How animal shelters are adapting to life with COVID-19

The COVID-19 outbreak has forever changed our lives and we’re already seeing effects of this everywhere.  We are all figuring out how to continue living our lives while maintaining safe social distancing and living some of our lives digitally. Animal shelters are no different in this regard. So, how are animal shelters adjusting to the coronavirus?


  1.     Taking their events online

The Miami-Dade Services (“MDAS”) and Friends of Miami Animals Foundation (“FoMA”) got creative in early April and took to weekly Facebook Live to host Virtual Adoption Thursday. These events allow people the opportunity to virtually meet the shelter’s pets while maintaining social distancing. So far, nearly 75% of the pets featured have been adopted and found their forever homes! 

  1.     Changing the processes involved in visiting shelters

In the past, shelters could be filled with people searching for their new furry family member. Today, MDAS and other shelters are enforcing limits on how many people can enter and be in a room together at any time, emphasizing the necessity of social distancing.  Additionally, hand sanitizer is a must and shelters now require visitors to wear masks at all times during their visit. At Miami-Dade Animal Services, our County’s only open-admission shelter, the process of fostering a pet is moving digitally, too. Instead of a training course in person to prepare, MDAS now conducts one-on-one training sessions with only one person in the household taking part in the training session, with sessions staggered to maintain safe social distancing.


  1.     Running out of pets

A small piece of happy news out of everything going on in the world is that we’re seeing the importance of pets in people’s lives. While people are self-isolating in their homes and most of the country has received stay-at-home orders, many are turning to animal shelters to find a companion for their alone time. A shelter in Chicago recently ran out of adoptable pets for the first time in its existence and shelters all over the country are seeing major rises in the number of both adoptions and fosters. Across the country, shelters are being emptied out or left with a far more manageable number of animals to take care of but we keep in mind that many pets are in foster care and may be returning to the shelter so we continue to promote adoption as the only option even while pets are in foster care.


Despite all the steps that shelters and advocates are taking and the positives that come with them, things are challenging in the world of animal shelters in the age of COVID-19.  With so much need in the community and less traffic to the shelters day-to-day, they are receiving less attention and less in donations. Employees and others are working hard to ensure the health and safety of pets and people alike, but shelters are running out of resources to do this important job. While giving your time is always appreciated in normal times, we are in extraordinary and unprecedented times. Donating to a shelter’s wish list ensures that shelters and pets receive items that they need and can use in their life-saving work. Contact your local shelter to find out ways that you can help them during this time. Or, visit and make FoMA your charity of choice while shopping!


5 Ways to Help Miami’s Homeless Pets During COVID-19

We watched as China, then Italy, then the rest of Europe has grappled with the novel Coronavirus, aka COVID-19. Now a global pandemic, the virus has made its way into our home county and has affected each of us in one way or another. During this time, we need to draw together to protect the most vulnerable among us—and that includes the many of homeless pets who live in Miami-Dade.

Our open-intake county shelter has been forced to change their hours of operation and operating procedures, like many other organizations; this means that adoption events have been cancelled, and there are fewer adopters and volunteers coming in to help with the socialization of pets. Yet animals are still arriving on their doorstep daily, either found as strays, confiscated in cruelty or neglect cases, or surrendered by owners. As a community, we must help these innocent souls who will suffer unnecessarily if we don’t step up.

Here’s what you can do:

Foster a Dog or Cat

Right now, the county is doing one-on-one foster trainings in a sanitized, conscious setting for individuals and families who want to foster a shelter pet. You can even apply to foster from the comfort of your couch, right here on our website! Use your extra time and energy during social distancing to care for an animal in need. Plus, a pet can provide companionship, physical touch, stress relief, and mental stimulation during this difficult time.

Host a Social Media Fundraiser

With many people out of work and the economy slowing down, non-profits will no doubt take a hit in fundraising this year. Facebook has made it easy to create a fundraiser for your favorite animal non-profit and share it with all of your friends. You can select FoMA (Friends of Miami Animals Foundation, Inc.) or a rescue that you trust.  You can use the money you are saving on not eating out, deferred travel, and other activities to help save and improve the lives of our homeless pets! The funds will be used to provide supplies to our shelter’s pets during this time.

