The dog days of summer have already hit the Miami-Dade County Animal Services after officials announced Thursday infectious diseases have infected many of the pooches.
Effective immediately, the shelter will stop all intake of dogs and puppies, officials won't pick up stray dogs and there will be no spay and neutering operations or rabies shots.
All of theses services, which only affect dogs, will be suspended for "no more than two weeks," officials said.
Dogs and puppies by the hundreds were being frantically removed Thursday night from the shelter in Northwest Miami-Dade near Medley in a desperate attempt to save them from being exposed to the viruses.
The move was forced by the spread of diseases like Canine Distemper, which has caused many animals to get ill. Currently, there are about 500 dogs and puppies at the shelter.
The contagious disease is incurable, according to animalhealthchannel.com, and affects the respitory and central nervous systems and can be fatal to dogs.
Puppies are usually the most susceptible.
Sandra Vanneck runs the non-profit Misfit Rescue. She took an SUV full of puppies and the mother Thursday night.
"I'm gonna take them home and I'm going to take care of them, and I'm praying to God that the ones that have been exposed don't have it, don't catch distemper, and they can survive through this," Vanneck said. "I can guarantee you that the 15 puppies that are in there are most likely going to die, because they've already been exposed."
Any of the dogs in the shelter may have distemper that hasn't yet manifest. So to rid the shelter of distemper, all dogs must go. Those who don't get adopted or fostered must be euthanized. That prospect brought some rescue volunteers to tears.
"Miami-Dade County's Animal Services is temporarily suspending selected services due to an infectious disease problem among dogs and puppies," a statement read Thursday. "Distemper, in particular, has become endemic in the shelter and all dogs and puppies are ill or considered exposed and at risk."
Services involving cats, which are not impacted by canine distemper, will still be offered to the public.
A Facebook campaign to oust the vet quickly turned into protests and rallies outside of the Animal Services hub.
Most of the criticism centered on euthanasia at the center.
But Thursday, the lobby of the shelter was filled with rescue groups, normally at odds with shelter authorities, taking dogs to vets or waiting foster homes.
"This is not the time to play blame games, this is the time to get these dogs and cats out of here," said the normally vitriolic critic of the shelter Dahli Canes, who runs the Miami Coalition Against Breed Specific Legislation.
Even so, Canes and other dog rescuers sent countless e-mails and made Facebook posts wrongly claiming that Dr. Pizano would “lockdown the shelter at 7 p.m." to begin “24 hours” of “mass murder” out of pure “retaliation.” None of the claims was true.
Pizano said in a memo to adopters that it's a crisis.
"And the animals are becoming sicker more quickly. So, we had to take this drastic action to try to eliminate the virus from the shelter," she wrote.
Pizano says it's like the flu at children’s daycare center but with deadly consequences for the dogs. Animal shelters constantly battle viruses and full blown outbreaks are not uncommon.
Until the shelter is empty, people are still allowed – indeed, adamantly encouraged – to adopt dogs or puppies but they are being warned that trouble and heartbreak may lie ahead.
“We're educating the people about the heightened risk.,” said the shelter’s Xiomara Mordcovich. “Our rescue partners are working to pull out as many animals as possible. And, of course, as is true every day: We want people to come find their lost pets."