November 8, 2015
Examiner has brought to light multiple stories of rescues saving animals from certain death in countries around the world. Previously, it has been U.S. groups who stepped up, rescuing dogs from kill shelters or horrific conditions in countries such as Turkey, China or Egypt. Without those rescues stepping in, many once-owned animals would have perished.
This year, that mission of mercy was flipped on its head when a Canadian group discovered the dire straits of the animals living in a shelter here in the U.S., Florida’s Miami-Dade Animal Services. What began with a rescue’s desire to help one dog, transformed into two massive transports of hundreds of animals from this kill shelter. It is certain that, had this rescue not interceded, the number of dogs killed by MDAS this year would have increased by almost 300 souls. Moreover, had The Pets‘ Trust, a no-kill initiative which would have been funded with a $15 property-tax increase per homeowner, an increase that was voted on and approved by 65 percent of the citizens of that county, been implemented and not overruled by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and the City Commissioners three years ago, in 2012, the Canadian rescue would have not have faced the exigency of driving hundreds of miles to stop hundreds of U.S. dogs from being killed.
It is said that ‘charity begins at home, but it should not end there.’ That maxim, penned by Thomas Fuller, a British clergyman from the 1600’s, is a principle fully embraced by the members of Dog Tales Rescue and Sanctuary, located in King City, Ontario, Canada. Founded in 2014, they rescue dogs from all over the globe, including Nanti and Frida from Greece and Tzuf from Israel. And they recently returned home with an astounding 112 dogs they pulled from the bowels of death row at MDAS. This was their second trip to that shelter, continuing a mission and building on a relationship that began when Danielle Eden, the co-founder of the rescue, saw a photo of a dog named Apollo staring forlornly at the walls of his cage. This was back in Spring, 2015.
As you can imagine, the staff at Dog Tales sees lots of photos of animals in need, on a global basis. But something about this particular dog struck a chord in Ms. Eden. The dog was visibly depressed, and, according to the notes, was code red for euthanasia. Eden immediately contacted the shelter, wanting to help Apollo, and take him into her rescue, but was devastated to learn that she was too late. By the time she saw the photo, he had already been euthanized. Eden began researching MDAS, and uncovered the multiple problems and issues that plague the facility.
Though shelter representatives claim a 90 percent no-kill rate, a recent Examiner story highlighted how easily those numbers could be manipulated. Especially when, as The Pets’ Trust states on their Facebook page, rescue groups in the Homestead area of Miami-Dade are witnessing more dogs being dumped on the streets, as MDAS restricts their intake numbers to boost their no-kill figures. The attached document supplied by MDAS goes far to support The Pets’ Trust claim.
For the past four years, annual intake numbers hover between 28,240 and 30,499. As of October, 2015, year-to-date, almost 6,000 less animals in total were reported on the intake list than the previous year. Does that mean that 6,000 less animals were dumped by county residents this year than the previous year? Probably not. Even on older official reports, such as this one from 2010, going back to 2005, there is no year when 6,000 less animals were brought to MDAS. Based on intake numbers alone, Miami-Dade Animal Services is one of the top ten largest shelters in the country. So where have these unreported 6,000 animals gone in 2015? On a recent weekend, ‘one Homestead rescue group found 19 lost or abandoned dogs as they made their rounds, one of their highest numbers ever. With 100 animals coming in every day to the shelter, the streets (are) worse than ever, (with) distemper and parvo alarmingly high throughout our community.’ Yes, they are being dumped in the streets. If someone don’t want an animal, and can’t find anywhere to bring it, that doesn’t mean they are going to keep it. They will drive it in their car till they think they’ve gone far enough, kick it to the curb, and drive away.
According to MDAS statistics, adoption numbers are at a five-year low, as are rescue and transport, be it in-state or out of the area. Transport figures for 2015 would include those approximately 300 dogs taken in by Dog Tales. Approximately 400 less animals were returned to their owners in 2015. 45 have somehow “escaped” or are “missing” from the cages in which they were housed. And though the “live release rate” reportedly jumps from 51% in 2011 to 89% in 2015, which is on what they are basing their claim of increased no-kill numbers, in actuality, that ‘live release rate’ now includes a huge uptick in their trap-neuter-return (TNR) policy. In 2011, there was no reported TNR of cats. Over 13,000 animals were killed in MDAS that year. In 2015, reported TNR numbers, hence, increased “live releases”, are over 8,000, and the euthanized total drops correspondingly, to approximately 2,200. If the same 8,000 cats had been TNR’d in 2011, roughly 5,500 animals would have been killed that year, instead of 13,000. The 2011 euthanized percentage would have been about 80%, about the same as that of 2014. So they haven’t really gotten closer to “no-kill”. They’ve just stopped the mass slaughter of cats on intake. Massaging the numbers – that’s how a reported ‘live release rate’ jumps from 51% to 89%.
Examiner also requested the most up-to-date spay and neuter records from MDAS, but they were not supplied by press time. Though obviously the already supplied TNR numbers for cats would be included in those statistics, we would also be able to see the number of s/n for dogs as well, from year-to-year, and see if those numbers increased or decreased. Since shelters are obligated to adopt out animals which have been previously s/n, that would have been in interesting piece of the puzzle.
