On December 14, Sofia Mauri and her husband let their dog out into the fenced backyard of their Coconut Grove home. By the time they realized a side gate had accidentally been left open, Milo was gone.
The couple gathered a search party of friends and spent hours looking for their 4-year-old Shepherd mix. Finally, they came across someone who said a dog matching Milo's description had been hit by a car and taken away by a Good Samaritan. Though Milo's back legs weren't moving, he was apparently alert and not bleeding, which his owner took as a good sign.
That night, Mauri called veterinarians' offices across Miami to no avail. She and her husband covered their neighborhood with flyers, posted a notice on Craigslist, and notified Milo's microchip company. But when she showed up at Miami-Dade Animal Services the next day, Mauri was told her dog had been euthanized overnight.
"He wasn't just a pet; he was a family member," Mauri says. "They advocate that microchips save lives, but this dog had a microchip, and it didn't change anything."
According to reports turned over to Mauri, the Good Samaritan called Animal Services around 5:30 p.m., about a half-hour after Milo escaped. Officer David Vega picked up the injured dog and took him to Animal Services around 5:50 p.m. Milo was euthanized at 11:30 p.m.
Animal Services says it was unable to detect Milo's microchip. Mauri had removed Milo's collar and rabies tag that morning because he'd been scratching his neck hard enough to nearly break the skin.
Animal Services enforcement chief Kathy Labrada calls the incident an unfortunate tragedy. But she says the situation could have been avoided if Milo had been wearing the rabies tag, which is required by county ordinance.
"We feel awful. Losing a pet is horrible," Labrada tells New Times. "We get about 3,000 reports of injured animals a year, so it's something that happens, unfortunately, every day."
Despite the apology, Mauri is troubled by Animal Services' handling of the case. Having worked as a medical assistant at a vet's office, she asked for Milo's medical records and was shown a form that simply said her dog had a "broken back." The county did not perform x-rays or any other formal diagnostics, she says.
Mauri was also stunned to learn that her dog was put down by the same officer who took him to the shelter. It was only after Milo was gone that she learned Animal Control officers can euthanize animals after taking just 16 hours of training.
"Vets have eight years of study and training to diagnose and treat, and these people are certified in 16 hours," Mauri says.
Making matters worse, Milo's remains were shipped off to a landfill before Mauri arrived
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For Labrada, the lesson is for owners to always keep rabies tags on their pets.
"I was a field officer for five years, and I can't tell you how many calls I responded to where the dog wasn't wearing its tag and the owner told me
Mauri says she plans to push city leaders to change the policy, though. To her, losing Milo has been a traumatic experience, made worse by what she believes is a lack of compassion
"I would have done anything for this dog," she says. "I would have sent him to a specialist, put him on wheels, even to be able to say goodbye. But everything was taken away from us."