Miami-Dade voters polled Tuesday expressed broad support for the creation of a Pets’ Trust funded through a property tax increase.
Andres Natalino, a 35-year old who works in public relations, said he voted for the Pets’ Trust.
"Just a few dollars can make a big difference in saving lives," he said.
The measure could save the lives of 20,000 unwanted pets a year, supporters say. The ballot question to support a property-tax increase for animal welfare will put the issue in the hands of the county commission if voters approve.
The program, which would cost the average property owner $20 a year, would come up for review periodically.
The goal is to reduce pet overpopulation and, by extension, the county shelter’s euthanasia rate. Commissioners adopted a “no kill’’ goal for the county earlier this year, but they wanted to see whether the public supported the issue in principle — and how enthusiastically.
First-grade teacher Brenda Faust, who lives in the Redland, said she voted for the Pets’ Trust. Animal lovers say deep south Miami-Dade County is a dumping ground for unwanted pets.
"They dump so many animals out here. We rescued two dogs," the 39-year old Faust said. "We’d love a no-kill shelter."
The creation of a trust would provide services designed to take the load off Miami-Dade Animal Services, which takes in about 37,000 unwanted cats and dogs a year. More than half are never adopted, and end up euthanized.
Even before a definitive Commission decision, founders of the Pets’ Trust Initiative will begin planning for the creation of a 13- to 15- member volunteer board of animal advocates and experts. That board would oversee an estimated $20 million raised annually to pay for free and low-cost veterinary services and public education programs on responsible pet ownership.
Michael Rosenberg, the Kendall businessman who founded Pets’ Trust, said that a national advisory board will also be assembled “to ensure that this program is done correctly.’’
Rosenberg, 60, said he hoped voters would approve the measure, and make the program a national model.
“While so many people have expressed and shared their love of our animals by this vote, they are equally concerned by our promise to do this right,’’ he said. “There is a distrust of government that has made many people skeptical, but they have voted ‘yes’ because the want to give our animals a chance at life.’’
Rosenberg said the campaign for passage of the measure spent about $60,000.
“Our volunteer network survived on love and passion,’’ he said.
But that passion may not have translated well in the bureaucratic language of a ballot question.
Like many voters, 78-year-old South Beach resident Jaime Liber filled out only a handful of ovals on his ballot. He found the others too long and confusing, and he didn’t want to spend more time voting.
He breezed through voting at the South Shore Community Center around noon without any wait.
But Liner was crestfallen to learn that his ’No’ vote on a non-binding county Pets’ Trust item was the opposite sentiment of what he had intended.
"Oh!" he said , disappointed he had not voted "to protect" stray cats and dogs.
"It was hard to understand that," he said.
Herald writers Gail Epstein, Laura Isensee and Christina Veiga contributed to this story.