a wonderful life bringing us much joy until she was fifteen.

  • Kathie Santomero

    Distemper has been a ongoing problem at this shelter for quite some time. Many dogs adopted from this shelter have died as a result and only now are steps being taken to correct the problem. Too much, Too little, Too late, if you ask me.

    Time to clean house at the shelter ….. get in new management who will lead by example…get someone in there who really cares and wants to make a difference.


  • B Johnson

    Isn’t amazing how everyone is condemning and wanting to tar and feather the folks at MDAS and all the rest of the animal control divisions around when in reality it’s the irresponsible owners who let their pets roam the streets, breed at random, breed for extra money, abuse, starve, mistreat, and don’t get proper vaccines and vet care for them???
    Yes, these shelters can all use improvements but it is “John Q Public” who should be ashamed of themselves!!!

  • Noelle

    This horrific turn of events at the Medley shelter once more brings to light the apathy and lack of concern demonstrated by those who do not spay and neuter their pets. This is the inevitable result of uncontrolled breeding and selfish lack of concern by those people who breed for money without any thought for the suffering which can result.. The deplorable conditions at that shelter are just part of the problem; too many dogs are ending up there in the first place. Wake up!! Compassion and caring enough to provide even the most basic of vet care could stop much of this!

    • dogster

      thank you Noelle, put responsibility where it belongs

  • Alice

    Miami Dade has truly lost it
    Word just came that MDAS is waiving all pull fees and giving away free dogs. It is ok to refund fees to rescues and private rescues. But anyone who does rescue knows you never give away free dogs. These dogs can be used for fighting, bait dogs, labs etc. People need to pay something. Otherwise they treat these dogs as disposable. I know first hand about this since I was in rescue for several years. Dogs that I paid for because people could not afford the fees were not with these people 6 months later.
    This is a terrible decision. and should definately be changed.

  • kevin

    My Rottwieler has his current vaccinations for all these horrible canine diseases. He is also neutered and an ‘inside pet” I wonder how many dogs that “accidentally” got out and picked up by animal control will be euthanized before their owners can find them at the shelter. It has happened before and may happen again now.

  • jerome

    those animals shouldn’t have 2 go thru what these animals r going thru. pet owners should be more responsible in taking care of their pets. i’m talking about spaye and neutering to stop unwanted animals from being born. that will help prevent over population, and strays being picked up. if we as pet owners can do this then no more animals would have to go to shelters and be treated like these animals are being treated!! i saw the news today, and it made me sick, my eyes filled with tears. life is already hard enough for them, then for them to have to go thru this is a damn shame!! my name is jerome i love dogs, and i am wanting to adopt an american bulldog,or a pitbull at least 9 months old, and older. i like medium to large dogs. he or she will be a house dog. he or she will be very very loved!!! my # is 786-314-2928 or 786-275-4988.

  • Bonnie Bergstein

    Thanks to the NO KILL NATION (which had a seminar about turning shelters into NO KILL SHELTERS last year – and Sara Pizano DID NOT attend!!) was responsible for alerting the proper authorities to go to MDAS and report the epidemic of distemper (that has been going on for at least the last 2 months) and has encouraged all the local rescue groups to go and pull the dogs as soon as they are surrendered to MDAS, and to pull as many dogs as possible now. I know someone who pulled 6 puppies last month, and she kept them quarantined but they all died from distemper (and her own dogs were still in jeopardy of catching the virus). I’ve contacted Dr. Pizano twice and have received the same email back, telling me how MDAS has increased it’s adoption #’s over the last 3 years (thanks to the rescue groups). Dr. Pizano was even aware that cats were being KILLED by a heart stick (not humanely euthanized), and this was videotaped (although Dr. Pizano shut down the cameras after this was reported to the news, and the the employee who showed the video was fired). Dr. Pizano has to go. MDAS needs to become a NO KILL shelter, and all those dogs and cats need to be treated in humanely and placed in fur-ever homes!!

  • Noelle

    So what happens now? When the publicity and media coverage stops, and all that is left is just another tragedy…will there be any lessons learned? Everyone in the rescue community already work endlessly to do all possible to make things better, but what about everyone else? Do something!! There are low-cost spay and neuter clinics out there. Get the word out! There are many ways to help out that don’t cost very much. Rescues always need supplies; cleaning materials, food (ask what kind they need), leashes, bowls etc. Do you know someone in financial crisis? Can you buy a little extra for their dog when you go to the store? Do you have a neighbor who is sick and can’t walk their dog? Help out! No donation amount amount is too amall. If everyone gave a dollar there would be a lot more funds available to PREVENT the killer diseases like distemper and parvo. And above all, educate! Lets all work together teach responsible pet ownership and encourage compassion. DON’T BUY FROM BACKYARD BREEDERS!!

  • ME

    I have to say this is horrible…now the parvo and distemper outbreak is going to be on a HUGE Scale….you don’t just disperse these dogs into the community…
    what idiots…

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