Miami-Dade animal shelter ready for Give Miami Day

More than 400 days ago, Ziggy, an American bulldog and boxer mix, was a lost dog arriving at Miami Dade Animal Services. Today, thanks to new fundraising events, Ziggy is now Miami Dade County’s mayoral dog.

This past Oct. 6, Ziggy was the shelter’s longest resident and was overdue for a forever home. The shelter’s team, through AdoptMiamipets, its Instagram page, worked tirelessly to showcase Ziggy through virtual and live events until County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office got a look. 

And just like that Ziggy had found a new loving owner.

“You just never know whose heart these pets are gonna touch,” says Gilda Nùñez, Miami Dade Animal Services Chief of Outreach and Development.

Today, the shelter is joining The Miami Foundation’s yearly Give Miami Day to raise funds to continue making success stories like Ziggy happen for every pet they house.

More than 1000 organizations participate in the annual event, which last year raised over $32 million and this year has set the goal of surpassing that. They fill radio, TV, and the Internet with pleas for help and dramatic stories like that of Ziggy.

“It’s one of my favorite holidays,” recounts Janelle Kaplan, vice president of philanthropy for the Miami Foundation, who has been a part of the team that puts on Give Miami Day for the community since its start in 2012.

Miami Dade Animal Services is a staple in the effort and vital to the community. Its helter presently houses over 800 dogs and cats, among the highest number ever and is fighting to make a difference in the pet community every day. Help from donors and volunteers is badly needed.

Adoptmiamipets on Instagram is the shelter’s virtual route for getting more aid.  By joining Give Miami Day and starting Adopt Live Thursdays on their Instagram live, Miami Dade Animal Services aims to raise $50,000 in donations.

For years, the shelter has been a part of the event and has looked to receive help from the community financially and also to spread awareness. Since last November, many things have changed: the number of adoptions has increased, and so have the number of pets coming in.

Shelter outreach chief Nùñez recounts last year’s Give Miami Day total take was around $25,000, which fell short of expectations. This year, she and her colleagues hope to reach their $50,000 goal by amping up promotions.

With over 11 years of experience with the shelter, she paints the shelter as a pit stop for every dog and cat that comes through the doors.

A day in the life of staff and volunteers entails feeding the animals twice daily, participating in enrichment programs, administering necessary medication, and offering much-needed love.

Nuñez adds, “The more employees we have, the more individualized attention we can give each animal.”

“Sheila posing for AdoptMiamipets on Instagram,” shared by Gabriella Dominguez, public relations officer, Miami Animal Services.

The shelter, of course, aims to get animals adopted. Venus, formerly known as Sheila, was recently adopted after spending a total of 416 days in the shelter system. She is one of their proudest success stories.

Sheila originally arrived at the shelter as a stray animal back on Aug. 10, 2022. Little is known of her past, but it’s clear no one came looking for her, and she had no collar or microchip.

Though she appeared on the shelter’s virtual adoption Thursday Instagram livestreams, only a minor interest was shown for her until February, when Natalie Leon set her eyes on the puppy. Leon works as the behavior coordinator at the shelter, focusing on the quality of life of the pets while they are in the shelter and assessing if the animal will “survive” at the shelter and be a candidate for adoption.

Leon brought the dog home for fostering, where she met the family as well as their chihuahua and two cats. It only took 23 days before everyone in the home was sold. On Oct. 1, 2023, Leon and her family adopted her.

“My parents met her while I was fostering her and fell in love with her,” says Leon.

Now, she adds, the family is delighted with the decision. “It felt like she was meant to be a part of the family,” adds Leon.

All thanks to a hardworking team that did not give up on showing Venus to the community. This proves that every animal deserves a loving home, and the team is there to put their best foot forward in any way, not just complete daily tasks.

Sheila, now Venus, with her forever family, shared by Gabriella Dominguez.

Success stories like Venus are sweet moments that remind everyone of the excellent work and the difference the shelter can make with the right funding.

The shelter provided aid to over 28,000 animals last year, and has achieved a 90% save rate for over eight years. Their goal for November is over 200 dogs adopted a week. 

The shelter’s Nunez hopes Give Miami Day provides a push.

“That to me is the happiest moment of my life,” Nuñez exclaims about how she feels about rehabilitating pets and finding a new home for them. “When I see those dogs leaving with adopters, it fulfills me. It makes me happy to know that we are doing our job.”

Gabriela Salinas is a bilingual student journalist at Florida International University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Digital Journalism on a pre-law track. She has gained experience in the legal and communications field through internships at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Juan Cortes is a junior majoring in Digital Broadcasting with a focus on sports journalism. As a big soccer and FC Barcelona fan, he hopes to work in the sports broadcasting industry.