‘You’ve got animals constantly coming at you’ Shelter head on her new job
One of the first things that Bronwyn Stanford realized when she took over the helm of MiamiDade Animal Services was that rescuing and caring for lost cats and stray dogs was strikingly similar to dealing with children who needed homes or protection.
As a longtime administrator with the Florida Department of Children and Families and Children’s Home Society, Stanford was bracingly familiar with the hardships borne by those who had suffered abuse, neglect or abandonment. Upon joining the county’s animal shelter in November 2021, she saw the needs as all too common.
“The issues are so much the same — getting kids really good homes, getting animals really good homes,” Stanford said in an interview.
Stanford oversees the county’s $15 million shelter, which opened in 2016 and has an annual budget of $33 million. Not only is there the constant movement of dozens of animals in and out of the facility, but she oversees 280 employees, who in turn manage as many as 250 volunteers. During much of 2022 and into the new year, the shelter has been overwhelmed with animals to the point it had to stop accepting new ones.
She lamented that there are “never enough foster parents or animal adopters” and said it’s imperative to reduce the amount of time that animals and children spend in shelters or foster homes. Remaining long in either setting is “not ideal,” Stanford said.
‘WAY MORE DIFFICULT’ THAN HER DCF JOB
It didn’t take her long to realize the the job at the animal shelter is “way more difficult,” she said, than the posts she held at DCF.
“I think it’s because you’re dealing with life and death more,” Stanford said. “I dealt with that there, too, but I will tell you that there’s so much scrutiny. You’re in the public eye whatever you do.”
She pondered that comment for a moment. “I don’t mind being watched,” she added. “You’re always going to do the right thing for the right reasons. I just think that you’ve got animals constantly coming at you.”
A former attorney and prosecutor who was raised in East Brunswick, N.J., and earned a law degree from Stetson University College of Law, Stanford acknowledged that, even after working for the troubled and scandal-ridden DCF, it took courage to assume the stewardship of Animal Services. The agency has been bedeviled over the years by controversies of its own and subject to the fierce emotional responses — and sometimes irrational passions — of people who love animals.
PETS RETURNED AFTER COVID ADOPTIONS
The timing of Stanford’s move to the county shelter in Doral was especially difficult coming during the COVID pandemic.
“Almost the minute I started, we were just coming off COVID here and we were already over capacity in a month,” she said. “We already had not enough space for the animals. They were coming in at an alarming rate. I’ve been in crisis mode since I got here.”
Stanford has had a lifelong interest in caring for