Send Supplies to the Shelter

Miami Dade Animal Services pets have needs that don’t stop during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve created a wish list of the most urgent needs of the shelter on Amazon, so you can click the link and purchase any item you choose. Some are only a few dollars, and every item makes a difference! Once you purchase the item from this Amazon wish list, it will be sent directly to the shelter, so you can #StaySafe and #StayHome while providing for our homeless dogs and cats from afar. Even better—shop at and select FoMA as your charity of choice to give back to our foundation with every purchase. Here is the wish list:

Adopt a Dog or Cat Virtually

What’s better than online shopping while sheltering-in-place? Online adopting! Even if you can’t go to the shelter or to an adoption event to find your furever best friend, or the next four-legged addition to your family, you can browse dogs and cats at Miami-Dade Animal Services completely online here: Once you find the dog or cat of your dreams, you can fill out an adoption application on our website, and then we will connect you with an adoption counselor at Miami-Dade Animal Services to arrange your meet-and-greet and pickup in a health and safety compliant manner. Now is a great time to introduce a new member of your family to your crew: with added time at home, your new pet will have a better adjustment period and the “getting to know you” phase can be accelerated. You’ll also have more time at home to train your dog as well.

Keep Yourself and Your Pets Safe

If you are already a pet owner, there are certain precautions you need to take in order to keep your pets safe and healthy during the social distancing time period. Make sure that you have reviewed the below checklist with the other members of your family and that you have plans in place should the worst happen:

  • Contact your vet and get an update on their schedule so you know when they are open if you need to call or take your pet in
  • Refrain from letting others touch your pets; there is not enough evidence to yet determine whether a pet can contract COVID-19, but we do know that pets can spread the disease when petted by an infected person through pet-to-human contact
  • Make sure you have several weeks of supplies on hand for your pets, including food, wee-wee pads, and especially medications
  • Try to keep your normal routine as similar as possible despite being home all day, so that your pet does not have anxiety about your schedule change when you return to work: Keep walk times, feeding times, etc. the same
  • Make sure you have an emergency contact who can take your pets or help you care for them in the event that you contract COVID-19 and need to be quarantined

It goes without saying that this is no time to surrender your pet to Miami Dade Animal Services or any other shelter.   Everyone in animal welfare is urging pet owners to make plans for any eventuality so they may keep their pets in their homes and families and in their care.

We know this is a scary time for all of us, but we also know the strength of our community and that if we come together, we will be stronger than ever. Let’s make sure our animals are not forgotten during this difficult time.

Be A Friend Fundraiser

On January  15, 2020,  Friends of Miami Animals (“FoMA”)  hosted its inaugural “Be A Friend” fundraiser raising nearly $200,000 in donations.   About 180 of the organization’s friends gathered to show support for FoMA and its mission to save and improve the lives of pets in Miami-Dade County. Guests spent the evening learning more about the issues faced by homeless pets and pets of low income qualified pet owners and the solutions FoMA provides.

Watch this video to learn more about FoMA’s work and donate to the cause at

Friends of Miami Animals – Be A Friend Fundraiser

On January  15, 2020,  Friends of Miami Animals (“FoMA”)  hosted its inaugural “Be A Friend” fundraiser raising nearly $200,000 in donations.   About 180 of the organization’s friends gathered to show support for FoMA and its mission to save and improve the lives of pets in Miami-Dade County. Guests spent the evening learning more about the issues faced by homeless pets and pets of low income qualified pet owners and the solutions FoMA provides.


Dignitaries in attendance included Mayor Carlos A. Giménez of Miami-Dade, Mayor Oliver Gilbert of Miami Gardens, State Senator René García, and Commissioners Danielle Levine Cava, Sally Heyman, and Jean Monestine of Miami-Dade County.


With the addition of a matching grant from Potamkin Philanthropies, the donations will total approximately $500,000 and will be used to fund a new mobile veterinarian clinic for a full year in partnership with Miami Dade Animal Services and Miami-Dade County for an initial three-year test project.   The clinic will bring basic veterinary services and vouchers for free spay/neuter services to pets of low-income qualified pet owners who are unable to provide adequate care in economically challenged areas of Miami-Dade County.


