The race to save the lives of hundreds of animals potentially exposed to the deadly distemper virus at the Miami-Dade Animal Services shelter was a stunning success, says the shelter director.
"Yes, it's amazing,” said Dr. Sara Pizano, “Over the last four or five days, 500 animals were saved."
And now Pizano is putting out a call for volunteers to help sanitize the shelter Tuesday and Wednesday.
The deadly virus outbreak at the shelter forced drastic action: Adopt or foster every dog or puppy in the shelter to minimize its exposure and to allow crews to sanitize the entire facility.
It's still too early to tell how many dogs and puppies were exposed to distemper and Parvo, and which ones will survive.
But now the work takes on a new focus to get the shelter up and running once again.
Cleaning and power washing was underway Monday night, and Dr. Pizano and her team have been putting in long days. She says they have just four or five dogs to go before every single dog has been adopted or fostered out, leaving behind something this shelter never sees: Empty cages, empty runs and silence.
"So we are in the process of cleaning up,” Pizano said Monday night. “We start tomorrow."
Stacked in the hallways are supplies of disinfectant and drums of paint ready to combat the distemper and Parvo virus that all overcrowded shelters struggle with.
The last few days, the shelter’s lobby was packed with rescue groups and dog lovers rallying to adopt or foster more than 500 dogs and puppies. They were all cautioned, of course, that many were already exposed. Some, especially puppies and older dogs, may not survive.
"So there were so many variables and factors that that it just remains to be seen how many of them…will become ill and even pass away," Pizano said.
Also new, lost or homeless dogs like the scared old Chihuahua female found Monday night at Bird Road and 137the Avenue are being brought in to the shelter's temporary tent set up in the parking lot to prevent new arrivals from infection.
New arrivals are now being adopted out without any formal waiting period because owners come to locate their lost pets just one percent of the time. So Pizano is reluctant to take up precious shelter space in the unlikely event that the owner comes to reclaim the lost pet. When it does happen, whoever adopted the pet must return it to the rightful owner.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help clean starting Tuesday morning can go to the shelter which is just east of the Palmetto at the 74th Street exit. The website has all the info: www.miamidade.gov/animals.
Pizano says everyone is welcome Tuesday and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.