Saturday, April 9, 2011

Update on Miami Dade Animal Services

Here is the latest update from Miami Dade Animal Services

From the desk of Dr Sara Pizano

As you know, we invited the University of Florida Shelter Medicine Team to do an analysis of the shelter and evaluate the level of infectious diseases between March 21 and 23.  Initially, 45 shelter dogs and puppies were tested for Distemper and a variety of other diseases including Streptococcus zooepidemicus (Strep zoo).  30 tested positive for the Distemper virus and 12 tested positive for the bacteria Strep zoo.

Based on the increased number of cases of reported Distemper, in particular on March 23, we decided to temporarily suspend the intake of puppies and dogs as well as the unconfined stray dog pick up and the Rabies/Microchip Clinic.  There are several reasons that the infectious disease level escalated that include:
  • An inadequately designed facility that is impossible to appropriately thoroughly disinfect
  • The absence of both a Clinic Supervisors and Kennel Supervisors to ensure the flow of shelter pets and staff not paying attention to the risks of cross contamination
  • Severe overcrowding
The University of Florida is still working on site with us and will eventually have a full report and list of recommendations, many of which are already being implemented.

Time Line of Events and Action Plan

March 24
  • Press Release sent announcing temporarily suspended services to media, area shelters and local veterinarians
  • The adoption of dogs/cats/puppies and kittens was never suspended
All shelter dogs and puppies received 48 hour-acting penicillin injection because 12 dogs tested positive for Strep zoo.  (Some of you may also remember that there was a problem in the shelter in February of 2008 with the bacteria Strep zoo.  At that time, we partially closed the shelter while all shelter pets received antibiotics.  Little is known about how or why Strep zoo infects certain dogs and not others but 12 dogs were lost during that outbreak in 2008, which was controlled immediately.  This is in comparison to another mid-west shelter that lost over 1,000 dogs due to a Strep zoo outbreak.)

March 25
  • Began publishing daily Action Plan for staff and volunteers so everyone was aware of daily changes and plans
March 26

  • Thanks to the University of Florida, Pfizer donated over $8,000 of the week-long acting antibiotic injection Convenia.  Since we did not know if the strain of Strep zoo was sensitive to the Convenia, adopters and rescue partners were also given a prescription for free antibiotics at Publix.  Once the culture proved that the Convenia would kill the Strep zoo, all adopters and rescues were contacted with that information so they could safely stop the oral antibiotics.
March 24-27
  • The shelter staff stayed open late each night to help all interested adopters and Rescue Partners
  • Over 500 shelter pets went to a Rescue Partner or were adopted
  • All dogs/puppies went with a Medical Release due to the Distemper exposure or infection and people informed they were responsible for medical care and to not expose them to other canines.
  • The University of Florida sets up an online survey and hotline so all exposed dogs and puppies can be tested for Distemper  and over 100 samples have already been collected

March 26 and 27

  • County Manager waives pull and adoption fees for remaining shelter population
  • All adopters categorized so enforcement officers can follow up and ensure the cats and dogs were in the registered home and being cared for (as of April 6, 77 adopters have been visited or contacted)

March 26
  • 40 x40 tent set up on property with walls, air conditioning and lights for injured dogs/puppies, police cases and confiscations.  This tent was considered GREEN, or healthy pets, because none of those pets were exposed to the original population.
March 27-present
  • Staff stationed at front gate to ensure Distemper pets do not enter building and clients educated about available services
March 28
  • In communication with Humane Society of Broward County and Animal Control
  • West wing disinfection begins
    • Drains cleaned by sewage company (done on a monthly basis anyway)
    • Drain covers removed and cleaned
    • Disinfection of walls, floors, etc. monitored
  • Disinfection of adoption building begins
    • Open cinder blocks with roaches and mice under banks of cages found, coordinated with pest control companies
    • Demolition of concrete slabs and cinder blocks begins so can put cage banks on wheels
    • Planning of projects
      • Add runs in back of N adoption runs so dogs can be placed there instead of tethering so safe during disinfection
      • Trees cut down behind N runs because leaves were clogging drains
      • All adoption cages removed from building, disassembled and disinfected
      • Tile floor removed in entire adoption hallway
      • All cages in recovery and T removed from building, disassembled and disinfected and plastic walls removed from walls
      • Floors in T and recovery demolished
      • Company hired to fabricate bases with wheels for cage banks
      • Cat condos ordered
      • Painting of west wing almost completed

March 29
  • Culture proves Convenia sensitive to Strep zoo so University of Florida and Animal Services staff begin calling adopters and rescues to let them know they can stop the cephalexin antibiotic and to check pet’s health
  • 20 x 20 tent set up on property with walls, air conditioning and lights for 4 remaining dogs from original population.  Staff in this RED or exposed tent, were not permitted in the GREEN tent to avoid cross contamination
March 30
  • Puppy brought in by owner, not adopted from Animal Services, to be euthanized for Distemper
  • Dogs from GREEN tent with respiratory signs added to RED tent
  • These are several examples proving the endemic nature of Distemper and respiratory disease in our community.  Three of those dogs from the GREEN tent tested positive for Distemper
March 31
  • Moved dogs from GREEN tent into the west wing
  • Moved dogs from RED tent into RED section in west wing
April 3
  • Opened Rabies/Microchip Clinic for the public
  • Increased MAC spay/neuter days from 2 to 4 so Monday/Tuesday dogs for $25 and Thursday/Friday for cats for $15

Current Status and Timeline

Adoptions remains in the west wing for dogs and puppies and Cat Receiving is serving as receiving and cat adoptions. 

