I first heard about the Redland Rock Pits Abandoned Dog Rescue when another ‘dog writer’ and friend wrote about it on her excellent blog.
I was horrified and drawn to this forgotten place on the very tip of Florida where thousands of dogs were dumped, left to fend for themselves, fight with each other, and possibly be eaten by alligators (my fear) in this remote spot next to the Everglades.
When we put together our Florida tour, I knew I had to see Redland for myself. So on a warm, rainy day, we traveled to Felix Varela High School to interview Yleana about the veterinary magnet program, and afterward she promised that we could follow her to see for ourselves what Pam had written about.
Before we left, we met Cheryl who runs the RRADP. Cheryl is committed to the dogs they save, vetting adopters and rescues carefully before releasing the dogs they have worked so hard to save. Cheryl, Yleana, and volunteers for the rescue (they need many more!) go out every day to feed the constant flow of dogs that are still running loose in the county.
They place feeding stations where they know dogs frequent. It is not feasible or possible or sensible to try to trap and catch all these dogs—there are not enough rescues or foster homes to put them. As it is, the rescue is paying twenty-five hundred dollars a month to board the dogs for which they have no foster homes or space at the high school. The feeding stations we visited are scattered throughout the fields, nurseries, and industrial areas that border the Everglades.
The Redland Rockpit Abandoned Dog Project has been feeding the dogs and saving as many as they can since beginning as a collaboration of rescues and rescuers in 2015. They all had the same goal—helping the dogs that are abandoned in Redland and the ‘Rockpits’ – the south and north part (respectively) of Miami-Dade county that is home to truck lots, illegal immigrants and vast nursery farms that grow the foliage you find in every Lowes, Walmart, and Home Depot.
One important reason they feed the dogs is so they are will not go after livestock, killing chickens or goats, or other animals for food. And drawing the ire of farmers who can legally shoot them to protect their livestock.
They also do it to keep tabs on the population of dogs (and cats who are TNRed). They do everything they can to protect the dogs from people who would shoot them or poison them, or worse. Many people view them as pests. At one point, they took several dogs to the vet who were struggling, only to discover they had rocks in their bellies.
We followed Yleana’s truck over deeply rutted roads in the pouring rain, pausing so volunteers could jump out and refill food and water at the feeding stations. I marveled at the commitment of these women. While we drove, Yleana kept a phone line open with us and we listened as she told tales of all the dogs they’ve found and the history of the area. It was an education. Around every turn there was another tale of a dog dumped, puppies in piles, ghost dogs they could never catch, and sometimes happy endings for some they saved.
The high school program and the Redland Rockpit Abandoned Dog Project function in what feels like a different country, not the very tip of Florida. It’s an inspiring, yet hopeful, partnership and program. Dogs forgotten by their county, who would suffer and perish if not for this small band of rescue warriors.
Like every rescue we’ve met, they need help, money, but most of all support for the work they are doing. You can find all kinds of ways to support them and/or donate at: www.redlandrockpit.org. And if you live in the area, consider stepping up to foster or to feed the dogs.
Until each one has a home,
The mission of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is to raise awareness and resources for homeless dogs and the heroes who fight for them.
You can learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.
Amber’s Halfway Home is our short documentary film produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for sixteen film festivals (to date), it’s won eight awards (including Best Short Doc, Best Soundtrack, Best of Fest, and Audience Choice), and was nominated for an Emmy! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring story we hope will compel viewers to work for change. Please watch it and share it far and wide.