Following the news of the euthanasia of Apollo, in Spring 2015, Dog Tales loaded up their specially outfitted transport vehicles and drove from Ontario to Miami. According to Clare Forndran, Media Director of Dog Tales, the rescue wanted to do something on a large scale to stop unnecessary deaths like Apollo’s from happening. They first pulled 80 dogs from the shelter, with an additional 50 coming a few weeks later. In October, 2015, they made a third trip to MDAS, and returned to Canada with 112 more animals.
According to Ms. Forndran, the rescue was given indications by the staff of MDAS as to which dogs were most at risk of being euthanized. Those included older and sick animals, such as a deaf and blind dog named Penelope, bonded pairs, ones with temperament issues. While at the shelter, Dog Tales’ Animal Behaviorist, Sevan Cerrah, taught available volunteers, staff and Managers leash techniques to enable them to walk dogs that they found to be unmanageable, dogs that were never taken out of their cage for that reason. In a very short time, the staffers were now able to easily manage these previously unruly dogs, who would now be able to get the care and exercise they need. MDAS staff also brought out their ‘problem dogs’; at the end of the seminar, these dogs had NO issues.
Forndran went on to say that the staff was very receptive to any guidance that came their way. Though they are not able to rescue any pit bulls or pit mixes, due to breed specific legislation in their part of the country, Ms. Forndran tells Examiner that they are working toward having that law rescinded.
As she explained, it, walking down the rows of animals, there were so many pit mixes that they knew they could not save became very depressing. They cried every day, knowing they could take only so many, and that the rest would be left behind. Dog Tales staffers were also extremely dismayed to see dozens of dogs being surrendered in just a few hours of their arrival, with formerly owned animals abandoned, tied to the outside fences at MDAS. They had never witnessed anything like that. The rescue believes that the situation is out of control in Miami, with few laws preventing irresponsible breeding and ownership. They do not believe the shelter staff is at fault, in fact, they were reportedly very helpful, including staffer Michael Hernandez, who was Dog Tales’ point of contact at MDAS. They were extremely willing to learn new ways of behavior modification. Ms. Forndran believes they are doing everything they can and that the problem lies with the County government.
The Pets’ Trust Miami is a citizens’ initiative to improve animal welfare, increase pet adoptions and decrease overpopulation by providing free and low cost spay/neuter and educational programs. Nearly half-a-million residents voted for it in 2012. Recently one of the Miami-Dade Commissioners got on board with funding the Pets’ Trust initiative. In this letter to Michael Rosenberg, President, and Rita Schwartz, the co-founders of Pets’ Trust, and thisvideo, Commissioner Xavier Suarez openly states to Mayor Gimenez that enough is enough.
“It costs about $8 million to do what the voters approved in 2012. That’s less than the increase in benefits that Gimenez wants to give 1,000 bureaucrats that report to him. This isn’t just about speaking up for animals. More importantly, this is about speaking up for democracy and the will of the People. Sadly, Gimenez himself admitted he has ‘different priorities’. Let’s send a clear message to Gimenez: It’s time to save pets and stop funding bureaucrats.”
Following their rescue mission to MDAS, Dog Tales has received hundreds of thank you emails from citizens of Miami-Dade. Yet, these same citizens are frustrated and mortified that their own voices have remained ignored these past three years. They are embarrassed that the welfare of nearly 300 animals was decided by an outside party. Addressing their first-hand experience at MDAS, Dog Tales stated that “countless dogs are euthanized daily for no reason other than lack of space. Something has to change.”
Mayor Gimenez’s claim that the voters didn’t know what they were voting for when they approved the measure is ludicrous. They knew what they were voting for on all the other items on that ballot; to state that this one item confused them is nonsensical. You can read Examiner’s coverage of his decision when it first happened in 2013 by clicking here. Please watch the video link in this story, above, to get a fuller understanding of how the voters of Miami-Dade have been blocked by their Mayor for the past three years. If you would like to read more about Pets’ Trust Miami, click here.
Dog Tales suffers the same backlash that every rescues does whenever they venture out of their own locale to help animals in need. Rescuing from beyond your line of sight does not mean you stop taking in animals from your own backyard. Thank God for rescues like these that fully understand the big picture, and don’t hesitate to act upon that vision. Many of the dogs pulled from MDAS had adoption applications in place the week that their photos were posted by Dog Tales on their Facebook page. For health reasons, they will keep each animal for at least two weeks under the care of their facility before releasing them to their new families. The rescue plans on making an another trip to Miami-Dade Animal Services as soon as possible. You can see their available animals here on their Facebook page, andhere, on their web page. They are located at 1405 19th Sideroad, King City, Ontario, Canada. Their phone number is 1-905-713-1887.
Miami-Dade Animal Services is located at 7401 NW 74 Street, Medley, Florida 33166. Their phone number is 305-884-1101. Here is a link to their animals on PetHarbor, and here are their featured Pets of the Week. MDAS staff do send out emails to rescues on a regular basis with photos and bios of animals they are hoping to place, animals which are otherwise overlooked by adopters or are rescue-only. Examiner does receive copies of those emails. MDAS also has a number of programs including one for home pet retention, and they also held a workshop on November 7, 2015, to train volunteers and community members how to do TNR, which was run by Arthur Moise, TNR Coordinator. Further details on these programs were not provided by press time.