The concrete slabs in 7 adoption rooms have been demolished which has been very time consuming so we are now in the process of doing the floors in the entire shelter area.  Once the surgery and recovery areas are done, we will be scheduling spay/neuter surgeries for our adopters as we have a backlog of several months.  Those pets adopted recently will not have surgery for two months to ensure they are not going to break with Distemper or be shedding the virus.

Once the floors in the shelter area and N runs have been redone we will be able to resume normal services.  We are unsure when the vendors will be finished all the necessary work at this time but are trying to expedite all projects.  We do not anticipate resuming all normal services for approximately 2 weeks.

We are in the process of updating several Standard Operating Procedures with respect to sanitation, flow of pets, holds and the handling of shelter pets with respiratory signs.  The University of Florida has continued to re-train staff in these areas.

Plans to Decrease Shelter Intake

Every shelter struggles with infectious diseases and Distemper is disturbingly common in our community due to lack of immunity/vaccinations.  One of the reasons that the infectious disease load became so widespread at Animal Services is because of the sheer volume of animals abandoned each day and being overcrowded due to constant requests to extend holds.  We want nothing more than to have every pet saved but it is inhumane to overcrowd the shelter and continue to expose so many animals to infectious diseases.  We have introduced or are introducing the following in hopes that people can make a more educated decision about leaving a pet with us and look for alternatives:

We have invited our Rescue Partners to stay in receiving and pull animals directly from receiving, before the pet enters the shelter.  Partners must contact Xiomara Mordcovich at to schedule time. As usual, contacts would have to approve all pets being transferred. We were scheduled to begin this program April 4 but have postponed it due to the renovations.
  • If a pet is being surrendered by their owner, the Rescue Partner has the option of signing the pet directly over to them and not paying a pull fee. In that case, no services would be provided by Animal Services.
  • If a pet is being surrendered by their owner and the Rescue Partner wants all regular services, the pet would be signed in and then transferred to the Rescue Partner at the regular fee and surgery scheduled at a later time if needed.
  • If a pet is a stray with a mandatory hold, the pet will be signed in and the picture taken for the foster board and signed out to the Rescue Partner at the regular pull fee under foster care.
We are asking for volunteers to be stationed in receiving to educate people about the risk of infectious disease exposure and euthanasia for the pet and offer alternatives to surrendering the pet to the shelter.

A recommendation of the University of Florida and at least one commissioner, is to stop taking in owner-surrendered pets since we do not have the facility or staff to care for them properly. The Department is not obligated by law to do so and we are looking at ways to create alternatives for these pets. This is not in the official plan right now but under consideration.

Plans to Decrease Length of Stay

We are making every effort to get pets out of the shelter as fast as possible so their exposure to infectious diseases is minimized and we are better able to handle the number of animals in the shelter.

  • There will no longer be adoption holds placed on pets, it will be first come, first serve in an effort to get pets out of the shelter as soon as possible.
  • Anyone in Miami-Dade County may be part of the Foster-to-Adopt program if interested in a pet during the stray hold (they must be a Miami-Dade County resident and the pet have no traceable identification). They would sign an agreement stating they understand they would have to return the pet should the owner be found within the stray hold and understand they are not the official owner until the stray hold is over. They would pay the regular adoption fee and spay/neuter deposit if necessary, all of which would be reimbursed if the pet was returned to their owner.
  • Interested adopters from other counties would have to wait until the stray hold period is over and again, it would be first come, first serve.

All current holds on shelter pets are being honored.  Beginning April 14, we are trying a pilot program in attempt to fast track shelter pets.  Rescue Partners, in addition to being able to schedule time in receiving, will be able to place 24 hour holds for pick up.

All spay/neuter surgeries would be scheduled after the dogs and puppies received a second booster vaccine.

Upcoming Events

Sunday, April 10

Second Distemper Vaccine Event at Animal Services, 10am-4pm

Sunday, April 17

Free roaming cat spay/neuter day sponsored by Commissioner Jose ‘Pepe’ Diaz Saturday April 30 and

Sunday May 1
'Nothing Like a Pet’ ASPCA Partnership Community Adoption Event at Animal Services, the Humane Society of Greater Miami and the Spay/Neuter Clinic in Cutler Bay with Cat Network.

Ways to Help

Many people have asked how they can help make a difference for our shelter pets and help change what happens at Animal Services.

  • Make a financial donation to the Animal Services Trust Fund by donating online at .  The fund is used to supplement the spay/neuter program on the MAC for the public, to purchase items for shelter pets like toys and beds and can be used to improve the building.
  • Become a volunteer at Animal Services and help care for our shelter pets, work in receiving educating those surrendering, help with adoptions or virtually with our Pet Detectives Club reuniting pets with their families or become a Puppy Foster Parent.
  • Make a financial donation to the Spay/Neuter Miami Foundation, Inc. (formerly the Animal Services Foundation) that is focusing on funding low cost spay/neuter programs.  Most recently, the foundation sponsored the last free roaming spay/neuter event and 115 cats were sterilized with volunteer vets.
  • Print and distribute our Wish List from our website.
Thank you, to all of you who care so much about our shelter pets and work so tirelessly on their behalf.  We are committed to improving the way we operate and saving as many pets as possible and appreciate your patience, understanding and support.

Dr. Sara Pizano, Director
Miami Dade Animal Services Department
7401 NW 74 Street
Miami, Fl 33166

Phone: (305) 805-5982
Fax: (305) 805-1619

Contact the shelter for more information

To learn more on how YOU can help the dogs and cats at MDAS follow us on Facebook!/pages/Miami-Dade-Rescue-Railroad/150163931678946

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