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Miami-Dade's animal shelter is having a capacity issue. Here's how you can help

A mature cat who is up for adoption sits in an enclosure at the Miami-Dade Animal shelter in Doral on Nov. 23, 2021.
Jose A. Iglesias
Miami Herald
A mature cat who is up for adoption sits in an enclosure at the Miami-Dade Animal shelter in Doral on Nov. 23, 2021.

Miami-Dade County’s animal shelter has more dogs and cats than it can handle. Recently, staff members have even had to set up portable kennels in conference rooms at the facility in Doral.

The shelter is now urging people to adopt or foster some of the animals it’s currently housing.

"If you've been thinking about adopting, now's the time to come in and pick your new best friend," said Flora Beal, Public Affairs Administrator for Miami-Dade County Animal Services. "Add a new companion to your home, to your pack. That's really the best way that you can help."

WLRN’s Sherrilyn Cabrera spoke with Beal about the over-capacity problem that animal shelters and rescues across the U.S. are dealing with.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

WLRN: What do you think is contributing to the growing number of animals arriving at the shelter?

BEAL: Our data doesn't point to one specific reason, but what we commonly hear is individuals that are having financial difficulties, that are having to re-home their pets or that are coming in to find an alternative for their pet because they're having housing difficulties. And with the rising cost of housing, having to leave where they are now to look for a new place that they can afford and just having difficulty finding a place that will accept their pet.

The shelter implemented an essential intake-only policy. What does this mean?

We're only taking pets that are injured or that have been taken into our custody as a result of some abuse or neglect investigation that has resulted in the confiscation of that pet. We're asking the community to help us out during this difficult time by thinking of pets that they find in the streets as lost pets and not necessarily strays or abandoned pets. The research tells us that if you keep a pet in the neighborhood where they were found, they're going to find their family within 72 hours, about 83% …chance.

So that's a really high return-to-family statistic. And so we're asking the community that if there's any way that they can keep that pet for us in their home and walk it around, put up fliers, canvass the neighborhood, we'll put them up on our system. And then there's also so many different applications out there, like Petco LoveLost, even using Nextdoor and applications like that are extremely helpful in helping these pets find their way home. Because if they come to a shelter, the national statistics tell us that they have less than a 20% chance of being reunified with their family.

What should someone do if they have a pet they can no longer care for?

Look into your community to see what resources are available. There's a number of food pantries that are able to provide dog food. We have done some dog food distributions in the past, and we do provide dog food when it's available for people who come in saying that they're having difficulty providing for them. There's also, you know, if it's a medical issue, there's different organizations, nonprofits, as well as low-cost clinics. Our clinic also does provide some basic veterinary services.

So there's always ways to find lower-cost options to be able to take care of your pet. So always ask around, see what options are available, and then also see what options are available online through networking through your social media channels. There's a website called Home to Home that allows you to create a profile for your pets so that you can connect with people who are looking for a pet without having to bring that pet into the shelter.

At what point does the shelter need to consider euthanizing animals to make room? Are we already there?

Part of our lifesaving mission is that we do not euthanize for space under any circumstances. We will do transports. We will take our dogs out to the community for our offsite adoption events. We will double up on pets that are, you know, friendly with each other. We will set up crates in the conference rooms, will have our staff take home pets, and we'll continue to recruit our foster families to help us out. The only time that we use humane euthanasia at Miami-Dade County Animal Services is when there is a pet that is irremediably suffering due to a medical condition or due to behavioral concerns that pose a threat to public safety. So that is not on the table now, nor do I see it being anything that would be on the table in the future.

Sherrilyn Cabrera is WLRN's PM newscast and digital producer.
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