Dr. Donna is a well-known local chiropractor. After rescuing two shelter dogs several years apart, she educated herself on the animal overpopulation crisis in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. Local animal rescues are operating 24/7 in an effort to make a dent in the inventory of abandoned animals. The system is failing, and Dr. Donna finds this unacceptable. Her answer to the challenge came in the form of Dr. Donna’s Pet Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charity aimed at animal welfare, and launched in Fort Lauderdale.
Have you met with the Broward County and Miami-Dade shelters?
Yes, and they’re trying. The percentages of euthanasia in both Miami-Dade and Broward have dropped. Live release numbers are rising due to newer programs that are being initiated and more funding they are receiving from grants and some from the commissions budgeting. But it is still not near enough.
So what is it that you feel that can be done to help this crisis?
One of my ideas is to start an animal transport program taking animals from our overcrowded shelters and delivering them to other rescue groups and no-kill shelters through Florida and along the Eastern Seaboard. There are many that could take our overload of dogs and cats and get them into foster or permanent homes.
There is already a transport Facebook group for almost every state in the country, all staffed by volunteers willing to drive a couple of hours or more to safely deliver an animal that would otherwise be euthanized. Or, someone who lives out of state but willing to adopt one of our urgent dogs and needs help getting him to them. I want to build on that system in a more coordinated way as one part of Tri-county transport program.
What other goals do you have for your foundation?
I would like to propose that the Tri-County Commissions each enact a $1 a month tax fee to all county residents water bills for the sole purpose of funding programs to enhance and enlarge the existing current shelters and to fund programs geared to the general public that will educate them on all healthcare issues, training programs and evaluations of dangerous breeds as well as other programs. It would also allow for hiring much needed veterinarians and staff so that proper and more in depth medical treatments can be given on site to save incoming lives and lessen the burden on rescues attempting to pull animals from the shelters which larger impending medical bills often prohibit. As it is now, only very basic medical care is given at the shelters.
What else can be done?
We need a good screening of potential pet adopters. The way it sits now, the shelters pretty much function like a free/low cost Craig’s list giveaway with little to no screening.
We would like to see them implement basic background screening on all potential adopters which can be done at no cost utilizing the public information available online through the clerk of county courts office. In addition, adopters should be required to bring in their leases if they rent. It is important to see whether they are allowed to actually own a pet and, if so, what size. Also, there should be an employment reference and veterinary reference if applicable. There is a strong correlation between domestic violence and animal abuse.
It sounds like you are also championing for new laws and policies with regard to animal welfare and Puppy Mills legislation?
Yes. A large group of people including Michele Lazarow, a Hallandale Beach City Commissioner, and I tried to get the Broward County Commission to pass the Puppy Mill Ban, but they did not. Many individual cities in Broward County have, and this is a fight that will not be going away. It is only gaining strength throughout the county.