Back in September 2011, Amy Roman, a lifelong dog lover from Wilton Manors, Fla., got the wakeup call of a lifetime when a friend asked her to come along on a trip to the Everglades to bring food to some hungry dogs that had been abandoned, left to fend for themselves in the wild.
Eager to help, the former manicurist turned animal rescuer agreed. While she expected to find a few dogs in bad shape, Roman never could have guessed what she would find at the edge of the often-dangerous wetland wilderness that day: there were dogs, dogs everywhere she looked, more than she had ever seen abandoned in one place.
“We estimated there were 100 dogs,” Roman remembers, all of them dumped in the perilous wetlands. She found one of the dogs, a severely starved Pit Bull Terrier, with a rope tied around her thin neck. “People saw her being thrown out of a car,” explains Roman.
“It’s insane that this is in our own backyard,” she adds.
That first trip out to the Everglades turned into a lifelong mission of love for Roman, who left her manicurist job to start her very own animal rescue organization: the 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida, named in honor of those first dogs she and her friend found that day two years ago.
Since starting the group, Amy Roman and the 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida has saved over 700 dogs and 40 cats from the Southern Florida wild. But with abused and neglected dogs dumped in the Everglades every day, Roman says the group’s work is never done.
“There’s thousands to save,” Roman tells the Sun-Sentinel. “We can rescue the ones we can. Once we capture them, they are putty in my hand. They are tired, they are hungry.”
More than just sleep-deprived and malnourished, dogs and cats dumped by cruel owners in the Everglades often face some serious obstacles to their survival. Left alone in extreme heat, many abandoned animals suffer from dehydration, heartworm, and mange. Many of the female dogs give birth in the wild, and must protect their litters from the harsh elements. They must also fend off dangerous wildlife in the subtropical wetland region if they are to make it out alive, including swarms of mosquitoes and ticks, hungry alligators and several varieties of venomous snakes. They also face dangers posed by humans in the area, including farmers fed up with starving dogs attacking their livestock and drivers behind the wheel of speeding cars.
Every month, 100+ Abandoned Dogs of the Everglades makes the trek to the Redland area, a short trip south of Miami, armed with transport vehicles, pet food, water, and sometimes hundreds of kind-hearted volunteers. The group pulls as many homeless animals from the edge of the Everglades as they are able in one trip, but makes sure to leave behind food and water, hoping the dogs they must leave behind will make it to next month’s rescue trip. They also supply locals with bags of pet food to leave out for the homeless animals.
Dogs are often found near open fields and nurseries, says Roman.
“There’s tons and tons of dogs on these nurseries,” Roman explains. “The mothers are found covered in snake bites. Puppies are orphaned. We may be driving around and then hit the mother lode where all the dogs are.”
Once rescued, dogs pulled from the wilderness by 100+ Abandoned Dogs of the Everglades volunteers are examined, treated for illnesses, spayed/neutered and microchipped. Three area veterinary hospitals — including CVA Imperial Point Animal Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Imperial Point Animal Hospital in Delray Beach, and Summit Boulevard Animal Hospital in West Palm Beach — a full-service doggie daycare called Camp Canine and a number of loving foster families provide care and housing for these rescued animals.
Though it sometimes takes as long as a year for some of these pets to find a great home, Roman says she and her group remain committed to finding a forever family for each dog or cat.
“We find homes for every single one of them,” she explains.
For updates on rescue missions past, present and future, check out the 100+ Abandoned Dogs of the Everglades Facebook page today. To help this vital organization continue its work rescuing homeless animals from the Everglades, please consider making a donation via PayPal or personal check. More information on how to foster or adopt a rescued pet can be found on the 100+ Abandoned Dogs of the Everglades website.