Q & A: Success in South Florida
In Miami, Sara Pizano’s focus on accountability reaps rewards
Sara Pizano took her talents to Miami long before LeBron James. And while it remains to be seen whether James will transform basketball’s Miami Heat into champions, it’s safe to say Pizano has turned around the once-struggling Miami-Dade Animal Services Department.
A veterinarian and graduate of Cornell University, Pizano has directed the department since June 2005. She landed her current position as a result of a 2004 evaluation of the department by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which put forth 578 recommendations for improvement—including the hiring of an experienced director. Pizano fit that bill, having spent five and a half years as director of veterinary services for the Humane Society of Broward County in Florida.
Miami-Dade has shown steady improvement since Pizano’s hiring and the October 2005 move to make the department, which previously had been run by the local police, a standalone entity answering to the county manager. Annual adoptions have risen from around 3,000 to more than 8,000, and the total number of animals saved (adopted, transferred to a rescue partner, or returned to their owners) has more than doubled. The Florida Animal Control Association named Miami-Dade the 2009 Animal Control Agency of the Year, and awarded the department the 2010 Outstanding Team Achievement Award for collaborating on more than 4,000 cat sterilizations without affecting its operational budget.
In this edited interview with Animal Sheltering associate editor James Hettinger, Pizano discusses some of her trials and triumphs, and her approach to shelter management.