A viral Miami trend: “Pawventure” (includes video story)

Emily Butler has a 13-year-old rescue in her Pinecrest home, but she wanted more. So, on the morning of Sept. 24, she decided to take a shelter pet out for a day. She headed to the Miami-Dade Animal Services shelter in Doral for what they call a “Pawventure.”

“I wanted an older dog,” she said, “One that has been here a little bit longer.” 

She chose Puppy, a 7-year-old who’s been a shelter resident since 2022.

“The first time, I was like super nervous,” said Butler. “She was so happy when she saw me. She jumped on me and gave me a kiss.”

At the shelter, which is currently over capacity, any effort that gets dogs out and adopted helps. That’s where Pawventures comes in. From January to October 2023, 159 of 194 adoptions were a direct result of the program — an 81.96% success rate, based on recorded statistics.

Foster coordinator Amber Rodriguez and Animal Services Department Director Annette Jose hold two dogs at the MEGA Match-A-Thon on Saturday, Oct. 21 in Doral (Julian Davis/ Caplin News.)

“It’s opening kennels here essentially because those pets are finding a good outcome,” said foster coordinator Amber Rodriguez, one of the program’s original founders. “This is allowing us to have space here to bring in more animals.”

It all started two years ago when Viviane Andrade and Rodriguez participated in a six-week apprenticeship with Maddie’s Fund, an organization that supports animal foster care. They discovered how beneficial fostering could be to the adoption process.

Two volunteers hold four sleepy young pups. Due to their age, they were not ready for adoption. (Julian Davis/ Caplin News)

“Behaviorally, it’s helping the pets,” Rodriguez said, explaining the benefits of short-term fostering for both the dog and the person.

The animal’s stress levels are reduced, and the public enjoys furry friends without getting kicked out of their apartments.

The program was born with the idea that if people were getting dogs out of the shelter and into the community, potential adopters would see a different side than they might see at the hectic Doral animal shelter.

Those who take a dog for the day are given bags and a folder of canine-friendly activities in Miami. “Pawventurers” are encouraged to take many pictures and post them on social media. This can entice viewers to adopt.

When asked for any last remarks, Rodriguez wanted people to know that they’re fostering, they’re saving a life. “Fostering saves lives;” (Julian Davis/Caplin News)

On Sept. 12, Ivie, an influencer with 14.4k followers, posted “Pawventure” as a fun and free thing to do in Miami. Now viral, the TikTok has 192.1k views and has been reposted by popular Miami Instagram pages like @miamibucketlist, with 311k followers, and @themiamiguide, with 345k followers. 

And the page @pawventureswithjade is solely dedicated to providing a platform for the pups to find a home. Jade has over a dozen adoptable dogs on her page and shares pet-friendly spots with tips to help Pawventurers.

“I think between my page and a little help from people,” Jade said, “We can spread more awareness on Pawventures and encourage others to do them as well.”

A volunteer that was walking this dog around the perimeter of the shelter gives a close embrace to his furry companion. (Julian Davis/Caplin News)

In order to adopt a pet for a day, participants must be at least 18 years old and have an ID or up-to-date driver’s license. It is not required to be a county resident to participate. 

You may pick up a furry friend any day of the week, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to noon, and Saturday through Sunday, 9 to 10 a.m.

For weekend pickups, Rodriguez, the program founder, recommends making appointments through 311, the county’s call center, since there’s a shorter timeframe for pickups on those days.

The pet must be properly transported and secured in an enclosed vehicle, remain on a leash, and be back by drop-off time for dinner, which is 5 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends.

A month after adopting Puppy, Emily Butler says she has learned something. “I’ve taken her to a restaurant, to a park,” she says. “But she has a lot of anxiety, and she gets stressed.”

So she usually just stays home: “We’re going to hang out in the backyard and just relax,” she said.

Samantha Gutierrez is a student journalist majoring in Digital Communication and Media. As a bilingual reporter, she enjoys covering stories about her diverse Miami community. With a strong passion for broadcasting, she aspires to pursue a career as a multimedia journalist in South Florida.

Julian Davis is a student at Florida International University, pursuing his Bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism. Julian is Jamaican-American and is passionate about photography and the environment, always looking for a way to inspire others about the same. He currently works as a photographer for the school newspaper, PantherNOW. After graduation, Julian aspires to do investigative journalism focusing on environmental corruption.