All Shelters Should Look Like This

This article originally ran in August, 2016. It has been republished in honor of National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week, November 3 – 9.

The words “county animal services” don’t really evoke thoughts of luxury, comfort or state of the art anything, but Miami-Dade is about to change that.

In June, the county opened its first ever “adoption mall,” an air-conditioned, high tech building where potential adopters can “shop” for their new furry best friend without even realizing they’re in a shelter.

“The old shelter was outdated and we wanted more capacity and to improve the wellness of the shelter pets,” explains Alex Muñoz, Director of the Animal Services Department about the project. “We have both cages and free roaming rooms and all areas for pets are air-conditioned.”

The Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption and Protection Center is a massive 72,000 square-foot facility that sits on five acres. Instead of sitting in kennels that don’t have much more than a small bed or sometimes just a couple of blankets on the concrete floor, adoptable dogs have plenty of space to move around and they stay stimulated in the outdoor canine exercise areas. When they’re done playing they can then retreat inside where the temperature controlled rooms keep them safe from the Florida heat.


For the kitties, a lounge area filled with toys allows them to play or just communally nap–after all, they are cats.


In 2015, Miami-Dade became a no-kill county, reaching a 90 percent save rate for all animals going into its shelters. Now with the larger building, the department was also able to expand the number of animals it houses. The new facility has 25 percent more dogs and 50 percent more cats than the previous shelter.

Since disease outbreaks are not uncommon in shelters, the new facility was built to prevent the spread of viruses among the animals.

“The HVAC System includes multiple air exchanges per hour to clean the air in order to avoid air borne diseases,” says Muñoz adding that “dogs are separated in different pods to avoid cross contamination.”


With the new spiffy location, the county is also hoping to fight the association people make of shelters being depressing and its animals sad or broken.

A 2013 study done by Best Friends Animal Society found that 46 percent of people considered shelter pets second-rate compared to dogs from breeders and only 31 percent of young people were willing to consider a shelter adoption.

In addition to happier and more comfortable animals, the building also houses professionals and volunteers who will spearhead programs advocating for rescuing, fostering, caring for neonatal kittens and working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools to teach kids about responsible pet care.

This new type of shelter comes with a hefty price tag of $15 million but Muñoz says it could definitely be implemented anywhere.

Photo Credit: All images provided by GLO Creative on behalf of Miami-Dade County Animal Services.


michela c
michela c3 months ago

Thanks...but so "cold"...

hELEN h3 months ago


Ann B
Ann B3 months ago

ideally perfect but small towns will never have that kind of money

Carole R
Carole R3 months ago

I agree with Renata B. While better than iron cages, I have seen better shelters as far as feeling more like a real home.

Renata B
Renata B3 months ago

Very good indeed. A bit cold though. Quite aseptic - so to say. Not homely or cosy. Even the blue light. But cats at least have space to go around.

Marie W
Marie W8 months ago


Debra Tate
Debra Tateabout a year ago


Mark T
Mark Turnerabout a year ago


Paulo R
Paulo Rabout a year ago

would love to see this type of shelter everywhere, ty

Erika M
Erika Mabout a year ago