Residents of Palmett Bay and village officials recently worked together to create a new website designed to meet the needs of pet owners concerned about lost and found pets. The problem and path to a solution were described by village resident James Woodard.
“Ever since the invention of the telephone pole, the only way to get the word out when you lost or found a pet was to nail a hand-printed flier to one and hope that the other party saw it,” Woodard said. “This solution has obvious limitations. Last month, Palmetto Bay Councilman Tim Schaffer conducted a town hall meeting to address the problem. In attendance was Palmetto Bay resident Mike Muni.”
Muni, who is 30 and has lived in Palmetto Bay all his life, is a Network Infrastructure Support Technician for Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
“My sister and I had the idea about creating some sort of pet website for about one to two months before the town hall meeting because we often time spot pets that have gotten out and try to find their owners,” Muni said. “I however didn’t start building a site until after the town hall meeting where we learned that many of the people in the community already had an idea for what type of site was needed.
“I thought about what the members of the community wanted and also what the village was asking for and came to the conclusion that the best option would be to have a third party create the site and not to have it run by the village.”
Muni believed that a village-run website would not be able to do some of the things being asked due to staffing and liability issues.
“Two more reasons that I felt the website would be better run by a third party is that, for one thing, the site should be accessible to everyone in the county because pets can easily wander into neighboring cities,” Muni said. “The second being that if residents will be signing up for anything like email alerts or providing any personal info, I don’t want the same thing to happen that has happened in the past.”
Muni was referring to the fact that due to Florida law, email addresses provided to municipal governments are a matter of public record and may be obtained by anyone requesting them.
“By running the website myself, I know for sure spam will not be an issue with this website and I try to keep the spam risk as low as possible,” Muni said.
The newly designed pet website, <www.MiamiDadeLostPets.com>, allows for immediate, self-posted, countywide notices 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
“The service is free and provides for a photograph and related information to be posted,” James Woodard said. “It even has a place to list animals that you have for adoption.”
Users can submit reports to the website without the need to sign up for anything or register for an account. All reports will last for 30 days on the website before expiring and automatically being removed.
Councilman Schaffer explained that council members had been approached by residents who wanted a lost and found that has more of an immediate impact from the standpoint of constant updates.
“Palmetto Bay has a wonderful website for pets lost and found, but it was updated every workday morning,” Schaffer said. “It wasn’t 24 hours a day; there wasn’t anyone to do it, so there could be some down time. I called a town hall meeting on it and a group of residents showed up and we started exchanging ideas.
“When we got a group of people together and we started sharing ideas, Mike said ‘I’ve got the capability to build a website,’ and he built it, and we’re now connecting it to our Palmetto Bay website and we’re reaching out to other lost and found associations and organizations throughout Miami-Dade. Mike’s done a great job.”
Schaffer said he got a lot of assistance from everyone on the council, and from residents Jana Sheeder, James Woodard and Carol Vega, as well as village staff.
“I’m not taking credit for the good things they have done. I just wanted to enable them to get together and work things out,” Schaffer said. “We’re excited. There’s no downside to this. It’s not political. There’s no cost to the village. It’s helpful to a lot of people.”
Woodard pointed out that the website is a non-commercial labor of love by Muni, based on his compassion for animals. He suggests donations will help keep it running. “It is not a profit-making effort,” Woodard said.
“Its continuation depends on being able to cover Web costs.”