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Pizano: I Was Not Forced Out Of Animal Services

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Dr. Sara Pizano

(Source: Miami-Dade County)

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has named a new Director of Animal Services after the often controversial Dr. Sara Pizano stepped down Thursday.

In a county memorandum, Mayor Gimenez appointed Alex Munoz to head the department.

Dr. Pizano has been the Director of Animal Services since 2005. She says the state of the shelter has worsened due to the recession.

“Once you have an overcrowded shelter you have a receipt for disaster,” said Pizano to CBS4’s David Sutta.  “Now I want to focus on more proactive programs and keeping animals out of shelters.”

Munoz has worked as a county administrator since 1992, and has served as the Assistant County Manager for Animal Services.

He most recently worked as Deputy Director of the county Parks and Recreation Department. He says his goal is to get better in tuned with what the community wants.

“We are going to sit down and talk.  It’s funny, at the end of the day we are going to have the same exact mission:  Everybody wants to save more animals,” said Munoz. “That’s what I want to do and that’s what they want to do.”

Dr. Pizano is stepping down after several headline making controversies.

In 2005, Dr. Pizano admitted that mistakes had been made in the euthanasia of a golden retriever named Cowboy. Cowboy had gone missing following a storm, and was picked up by Animal Services. Since Cowboy had a microchip,  Animal Services contacted his owner Anays Rodriguez-Porras, but before she could pick Cowboy up, the dog was euthanized.

Rodriguez-Porras sued the county for gross negligence. In 2011, a jury found both the county and Rodriguez-Porras responsible, because it took her two days to pick up Cowboy after being notified.

Pizano also came under fire from animal rights activists after her employees allegedly used the so-called “heart stick” method to euthanize two cats, as reported by CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.

A “heart stick” is a procedure when a worker injects a needle directly into the chest and then delivers a dosage of drugs directly into the heart.

In March of this year, Dr. Pizano again took heat from animal lovers after the main shelter suffered a major distemper outbreak.

Hundreds of animal lovers and rescues rushed to the shelter to adopt the dogs after Dr. Pizano mentioned that the ones that could not be placed in homes would be humanely euthanized.

“Eventually (the animals) would be euthanized but there wont be any large-scale euthanasia today,” said Dr. Pizano in March, after the outbreak was revealed. “Were sending animals home when people want them.”

When reached by CBS4, Dr. Pizano says the resignation is something she has been thinking about for a while, and denies being forced to resign.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report)

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