Rural South Dade has become a dumping ground for dogs and cats. Broward's 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida are tackling the problem, one dog at a time.

Six small puppies cluster together, whimpering on the side of a dirt road east of the Everglades.

They have no food. No shelter from the mid-day sun. And no mother.

Locals say they found her shot dead in a nearby field the night before.

A van pulls up.

Out steps Amy Roman, founder of 100+ Abandoned Dogs of Everglades Florida, and core team member Carol Daniello, rushing to the puppies with food and water.

Their mission: to rescue as many dogs as they can.

"We're taking home a litter of puppies today," says Roman, a former manicurist from Wilton Manors who has made rescue work a full-time job. She whisks the puppies to the back of the van, where a baby blanket and cool air-conditioning await. The pups will be put up for adoption after a vet gives them the all-clear.

Roman's nonprofit group has rescued more than 700 dogs and 40 cats since it was founded in September 2011, she estimates. But there are hundreds more in need.

"There's thousands to save," Roman says. "We rescue the ones we can. Once we capture them, they are putty in my hand. They are tired, they are hungry."

In Florida, abandoning a pet is a first-degree misdemeanor that can land you in jail up to one year and bring a fine up to $5,000.

Such crimes are rarely prosecuted because it's tough to track down the owners and not always a top priority for police, says Stephanie Scott, spokeswoman for SPCA International.

SPCA International officials became aware of Roman's work a year ago and have since awarded her $1,500 in grants.

"We have been really impressed with her work," Scott says. "It's a difficult job. It's dangerous and it takes a lot of effort."

Roman and her determined band of volunteers are tackling the problem, one dog at a time.

Every month, Roman's group treks south on Krome Avenue to the Redland area in southern Miami-Dade County in search of abandoned canines near fields and nurseries.

Roman is making her next rescue trip on Sunday with 168 volunteers.

"There's tons and tons of dogs on these nurseries," says Roman, whose three dogs include two from one of her rescues. "The mothers are found covered in snake bites. Puppies are orphaned. We may be driving around and then hit the mother lode where all the dogs are."

Some of the dogs run to greet them. Others run away, terrified. Some are injured, pregnant or orphaned. Most all are starving.

Roman's life as a rescuer began on Sept. 21, 2011, when a friend asked her to drive to the edge of the Everglades to help feed some hungry dogs that had been dumped by their owners.

"I found an emaciated pit bull with a rope around her neck," Roman says. "People saw her being thrown out of a car. We estimated there were 100 dogs. It's insane that this is in our own backyard."