“This mobile veterinarian clinic will make an enormous impact on the health and wellness of pets in our county. It’s just one of our many programs to provide care to animals in need,” said Brigitt Rok-Potamkin, a founding member of FoMA and the hostess of the evening.


Yolanda Berkowitz, President of FoMA, said, “We’re a young foundation, but we’ve already made such important progress towards controlling pet overpopulation crisis in Miami-Dade County. This clinic augments our existing support of at-risk pets exponentially.”


About FoMA


Since 2016, Friends of Miami Animals Foundation (FoMA) has been a leader in animal welfare issues committed to helping homeless pets, community pets and the people who love them. The foundation helps build effective programs, establishing meaningful collaborations and engaging leaders and the community to save and improve the lives of homeless pets. Its work includes spay and neuter programs, shelter and rescue assistance, and support for animal rescue.


Watch this video to learn more about FoMA’s work and donate to the cause at below:

Welcome to Kitten Season

Spring is kitten season here in Miami-Dade County, when more feral cats have their babies than any other time of year. Do you know what to do if you find a litter of kittens? Should you touch them? Move them? Bring them to a rescue? Here are some basic tips to equip you to help homeless kittens in your neighborhood.


Step one: Determine if the mother is around


A feral cat is a cat that has not socialized with people, and therefore does not know how to interact with people properly. Additionally, the young kittens, like any baby animals, need their mother! They may still be nursing and severing the parent-infant relationship will starve them. 


You may not have time to stay for hours and check to make sure the mother is there, so be resourceful, or come back later, to see if she has returned to her kittens. Ideally, you should not leave the litter of cats on their own for over eight hours.


If eight hours have passed and you determine that the mother is gone and has abandoned her litter, or something has happened to the mother, it is time to act: See step two.


On the other hand, if the mother has returned, contact Miami-Dade Animal Services, the Cat Network, or other rescue groups and inquire about getting help trapping the mom and any other cats for its TNR, or “Trap, Neuter, Return” programs or assistance to ensure the adult cats in the community are humanely trapped and spayed or neutered to avoid continuing pet overpopulation. 

Step Two: Pick up the abandoned kittens and provide immediate care


Humans are scary to feral and under socialized cats, especially young ones, so dress appropriately to avoid scratches from the kittens. Once in your care, it is important to keep the kittens warm. Kittens are susceptible to the cold and without a mother looking after them, they cannot easily regulate their own body temperatures. Use a towel or blanket to wrap them up and keep them comfortable. 


The kittens will probably be hungry, so it is important to feed them. If they are older kittens, canned kitten food or canned kitten food mixed with kitten milk replacer is best, but if they are younger, they will need milk. A veterinarian can help you determine the age and dietary needs of the kittens. It is vital that you do not feed them cow’s milk as it will make a cat sick. Rather, get “Kitten Milk Replacer” (KMR) or “21st Century Milk Replacement” which can be purchased at pet stores.

Step Three: Make a plan for the litter of kittens


First, you must decide whether to keep these kittens and foster them for yourself or to bring them to rescue so they can be fostered by another household. 


If you have decided to foster them yourself, the real work begins now. There are many steps involved in beginning to take care of this new litter of kittens. Among your responsibilities, if you choose to keep these kittens, will be to have them seen by a vet and vaccinated, spayed, neutered, micro-chipped, etc., and to help them find new forever homes. Make sure that you partner with Miami-Dade Animal Services, The Humane Society of Greater Miami or another reputable local rescue to get the supplies and directions you will need to care for these kittens.


Remember: By donating to FoMA and by volunteering alongside us, we can support efforts to protect homeless kittens and all of Miami’s feral cats.

Five Reasons Miami-Dade Pet Owners Should Spay and Neuter Their Animals

Despite growing awareness on the issue of spay and neuter, thanks to the work of the ASPCA, public figures such as the late Bob Barker, and various animal welfare organizations around the country—there is still much misinformation about the importance of spaying or neutering your pets.


For Miami-Dade County in particular, where we have a pet overpopulation problem that leads to the euthanization of hundreds of innocent animals each year, spaying and neutering your pets is of the utmost importance. Keep reading for the top five reasons why you should spay or neuter your pet.



