It’s called the Pets’ Trust, based on the county’s Homeless Trust and Children’s Trust initiatives, both of which involved voter-approved tax increases.
The Trust would raise about $20 million annually through a small property-tax increase amounting to $10 for every $100,000 of a property’s assessed value. The average property owner would pay $20 a year. Residents who don’t own property would pay nothing.
Advocates say it’s the only way to achieve the “no kill’’ objective that Commissioners adopted earlier this year, defined as a 10-percent kill rate.
In the long run, Pets’ Trust will save money, said Michael Rosenberg, the Kendall businessman and civic activist who launched the initiative less than a year ago.
He notes that killing an animal costs $300 because it must be cared for during the mandatory five-day holding period that gives owners a chance to reclaim, which few do — about 1,500 last year. Many, like Ariel, stay longer waiting in vain for adoption, only to meet their demise.
In contrast, spaying and neutering costs $65, and is the best hope for resolving the overpopulation crisis, said Rosenberg.
“Taxpayers are not getting a good deal with this current method,’’ he said. “The proof is in the numbers, as we never kill less than 20,000 animals a year, and that is for the past 25 years. That is $6 million to kill, and it accomplishes nothing.’’
Pets’ Trust would underwrite free and low-cost spay/neuter/vet-care clinics in parts of the county where it’s hard to find a vet and residents can’t afford expensive services. Spay Neuter Miami Foundation and the Greater Miami Humane Society Adopt-a-Pet do some of that now.
It would also fund responsible pet-ownership and behavior-modification programs, and grants to rescuers so they could spend more time saving animals and less figuring out how to pay for it.
Not only would it dramatically improve the lives of animals in Miami-Dade, but it could become a national model, said Lindsay Gorton, Spay Neuter Miami Foundation’s president and a Trust booster.
“It’s the only model of its kind anywhere,’’ Gorton said. “Whenever I talk to people [in animal care] everyone is shocked that we got something on the ballot.’’
Rosenberg knows that any tax increase, no matter how tiny, faces an uphill battle. But he’s convinced that when voters grasp the scope of the deaths, they’ll support it — and if they support it, the County Commission will feel confident in establishing the Trust.
The earliest it could be up and running is November 2013.
The money would neither build a new shelter nor become part of Animal Services’ budget, although Animal Services could apply for special-project funding. Instead, a volunteer board would make grants to many of the same groups that now struggle to keep strays, ferals and castoffs from dying at Animal Services or in the streets.
If, for example, “the Cat Network came to the Pets’ Trust board and asked for another mobile unit and could convince the board of the necessity, they could be successful,’ said Rosenberg. “However, the board might want to examine the financial records of any organization before any money was awarded...You would have to really prove need, and that there was no other way to get what you need.’’