Miami-Dade Animal Services has reopened after dozens of cats were euthanized because they contracted a highly contagious disease, and veterinarians are enlisting help from the University of Florida to help prevent the plague from striking again.
Michael Rosenberg adopted a 6-week-old kitten from Miami-Dade Animal Services and named her Wren.
"Now, she is home on our couch, prepared for what I thought was 15 years of a great life," Rosenberg said.
He did not know he would have only four days with her.
"I started noticing that she was slowing down, couldn't jump on the couch, didn't want to eat, and when I walked in, she was dead on the floor," Rosenberg said.
Miami-Dade Animal Services confirmed Wren was a littermate of a cat that they believe was carrying panleukopenia. In a short time, 14 cats tested positive for the deadly virus.
"As a result, 72 cats and kittens under the age of 6 months -- those that are the most susceptible to the virus and least likely to succeed in their fight against it -- were euthanized," said Kathy Labrada, of Miami-Dade Animal Services.
The remaining cats were quarantined at a different location. Labrada said that of those, four caught the virus and were euthanized.
Before the outbreak, Labrada said it was Miami-Dade Animal Services' policy to vaccinate all animals at intake, but they were not following it.
"There had been a delay," she said.
After consulting with the University of Florida, Labrada said, all animals are now being vaccinated as soon as they come in the door.
In his loss, Rosenberg said he is finding purpose and is planning to advocate for increased funding for Miami-Dade Animal Services.
"We can build the Marlins a $550 billion stadium, and that's the best we can do with our animals?" he said.
In an effort to stop the spread of the virus in South Florida, Miami-Dade Animal Services is offering vaccinations for cats for $5. The shots are being given out at Miami-Dade Animal Services at 7401 NW 74th St. in Miami. Pet owners must live in Miami-Dade County to take part in the low-cost program. Vaccinations are being given from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends.