Collaboration and Care Unites Passionate Leaders for Animal Services

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Over the last four years, animal services departments across the nation were tested like never before. Pet adoptions skyrocketed during the pandemic, when 2% more animals left shelters than came in, according to Shelter Animals Count, a nationally trusted source on shelter pet data. But in the last two years, that trend has reversed, amounting to an all-time high of homeless animals across the United States. Experts attribute the crisis to a variety of factors, from the rising cost of living to increased housing insecurity.

Mayor Daniella Levine Cava

Miami-Dade too felt the challenge, and through the committed efforts of community organizations we have been at the forefront of tackling this crisis head on. Our Miami-Dade County Animal Services Department is leading these efforts – with the support of loyal and dedicated volunteers like Yolanda Berkowitz who believe in our core mission to care and love our animals.

Yolanda’s visionary and compassionate leadership led her to launch her nonprofit, Friends of Miami Animals Foundation (FOMA), whose mission is to save and improve the lives of homeless pets. FoMA is leading the way towards the elimination of pet homelessness and suffering in Miami-Dade County by addressing underlying issues contributing to pet overpopulation and abandonment. Through partnerships, spay and neuter programs, volunteer and foster initiatives, as well as public awareness and education, FoMA is a leader in animal welfare in our community.

Through FoMA’s partnership with Wings of Rescue and sponsorship, there have been 1,000+ animals moved from Miami Dade County Animal Services to no-kill rescue partners in the Northeast and Canada, where pets were able to safely find forever homes. Through the WOW Mobile and medical grants provided to clinical partners, FoMA has invested more than $1 million to keep pets with their families and out of our sheltering system. FoMA has recruited more than 500 new volunteers and fosters, helping ease the burden of care on shelter staff members and creating connections between Miami-Dade Animal Services and our community.

Yolanda’s tireless and deep-rooted commitment to the work of pet services is demonstrated through FoMA’s donation of more than $100,000 in facility improvements to our County Shelter and other rescues in Miami-Dade County, to provide things like play yards, fencing, and other needed physical improvements to create a better quality of life for pets in the shelter system. Through grants to Miami-Dade Animal Services and other partners, FoMA has given more than $75,000 towards pet retention programs such as food relief, training, and other initiatives to help more owners keep their pets at home.

Miami-Dade is known for our community service and residents who step up to do important work, but Yolanda Berkowitz stands out because she talks the talk, and walks the walk. Now more than ever we need her passion and long-term vision for animal services, which is why we are grateful she is willing to do even more through an appointment to the newly formed Miami-Dade Animal Services Advisory Board. This new county Advisory Board will help guide key decisions and provide ongoing support to our innovative and committed Animal Services Department led by our director, Annette Jose, and a dedicated team of county staff.

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