  • Prevent the overpopulation of pets



At Miami-Dade Animal Services, Miami’s only open intake shelter, staff and volunteers care for over 400 homeless pets at any given time. Over the course of a single year, this number translates to around 10,000 pets brought into the shelter—either because they were found as strays, or because their owners surrendered them. By refusing to spay or neuter your pets, you may be adding to an increase in the number of homeless pets if your dog or cat has a litter of puppies or kittens, or impregnates another pet. Rather than continuing to increase pet populations, we need more households willing to house pets and to reduce pet populations over time until the number of pets can equal the amount of households that can care for them. 


  • Improve the behavior of your pet



Un-spayed and un-neutered pets are known for more difficult behavioral problems than sterilized pets. Both dogs and cats, especially males, can spray strong-smelling urine in order to mark their territory. They will even do this within their own homes. This behavior is caused by strong sex hormones in pets, which can also lead to aggression problems that can make pet ownership difficult. When pets are spayed or neutered, these problems tend to subside, and the pets make for much more affectionate and easy-to-care-for companions.



  • Support the health of your pet



Studies show that sterilizing your pet can drastically increase their life expectancy. For dogs, sterilization increases life expectancy by one to three years, while in cats, life expectancy raises by three to five years! Spaying your female pets decreases the likelihood that they will develop cancers including uterine, ovarian, and breast cancers. These forms of cancer are 50% fatal in dogs and 90% fatal in cats. For males, neutering before six months of age can prevent the development of testicular cancer. Not only can these health risks hurt your pets, they are damaging to you and your family, and very costly if not impossible to treat. Sterilization is much cheaper than paying for medical treatments and the loss of a life-long companion for your family is not something to take lightly.  


  • Keep your pet from running away 



When trying to find a mate, an unsterilized male dog will seek out a female dog anywhere they can. This means that they will do anything to find an unsterilized female dog, even leave their yard or home. They can dig under fences or break out of their home and roam, trying to reproduce. This behavior can be extremely dangerous for your pet and they risk being killed or hurt when they come across other dogs, traffic, and the elements outside of your home. 


  • Help improve your community



Thousands of unwanted pets in Miami-Dade county are euthanized every and many more lose their lives living on the streets of our community. Having so many homeless, unsterilized pets on the streets is damaging to them. Pets who live their lives as homeless animals on our streets may be harder to place in loving, forever homes due to behaviors developed while roaming or their general mistrust of people after having to fend for themselves.


Getting your pets spayed and neutered is important for the safety and health of your pets, your community, and yourself. Visit the FoMA website to learn more about making the right choice for your pets. Please, spay and neuter your dogs and cats.



It’s the month of cupid arrows, candy, roses and valentines! February 14th gives us a unique day to celebrate love in all of its many forms, and this month, we encourage you to join FoMA in our mission to save and improve the lives of homeless pets by sharing our new campaign: #AdoptLove. More than just an act of kindness or generosity, adopting a homeless pet creates a bond that is supremely strong, both practically and emotionally, to both parties. Need more reasons to adopt? Keep reading:


Save a Life

In a practical sense, adopting a pet saves lives. Did you know 3.3 million—yes, million—dogs enter shelters each year in America alone. American shelters have staff working around the clock to ensure the health and safety of the animals they take in, but their resources cannot support such a large number of pets, thus leaving many animals homeless, alone, or at risk of losing their lives. Whether these pets were abandoned, neglected, or could no longer be looked after by their owners, we believe they deserve love and a chance at a forever, loving home. Adopting a pet from a shelter saves a life and makes room for more homeless pets.

Save money

Adopting a pet is financially easier than purchasing one. Most shelters support the adoption of their animals by including microchipping, spaying or neutering and vaccinating in the cost of rescuing the pet, which is hundreds of dollars less than purchasing a puppy or kitten.

Stop puppy mills

Along with adopting being less costly, choosing to adopt rather than purchase your pet minimizes the ability of pet stores and breeders to take advantage of animals. Businesses like pet stores get their animals from puppy mills, which specialize in mass-breeding of dogs and focus on maximizing profits, while ignoring the responsibility of properly caring for them. They separate mothers from their puppies and leave the puppies unsocialized and even ill. Meanwhile, dogs live in deplorable conditions. Supporting your local shelter will reduce the business these companies get and help put a stop to mass-breeding and unnecessary suffering and death.

