Although this law is an essential component to maintaining the safety of people and pets in the community, a significant number of pet parents overlook this very important process. Licensing and ensuring pets wear their license tag at all times are two of the most important steps a pet parent can take to increase the likelihood of being reunited with their pet in the event the pet is lost.
Nationally, more than 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters every year. In Miami-Dade County 11,375 stray or lost dogs entered the Animal Services shelter in 2015. The Animal Services Humane Law Enforcement Unit responds to complaints of stray dogs seven days per week.
Last year 4,749 dogs were rescued from the dangers they faced roaming the busy roadways of Miami-Dade County. Good Samaritans transported an additional 4,319 found dogs to the shelter in the hopes they would be reunited with their families.
Animal Services’ Humane Law Enforcement Unit is dedicated to what is referred to as field Return to Owner (RTO). The goal of the RTO program is to prevent lost pets from ever entering the shelter. This important program ensures the missing or lost pet is promptly reunited with the family and frees much needed kennel space for other pets in need. The success of the field RTO program is largely dependent on the pet wearing the required license.
The pet’s license tag is a unique identifier that contains the pet parent’s information including address and telephone number once the license tag number is checked in the system. Pets found wearing the license tag can then be taken home to the safety of their family. In the event no one is home to accept the pet, a notice is posted at the residence advising the pet owner that their pet has been taken to the shelter for safekeeping. Should anyone find a dog wearing a license tag, the unique identifier can be used to look up the owner’s contact information online at www.miamidade.gov/animals or by calling 3-1-1.
The licensing process is directly linked to a pets’ rabies vaccine. Rabies vaccines are available in one and three-year durations of immunity; your veterinarian will recommend the most appropriate choice for your pet. Dog licenses are available in one year as well as three-year terms to coincide with the duration of the rabies vaccination. Pet parents can opt to purchase a one year license even if their dog has received a three-year rabies vaccine. However, it is important to note that the license itself will still need to be renewed annually for the duration of immunity associated with the rabies vaccine.
In contrast, a three year license is only available for purchase if the pet receives a three-year rabies vaccine.
The fees from the licensing program help support the lifesaving programs at Animal Services. Licensing revenues enable Animal Services to provide free and low cost spay/neuter for owned pets, behavioral enrichment for the shelter pets in its care and sustains the numerous services and programs Animal Services has implemented to help save lives.
Animal Services’ many lifesaving programs contributed to a 90 percent live release last year, the number of lost dogs reunited with their families was only a little over 15 percent. This helps stress the importance of licensing your pet. Your pet’s license may well be their ticket home.
Licenses can be obtained from a private veterinarian or by mail or in person at: Miami-Dade Animal Services, 7401 NW 74 St., Miami, FL 33166. In addition to the health benefits associated with spaying or neutering, the licensing fees for sterilized pets are discounted. Low cost sterilization is available to all pet parents residing in Miami-Dade County at the Animal Services shelter located at 7401 NW 74 St., as well as the Miami-Dade County and City of Homestead Community Spay/Neuter Clinic located at 1034 NE Eighth St., Homestead, Florida 33030.
Appointments can be scheduled online at www.miamidade.gov/animals or by calling 3-1-1.
Kathleen Labrada is Chief of Operations and Enforcement,
Miami-Dade Animal Services Department.