Animal Rescue in South Florida and Beyond: How You Can Make a Difference!

They say dogs are man’s best friend. In 1789, King Frederick of Prussia stated, this idea more eloquently when he said “the only absolute and best friend that a man has, in this selfish world, the only one that will not betray or deny him, is his dog”.

I think most animal lovers would agree that this is the case. Of course, we cannot forget cats and kittens. While they are known to be snootier and more independent, felines are wonderful and loyal companions too. Which leaves the perplexing question: Why are homeless animals a national epidemic with a whopping 70 million homeless dogs and cats in the United States? Why does Florida continue to rate the highest in the number of cats and dogs euthanized in kill shelters?

What is the Cause?

Topping the list of the main reason for homeless and unwanted animals is the failure of owners to have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered. Some animal owners fail to see the need or aren’t able to spend the money on their pets.

In recent years, economic strains, foreclosures, and owners needing to relocate has resulted in animals being surrendered or merely dumped on the street. With the financial strains on many during 2020 from Covid-19, unfortunately, we saw the number of homeless animals rise. Finally, natural disasters are not only a human and financial concern, they also result in the displacement of hundreds and thousands of animals.

The Unsung Heroes: The Animal Rescuers and Advocates

Thankfully, South Florida has some wonderful organizations consisting of selfless animal advocates who work tirelessly to feed and rehome animals in need. For South Florida Lending Hands, a 501 (c) (3) Non-Profit Organization located in South Florida, this is a mission of the heart, making a difference one furry friend at a time.

While working tirelessly to assist and empower our community, they also organize pet food drives, where it is then sent to disaster zones, fundraise to save homeless animals, have their medical needs met, (including spaying or neutering), and network to find a forever home. They may help a stray on the street or a pet surrendered by a family because they can no longer care for it due to a death, health issues, or economic circumstances. With no brick or mortar building in place, this wonderful organization solely relies on temporary fosters to care for homeless animals, avoiding them being sent to a stressful kill shelter.

Help to the Bahamas

In September, of 2019 the Bahamas suffered devastating and catastrophic damage from Hurricane Dorian. This resulted in hundreds of homeless and displaced animals. South Florida Lending Hands not only made four trips to the Islands with pet food and supplies, but they also spearheaded a fundraiser to help the Abaco Shelter in the Bahamas, an area hard hit, with a spay and neuter trailer. The trailer was delivered to the Abaco shelter in December of 2019. This was all accomplished by the generosity of volunteers and community donations from individuals and businesses.

As Frank Palanco, President of South Florida Lending Hands states: “So many goals, so many art projects, so many animals, so many kids and people to help – it just comes down to resources. Lend another hand if you can.”

For the South Florida nonprofit rescue Bullies-N-Beyond, the mission closest to their heart is saving the lives of the Bully breeds, considered to be the most misunderstood and by far the most common breed to end up in a kill shelter. Bullies are an incredibly misunderstood breed and Jane Ziemba, along with a small group of volunteer’s works tirelessly to rescue and foster displaced dogs and educate the community and adopters on the need to spay and neuter. Bullies-N-Beyond also works closely with South Florida Lending Hands and Save a Sato, as it truly takes a village of animal advocates to make a difference in the lives of these homeless animals.

Jane Ziemba - South Florida Animal Advocate.
Donated pet food being sent to places in need.
Frank Polanco of South Florida Lending Hands and Save a Sato.

The Problem in Puerto Rico

When Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico in 2017, an immense and unprecedented amount of destruction, death, and suffering, caused the world to take notice of the number of homeless domestic animals in need in the area. Unfortunately, while Hurricane Maria did leave many animals’ displaced, stray animals in this United States territory has been a continuous problem for years. There are approximately 250,000 “street dogs”, also referred to as Sato’s in Puerto Rico at any given time. A bad economy, lack of veterinarian facilities, and desensitization of the island’s residents have resulted in a real problem.

Save a Sato is a non-profit organization dedicated to easing the suffering of Puerto Rico’s homeless and neglected animals. This organization partners with the Broward Humane Society and other rescue organizations to bring these street animals to Florida, provide much needed medical care, and re-home them to families located all over the United States.

Before and after pictures of Manuel, a dog rescued from Puerto Rico.
They also send food over to the territory so that the Puerto Rico shelter and local animal advocates can feed these poor homeless and hungry animals.

A New Life for the Fur Babies

Meet Martha who was rescued from Puerto Rico by Save a Sato along with her mom and three other siblings. They were found living in deplorable conditions in an abandoned building. Luckily, Save a Sato was able to place them all in a foster home where they were cared for. On December 7, 2020 Martha found her fur-ever home right here, in Oakland Park! Martha, now Micca, is living her best life with her new human mom Nancy and is treated like the queen she is.
Meet Gabriel, this handsome boy is one of the Satos that Save a Sato assisted in his transport and transition to Florida. Gabriel was rescued from the streets of Puerto Rico where his future was gloomy. Gabriel was given veterinary care, nutritious food and some much deserved love. Though Gabriel is a very timid dog, he is very sweet. Once Gabriel was fully vetted and ready to make the journey, Save a Sato coordinated with their local partner, Peggy Adams of Animal Rescue League in West Palm Beach where Gabriel is now available for adoption.

Gabriel has been making so much progress with a lot of social interaction both with humans and other dogs. This beautiful boy is 8 years young and will forever appreciate a family that will change his life. Could you be Gabriel’s hero?

What Can WE Do?

So, we know it’s a problem and we know we need to help. What can you or I do to help these organizations aid these animals?

Volunteer

There is ALWAYS a need for volunteers. There is a never ending list of things you can volunteer to do to help these organizations. Reach out to them and tell them you’re ready to start and how you can help.

Donate

Money, food and supplies. It ALL helps.

Foster

Take an abused or homeless animal into your home. Work with them, socialize and provide them the love they may have never experienced. Keep them out of the kill shelters, a tremendously stressful environment that can cause some animals to become “unadoptable”. This can be tough because of the potential emotional attachment, but the affect you will have on that animal is life changing for the animal, as well as yourself.

Adopt, Don’t Shop

Purebred animals are absolutely wonderful, but at the end of the day we have countless homeless animals that just want a chance for a real family. There is an incomparable satisfaction which comes from the chance to change the life of a homeless dog or cat.

When looking for a furry addition to your family, please, consider the ones that many would not think twice about. Consider the weak, the sick, the downtrodden, the ones that have never been shown any love and have given up hope. They may not leap to you and kiss your face on the first meeting but they will grow to love you, trust you and appreciate you. Consider the seniors that have been abandoned and just need a retirement home to feel safe in. Be a homeless animal’s hero and I promise you that you will never regret it.

Animal Organizations

Here is information on how to contact these animal organizations highlighted in this article:

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*LivingInOaklandPark.com is an independent publication, not affiliated with the City of Oakland Park.

About the Author

Tami Wray

Tami Wray

Tami Wray was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana and grew up in the Northwest area of Indiana on the beautiful Lake Michigan. Mrs. Wray relocated to Wilton Manors in 1988 with her mother and now considers Oakland Park her permanent home.

Along with raising two beautiful daughters and one step-daughter, she has spent her entire career working in the real estate field as a property manager, real estate paralegal and insurance professional.

One of her greatest passions is the rescuing of abused and homeless animals and promoting the need for spaying and neutering pets and adoptions of senior pets.

Mrs. Wray currently resides in Oakland Park with her husband Chris, two daughters and her rescue pets; four dogs, two cats and a ferret. Life is never boring!

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