Live a happier life

Adopting a pet can be a highly positive experience for all involved. Many studies show that pet owners are healthier than their non-pet-owning counterparts. They tend to live longer, happier lives because the mutual love between a pet and its owner is extremely positive. It has even been shown that people over the age of 65 make 30 percent less doctor visits than others if they own a pet. People dealing with conditions such as depression or anxiety can feel like they have nobody to rely on in times of need. A pet can play an important role of emotional support in times of stress. 

Help your children develop responsibility

Lastly, owning and caring for a rescue pet can be one of the most important aspects of your child’s development. Children who grow up around pets learn to play nicely and avoid behavior that could hurt others. It also teaches them to be responsible at a young age by gaining an understanding of how to treat the things they care about. It can also set children up well to enter school and forge bonds with others.

The mutual love of pet ownership cannot be overstated. Clearly, pets are not the only ones benefiting from their relationships with humans. What humans give to pets in care and love, pets give equally in their love and loyalty. FOMA encourages you to #AdoptLove this month by visiting any of our county’s local rescue organizations or the Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption and Protection Center.

Why FoMA?

Since 2016, FoMA has been the leader in animal welfare issues in Miami-Dade County. We build effective programs, establish meaningful collaborations, and engage the community to save and improve the lives of homeless pets. However, there are dozens—if not hundreds—of animal welfare and rescue organizations across South Florida. So you might be wondering, why create one more—what makes FoMA different?

The answer is simple: while many organizations are focused on rescuing homeless pets from our county’s streets and shelters, very few—if any—other organizations are addressing the root of the problem of pet homelessness in Miami-Dade County. 

Here are some ways we do that:


FoMA recruits volunteers 

Miami-Dade Animal Services is an open-intake shelter, meaning they take in strays on our streets, give safe haven to confiscated pets and take owner surrendered pets. Because of this, the shelter has more than 400 homeless animals in its care at any given time. FoMA, in response, supports Miami-Dade Animal Services by bringing in more than 300 new service volunteers every year, allowing the shelter to support and care for these abandoned and neglected animals. 

FoMA supports adoption efforts

Despite these hard-working volunteers, many animals go unadopted. Extended stays by animals increase stress and illness, making it more difficult to find permanent homes for these animals. FoMA funds play yards for the shelter’s pets, supports enrichment activities to increase positive interactions between homeless pets and people, alleviating shelter stress and helping prepare animals for life in a forever home.

FoMA champions spay and neuter efforts

FoMA and Miami-Dade Animal Services make an effort to help as many homeless animals as possible. However, there are far more homeless pets on the streets of Miami-Dade County than can fit in the shelter, or that can be taken in by rescue groups. Approximately 5,000 stray pets are found annually by Good Samaritans and another 5,000 stray pets are picked up annually by animal control officers. 

To help curb the homeless population, FoMA provides funding for spay and neuter services to over 2,000 pets annually. We do this by working in conjunction with and providing funding to other organizations such as The Humane Society of Greater Miami and the City of Miami Beach Cat Project. 


FoMA cares for pets of low-income households

FoMA also understands that pet healthcare can be difficult for low-income households. Each year, over 500 pets are surrendered to Miami-Dade Animal Services due to unaffordable or neglected routine medical care. FoMA is working to combat this by sponsoring a new mobile medical unit that will provide access to routine care for low-income pets, enabling owners to keep their pets.

FoMA is a megaphone for the community

Through targeted community messaging on social media, its website, email, and events, FoMA engages our community across diverse segments on the topic of animal welfare. Through its social media efforts alone, FoMA is able to educate more than 1,000 Miami-Dade County residents every day on the importance of pet adoption, volunteer, and foster efforts. FoMA also engages the community at the corporate level by forging partnerships between our county shelter and other entities, including The United Way, Wings of Rescue, The Underline, and Apple Inc. 

It takes a village for FoMA to operate, and we still need the support of our community to continue our work. Please consider donating, or find out how you can get involved, by exploring our website or on social media at @fomapets.


Help Shelter Pets

Improving and enriching the lives of shelter pets as they wait for their forever families.

Control Pet Populations

Helping pets and pet owners to reduce pet overpopulation through funding, education, and advocacy.