Redland, a rural section of southwest Miami-Dade County in Florida, has been the source of copious amount of dog rescue stories. Thanks to the help of the nonprofit organization Redland Rock Pit Abandoned Dogs Project, many dogs have found forever homes after being left in Redland, which has become known as a dumping ground for unwanted dogs.
The Redland area is made up of farms, nurseries, open fields, woods and truck yards, where rigs are parked at night. There are no street lights, and in most spots, no cell service. Those who commit the crime of animal abandonment are often not noticed. And if they are? “It’s mostly an area where the locals are not going to tell on each other,” says Cheryl Jackson, President and one of the Co-Founders of the Redland Rock Pit Abandoned Dog Project, who has practically made pet rescue her full-time job. Thankfully, she’s not alone.
It Started With a Facebook Post
On June 28, 2015, eleven animal lovers responded to a disturbing Facebook photo of a dog abandoned in Redland by going there to try to help. “That night, we got to meet an awesome and courageous woman face-to-face who had been feeding these babies for 10 years. We made a commitment to her that no matter what, she would never have to do it alone again,” recalls Jackson. One of the newly formed group’s first “customers” was an American Bulldog they named Reggie.
The organization’s name is actually a combination of the names of the first areas they served, Redland and Rock Pit. They’ve since expanded their focus to include Medley, Hialeah, Hialeah Gardens and Homestead.
They Bring Food, Water and Awareness
Two years later, they are still feeding every single dog they encounter. “Our main goal is feeding; everything else comes afterwards. We must make sure the dogs in the areas we serve get a meal every single day, no matter the weather, including holidays,” explains Jackson. Leaving trays of clean drinking water is as important as providing food. In the South Florida heat, the animals can quickly suffer from dehydration.
As the group started to raise awareness of the dire situation through videos and pictures, dog rescue groups began to reach out, offering to find these animals permanent homes.
The Redland Rock Pit Abandoned Dog Project does not handle requests to adopt a pet directly. “We do not have a facility to house dogs,” explains Jackson. Instead, they rely on local people who will foster a dog until a dog rescue organization has located the right forever home. “We do not view ourselves as a rescue organization,” continues Jackson, “but as a liaison between a dog and a reputable pet rescue group, which otherwise would not know the dog existed.” For that reason, they do not participate in any of the typical adoption events, nor do they bring dogs to animal shelters. Not only might an animal shelter euthanize the animals, but sometimes they won’t even accept medium-sized or larger dogs—since the bigger they are, the harder they are to place.
But when it is time to pick up a dog, “That baby goes straight to one of our vets to get any medical help needed, and all vaccines, if he can get them. For example, an emaciated dog may have to get his health built up first, so the vaccines don’t overwhelm his immune system. The dog will eventually be spayed or neutered, but in the meantime, they go to the foster,” explains Jackson.
Cats are also dumped around Redland, though in fewer numbers than dogs. At least four of the group’s volunteers feed a colony of cats, along with dogs, on a daily basis.
The Road Ahead
By all accounts, dumping of all types of dogs has been going on for a long time. Mutts as well as purebreds—from Chihuahuas to Rottweilers—have turned up. A handful of the strays roaming the area weren’t technically dumped, but inexplicably left behind when their owners moved away from surrounding communities. The dogs reproducing has compounded the problem.
Even worse, “In certain parts of Dade County, yes, there is dog fighting. We find our share of bait dogs,” reports Jackson. The injured dog who didn’t win the fight is commonly dumped. When volunteers first came across Merlin, it was obvious he had just been used in a fight, as he had open sores and cuts. But, in just one of the group’s happy-ending pet stories, he was adopted out to his forever family by the Furever Bully Love Rescue in Orlando.
What is the group planning for the immediate future? “To continue to feed dogs and to grow our volunteer base, so that we can have a different volunteer each day of the week,” shares Jackson. She also hopes to draw new supporters, in order to be able to pay for vaccines and emergency vet care.
“I don’t really believe that we will ever curb the problem of dumping until policies are changed and current laws are enforced,” laments Jackson, “especially pertaining to spaying and neutering. The dogs will continue to mate, and we will continue to have a consistent overpopulation of dogs.”
In spite of these obstacles, the group continues to look after the dogs that are left behind, acting as their guardian angels. Here’s how you can help out:
How to Donate
Donations towards vet bills, food, transportation, and supplies can be made at www.redlandrockpit.org or paypal.me/redlandsrockpit. Since the group is an official 501(c)3 nonprofit, all donations are tax-deductible.
Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub.