MIAMI -

A little over a month on the job, Miami-Dade County's new director of animal services is taking steps to turn the embattled shelter around.

"I've got some challenges ahead and I look forward to being able to contribute in those areas," Alex Muñoz told Local 10. "I come in with a clean slate and the ability to make changes where they are needed."

Muñnoz took over after his predecessor, Dr. Sara Pizano, resigned under a cloud of controversy.

Pizano was criticized by animal rights groups over the health of dogs and cats in the shelter, which was shut down in March following an outbreak of distemper .

Critics said the shelters' overcrowded conditions and poor animal care led to the outbreak, but Muñoz said the shelter faces another reality.

"We recognize animals do come in here off the street. They may have been out there one day or they may have been out there 10 or 15 days, and their health could be deteriorated," he said.

While addressing concerns of the past, Muñoz is keeping his focus keenly on the future.

"I'm starting here new and I'm turning over a new leaf," Muñoz said. "The building is a challenge because of it's age, but we're not going to do anything about aesthetics. The focus will be on the service side and getting animals adopted."

In an effort to increase adoptions, Muñoz has lowered the fee from $55 to $25.

"The mission here is to adopt as many animals as possible," he said. "That comes through rescue and through adoptions."

He also says one of his goals is make sure that everyone in the community knows that Miami-Dade Animal Services is the place to go to get a dog or cat when they're ready to adopt a pet .

"We're also looking at restructuring veterinary care so that more shelter care is provided," he said.

Unlike his predecessor, Muñoz is not a veterinarian, but he doesn't feel the title is necessary to do the job well.

He said his passion for animals makes him a good fit.

"My 14-year-old lab sleeps in my bed and takes up more room than I do, so it's definitely a passion," he said.

For more information on how you can adopt a pet from Miami-Dade Animal Services, visit www.miamidade.gov/animals/home.asp .