Pets Trust supporters rally to restore $19M program

Wearing red shirts and waving red handkerchiefs, supporters of the Kendall-born Pets Trust organization passionately pleaded with Miami-Dade Commissioners on July 14 to restore the voter-approved program.

“We are determined to see that the people’s will is carried out,” declared Michael Rosenberg, referring to an estimated $19 million plan approved in a non-binding 2012 straw vote by nearly 500,000 voters (64.49 percent of the ballots cast).

The measure, as then proposed, would have created a tax of $10 per $100,000 (averaging $15 per homeowner per year) to go towards free or low-cost spaying and neutering of animals currently housed by Miami-Dade Animal Services at the 7401 NW 74 St. shelter.

Instead of following the Pets Trust direction, Commissioners — pressed by budget cutbacks for FY 2013-14 — increased the MDAS budgeting, which Rosenberg termed “another band-aid.”

Animal Services Department is completing a 70,000-square-foot building on a five-acre site at 3599 NW 79 Ave. in Doral intended to double current services of its NW 74th Street facility in Medley.

With more than 200 supporters inside and outside the commission chambers, more than 20 citizens and other animal organization leaders joined Rosenberg to press the current commissioners to “honor the will of the people” by reconsidering their former action and reestablishing the original Pets Trust proposal.

“The proposed county millage rate for 2015-16 shows a potential surplus in revenue of $120 million,” Rosenberg said. “There is no need to raise any taxes. The funds are there. All we ask is that our commissioners and mayor honor the votes of 500,000 people to just do the right thing.”

He was joined by Pets Trust cofounder Rita Schwartz, emphasizing in a dramatic plea.

“Animals are not just born to die,” she said.

Adding support was Jennifer Pak “representing 50,000 members of Miami-Dade Parent Teacher Association” before reading a letter of support for Pets Trust, written by PTA president Joseph Gebara. Commissioners also heard equal support to restore the Pets Trust plan from John Capurso, president, Miami Chapter of American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A Calusa resident who heads the Kendall Federation of Homeowner Associations, Rosenberg initially spearheaded the “Pets Trust” campaign to provide dedicated funding to eliminate euthanizing of strays and perform up to 100,000 spaying or neutering surgeries each year.

He once spent a weekend in a county shelter cage with doomed canines to dramatize what became a “No Kill” campaign, largely based on a report that eliminated 35,922 animals from fiscal year 2009 to 2010 of which only 13,942 animals survived.

For the past two years, Pets Trust has remained an active Miami-Dade non-profit organization, assisting animal welfare projects while continuing to press for its program to create four clinics with low-orno- cost veterinarian services in underserved areas around the county.

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