Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Carmel on the Case: Rescue Right or Wrong
South Florida rescue groups work hard to save abandoned animals, but did one group go too far by taking pets from private property? Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
They're looking for animals that need saving. This video was posted by a charitable organization called 100 Plus Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida.
7News was contacted by two people who say they were there that day, and were concerned that pets had been taken from private property. Among them this dog and a second that looks similar.
Amy Roman: "I'm trying to do a good thing here Carmel."
Amy Roman is the organization's president. Carol Daniello, a board member.
Carmel Cafiero: "What are the circumstances around your rescue of these dogs?"
Amy Roman: "Ah, they were suffering and we took them in as we do with all. We've taken in over 900 dogs."
Carmel Cafiero: "Did you go on private property?"
Amy Roman: "We went and knocked on the door. Yes."
When no one answered they took the dogs without leaving a note. Both were ungroomed and later found to have heart worms.
We tracked down the owner who did not want his face on camera.
Carmel Cafiero: "Is this one of your dogs? This is me. That's your dog? This is me."
His son says they came home and their dogs were gone. They had no idea where they were until we told them.
Carmel Cafiero: "What gives you the right to go on private property and take someone's pets?"
Amy Roman: "Those dogs were screaming in pain. If I saw a child screaming in pain then I would do whatever I had to do to save the child too Carmel."
The owner's son says the first thing they did was contact Miami-Dade Animal Services to see if their pets were there.
Carmel Cafiero: "Is this where lost and found dogs should end?"
Alex Munoz: "Yes, absolutely. In addition to being a family member, a pet is also property."
Alex Munoz director of Miami-Dade Animal Services says to take a pet especially without notice is not the job of rescuers no matter how good their intentions might be.
Alex Munoz: "There is a safety net in place to help reunite owners and their pets. And it's something that the department does."
After we told the family who had their dogs the son called. Roman sent 7News an email explaining that: "When I explained to him they were sick going under treatment and the amount of money we had spent on their treatment, he then hung up on me and have not heard back from him."
Just down the road and around the corner from the two pets the group found a black lab. Despite a phone number on this dog's collar, which the group did call it was also taken.
Carmel Cafiero: "The owner of this dog told you not to take her dog."
Amy Roman: "Leave it in the middle of the street? Suffering?"
Roman says the dog had ear infections.
Carmel Cafiero: "OK, what time can I call you back."
The owner told me by phone the dog was near her farm when it was taken. After we started asking questions, Roman says she repeatedly tried to reach the owner without success and the lab is "now in a loving home."
Carol Daniello: "It was illegal to leave that dog in the middle of the road."
Carmel Cafiero: "And what is your law enforcement experience and by what authority."
Carol Daniello: "What is yours?"
Carmel Cafiero: "I don't have any."
Carol Daniello: "I just know what the law is."
Amy Roman: "I just know what we see."
But Animal Services says the department's trained personnel are the ones who should determine if a pet is at risk.
Alex Munoz: "They're not always what they appear on their face and sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find out what's going on."
Munoz says when the county finds pets with problems it tries to work with the owners to keep the animals at home if possible.
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