Puppy power wins at Miami-Dade Commission

 

A nonbinding question on the Nov. 6 ballot could make a life-or-death difference to 20,000 unwanted animals each year

ebrecher@MiamiHerald.com

Spectators at Miami-Dade County Commission meetings are sternly warned against “clapping, applauding, heckling or verbal outbursts.’’

But Chairman Joe A. Martinez made an exception on Tuesday for animal advocates who could barely contain themselves after commissioners unanimously agreed to place a pet-friendly ‘‘straw vote’’ question on the Nov. 6 ballot.

“You may bark or meow,’’ he said. And some of them did.

The question asks whether Miami-Dade County residents would approve a small increase in their property taxes to keep some 20,000 cats and dogs from being euthanized. The result would have no force of law, but would indicate sentiment to the commission.

Under the proposal, the owner of a $100,000 property would pay about $10 to finance low-cost spay/neuter clinics, campaigns on responsible pet ownership, and other programs designed to slow the county’s runaway pet overpopulation rate.

In practical terms, the idea still has a long way to go before an estimated $20 million becomes available to rescuers and animal-welfare organizations that would work under the Pets’ Trust umbrella. The money would not become part of the Miami-Dade Animal Services Department’s budget.

If approved on Nov. 6, the matter would return to the commissioners, a majority of whom would have to support a general fund millage increase of 0.1079 mills, or just over 10 cents per $1,000 of value.

The earliest any Trust money would be available is November 2013.

But Trust organizer Michael Rosenberg, a Kendall businessman, said the animal groups wouldn’t wait.

“There’s the possibility of borrowing against the money to start building or retrofitting [spay/neuter] clinics’’ as soon as commissioners approve the millage increase, he said.

Lindsay Gorton, a longtime animal rescuer and Trust initiative leader, called Tuesday’s vote “the first step in a long campaign to change the way Miami-Dade treats its animals. This is a community issue that the community needs to solve.’’

For more information, visit petstrustmiami.com.

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