FLORIDA EVERGLADES - They may be starving, dehydrated, alone, snake bit, frightened, sick, injured, pregnant, missing limbs or with ears cut off. They may be covered in ticks and fleas, in sweltering heat or cold weather, old or young, purebred or mutts, abandoned and forlorn....and yet, amazingly, THEIR TAILS WAG when they see their rescuers.
It's a dirty little secret in western Miami-Dade county and one that the all-volunteer group 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida is working desperately to improve. Literally thousands of companion dogs are dumped and abandoned in the wasteland that is the Florida Everglades and the surrounding areas of Florida City, the Redlands and Homestead.
These are not feral dogs. After 18 months of rescue work there, founder Amy Roman says, "Of the nearly 700 dogs we've saved, literally just 2 or 3 were aggressive. These dogs often come right to us and belly up!" (the submissive 'rub my belly' gesture of a friendly dog). "They are desperate for human contact and for survival."
Who knew? Who could ever imagine the saturation of wandering dogs in this area, struggling to survive on their own? And yet, within minutes of stopping at one of the 100+ crew's regular spots, their cars and SUV's are being filled with dogs whose lives instantly change from a living hell to a protected, healthy future in a loving home.
Ah but there's a catch. As anyone in animal rescue will tell you, it's all about the bottom line. Rescue is an expensive venture. The dogs need various levels of medical treatment and then require boarding until a loving home is found for them.
The more money the 100+ group can raise, the more dogs they can save. Bottom line.
Each of their monthly forays into the Everglades to pull out dogs is preceded by begging and pleading for donations. They try to pull dogs out once a month but only schedule a rescue mission date once $20,000 or more has been secured and is on hand to vet the dogs who are pulled. And you can bet that as a rescue day unfolds, founder Amy Roman is forced to keep a mental tally of the health of each dog they find and estimate the cost to vet it. The group must stop pulling dogs when they reach the dollar limit and / or the number of boarding spaces they have available.
Imagine how gut-wrenching it is to pick and choose, to play God, to leave behind dozens of dogs who are right in front of you in urgent need of help.
Even the healthiest dogs will cost the organization $400 or more including vaccinations, heart worm testing, spay or neuter, and boarding. Others cost thousands, like a young black lab pulled on February 23, 2013 with a severe leg injury. His surgery alone will cost $3,000. 100+ charges just $150 for adoption of each dog, which includes vaccinations, microchip, spay/neuter, and any other services needed to present a healthy dog. (Adopters also receive a free 30 day pet insurance policy, donated to 100+ by Trupanion.) When you do the math, It's obviously an uphill battle but one the group will not turn away from.
The 100+ team members crawl on their bellies under tractors, slog through brush and brambles, and sometimes spend hours coaxing and catching just one frightened dog or finding a mama dog's hidden pups. They've discovered evidence of dog fighting, cock fighting, Santeria animal sacrifices and livestock and horse slaughter along the way. It's heartbreaking, back-breaking work in an unforgiving setting.
On February 23, 2013, the 100+ team went in for the second time this year and came out with 22 dogs. Besides the injured black lab who needs leg surgery, they also rescued a very pregnant Weimaraner who went into labor the very next day. Happily, the new mom dog will be adopted by a volunteer who was on the rescue. A Chihuahua rescued that day tested heart worm positive and has begun treatment. A large mom dog and her pups were brought to safety...the pups in good shape but the mom sick, depleted and exhausted. The smallest rescue of the day was a pup they named 'Jimmy', who was just 4 weeks old and is now being bottle fed around the clock. (see slideshow).
Most of the dogs pulled by the group are immediately driven to Imperial Point Animal Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, where they are vetted and boarded at a discounted rate. Imperial Point Animal Hospital in Delray takes in 2 dogs from each rescue. One lucky dog from each rescue, once vetted, is boarded free of charge and cageless at Camp Canine, thanks to Lisa, who is a volunteer team member with 100+.
Thousands of pounds of food are donated by the volunteers and is left with the locals who agree to feed as many of the homeless dogs as possible until the team returns to pull out more. One huge-hearted woman who lives in the area, Adela Lewis, has built makeshift kennels and cares for up to 25 dogs there that she's taken in. She gratefully accepts donated food from 100+ volunteers each time they do a rescue but even thousands of pounds of food is gone in just weeks due to the sheer number of dogs in need.
100+ has received copious media coverage and yet no large animal organization or government agency has offered help. In fact, the group has been turned down everywhere they've asked. Most recently, 100+ was happy to have WINK News Call for Action cover a rescue mission to raise awareness of the overwhelming problem.
"It's like a third world country out there," says Amy. "I get calls day and night from locals in this area begging me for help. We are a group of volunteers with huge hearts and empty pockets. We are not too proud to beg for help." Although Amy knows the group is barely making a dent in the issue, they value the life of each and every dog far too much to give up.
***How can you help? There are so many ways. Please click here to DONATE to 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida. 100% of monetary donations go directly to the rescue and care of these dogs. ALL rescuers, including Amy, are volunteers. Their greatest need is financial support and every donation helps to save more lives.
Click Here to see some of the current adoptable rescued dogs. Adopt if you can. Foster if you can.
**Please share this article to raise awareness. Do you have contacts with veterinarians or boarding facilities? Can you link this group with any dog rescue organizations you have ties to that will take in some of these dogs? Can you help them link with a pet food company that will donate food? Share this article everywhere...you may reach the person who can make a huge difference or contribution, or many who will contribute what they can. Networking works and every bit helps! Make your difference today for these sweet, innocent canines.
Watch dozens of amazing YouTube videos of the 100+ team in action and of adoptable dogs by clicking HERE.
Connect with the 100+ team on Facebook to follow the group on their rescues and see their beautiful dogs up for adoption. Contact them via Facebook message if you can help, or at email@example.com.
*Watch the attached slideshow of the February Rescue*
Florida Panthers hockey fan? Click here to read about player Tyson Strachan and the Florida Panthers' support of 100+.
< Read more articles on dog rescue issues by this examiner by clicking here and here. Read about service animals here. Follow this author on Facebook. SUBSCRIBE above (just under the title of this article) to receive free notifications of future articles.
To anyone who's ever rescued a dog, click here.
REMEMBER TO ADOPT, SPAY / NEUTER, TAG / MICROCHIP AND LOVE YOUR PETS FOR LIFE. WE CAN STOP THE EUTHANIZATION OF MILLIONS OF SHELTER PETS EACH YEAR.