Two years ago, a petite black dog with big, pointy ears roamed the streets of Little Haiti in Miami, most likely born from a backyard breeder who later lost or abandoned him to the difficult and painful life of a stray. When a member of the Miami Pet Assistance Coalition approached the timid dog, she noticed his eye was badly injured, and judging by his fear of bikes, the wound was probably the result of a brutal kick to the head from a passing cyclist.
Noel’s story is one of many. MPAC works in low income areas of the city, including Little Haiti, Liberty City, North Miami, El Portal, and Little River, where homeless cats and dogs struggle for survival. Both accidental and intentional breeding runs rampant in areas where spaying, neutering, and vaccinating pets is overlooked due either to ignorance or a lack of resources.
CEO Board Member Alyson Scotti describes MPAC as the link between these communities and vet clinics that provide free or low-cost medical care, spaying, and neutering to animals in need. MPAC volunteers dedicate their time to going door to door – often literally – through neighborhoods where animal care education is severely lacking, offering to drive pets to a nearby clinic. Thanks to the the South Florida Veterinary Foundation, services will be provided at little or no cost.
It’s not rare for MPAC to encounter pet owners who are reluctant to spay or neuter; some hope to breed their pets and sell off the puppies without regard for the health and safety either for the mother or the babies. But Scotti and her team are willing to put in the time to persuade and educate people on the need for population control. If a resident agrees to have their pet visit the clinic, they are also offered free transportation and flea and tick preventative.
In these areas of Miami, the MPAC volunteers will often find dogs tethered, despite the fact that it is illegal to chain a dog outside. When Scotti recently visited a home to pick up a dog for neutering, she found that his collar had cut through his fur and flesh, becoming embedded in his neck and forming a rotting, festering lesion. After the dog was treated by a vet, the owners agreed to surrender the dog, named Bobby, to the MPAC, and he now lives in a loving foster home where he is being rehabilitated so that one day soon he can be adopted into a family.
Scotti stresses that while Bobby’s and Noel’s situations were certainly critical and tragic, they’re not unique. Animal life in these areas, she says, simply isn’t valued the way it is in many other parts of the country, and abuse is widespread. Miami, suggests Scotti, is known for its rich and famous residents, and yet stray dogs, mixed breed dogs, and older dogs are overlooked time and again for purebred puppies with expensive pedigrees. When dogs become status symbols, millions of animals find themselves homeless and often sick with distemper or heartworm due to missing vaccinations.
Miami-Dade Animal Services overseas the only public shelter in the area, and the recent addition of a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program for cats, along with other initiatives, has increased the number of animals they are able to save.
However, the massive influx of animals -sometimes up to one hundred a day – means that there’s simply not enough room to deal with the problem. If they aren’t adopted, animals are euthanized to make space for the exponential rate of incoming residents, and without air conditioning in the hot Miami weather, the quality of life for dogs in the shelter can be lacking. Additionally, illness spreads throughout the kennels, and the county is strapped for resources.
In addition to rescuing dogs off the street and helping them to get adopted, the bulk of what MPAC does is the crucial work of getting to the core of the problem.
With proper education and community outreach, the number of unwanted animals will drop. By providing medical care and food to families without the resources to care for their dogs, MPAC not only saves and improves the lives of dogs and cats but also builds a stronger sense of community amongst human beings and animal lovers. To help in our own states, Scotti encourages us to lend a hand to people who might not have the resources, knowledge, or means to care for their animals properly.
If an individual in the area finds a dog or cat, he or she can reach out to MPAC for guidance and vet care. Furthermore, MPAC will put up courtesy pet listings on adoption sites to help get the word out about homeless animals. With more and more dogs in need every day, MPAC accepts donations, every cent of which will go toward educating the public and providing for medical costs for sick and unneutered animals. They’re always on the lookout for new volunteers, so if you live in the area, please consider helping out.
Noel, now three and very sweet-tempered, is still waiting for a home to call his own. If you think you might be his person, please reach out to MPAC via email at [email protected] or by phone at (848) 231-MPAC (6722). Donations can be made here.
Featured Image via Miami Pet Assistance Coalition
From left to right: Noel, Bobby, Lady