The Miami-Dade County Commission recently deferred its vote on the action plan submitted by the mayor and developed by the director of Miami-Dade Animal Services and the Pets’ Trust Miami, Inc. The plan would have begun the process of establishing a structure to implement the November 2012 straw ballot measure that voters approved in favor of an increased property tax to fund programs to “decrease the killing of adoptable dogs and cats, reduce the stray cat population and fund free/low cost pay/neuter, veterinary and educational programs.”
The deferral was, in large part, in response to objections raised by a vocal minority of the veterinary community whose members have made a number of erroneous statements about how the money would be used, who would get paid and how these programs would impact local veterinarians.
Here are the facts about this initiative, Pets’ Trust, the action plan and the proposed advisory board to oversee the programs to be funded by new property tax revenues:
The Pets’ Trust Miami, Inc. (PTM) is a private non-profit entity with a volunteer board of directors. In January 2012 the PTM started a grass roots effort that resulted in the inclusion of the straw ballot question on the November 2012 ballot. Almost 500,000 Miami-Dade County residents (almost 65 percent of all voters in the November election) voted to increase the property tax rate to fund programs to reduce the number of cats and dogs killed at Miami-Dade Animal Services and address the root causes of animal overpopulation, abandonment and abuse in our community.
The PTM, in concert with Miami-Dade Animal Services and in consultation with the mayor, members of the BCC and over 20 nationally recognized animal welfare experts, developed the action plan to implement programs to be funded with the new tax revenue. Under the original PTM action plan, we provided that an independent new 13-member board of directors would be established to run what has been referred to as the “Pets’ Trust” (based on the name the PTM coined, which was based on the Children’s Trust name).
The cover memo with the final action plan references an “advisory board,” which will be established to oversee the new programs but does not specify who will run the programs. Neither of these is to be confused with the PTM, which is and will continue to be a separate entity altogether, and which will have no control over the new advisory board or receive any of the tax revenue.
We anticipate that the new advisory board will be an independent, public body which will answer to the county commission and to the public and will be completely transparent in its actions and in its allocation of the new animal welfare tax revenue.
In May, the county commission’s Public Safety and Animal Services Committee approved the action plan as submitted by Mayor Carlos Gimenez. Commissioners deferred a vote on this plan until June 18.
To be clear, the target populations of the PTM initiative have always been pet owners on fixed/low incomes, who are not currently getting any veterinary care for their pets, and free-roaming feral cats trapped and brought in by rescuers for sterilization. The anticipated newly funded services and facilities will serve these populations and have no adverse impact on business or incomes of local veterinarians.
The action plan also anticipates that new programs will include income qualification criteria to access services. It includes, among other things:
• Funding to bring current high volume spay/neuter providers to capacity and introduce new facilities;
• Funding for local veterinarians to participate in a subsidized spay/neuter program for qualified fixed income pet owners and for feral cats;
• Aggressive adoption, foster, rescue, surrender prevention and transfer programs for Animal Services and its community partners; and
• Animal welfare education programs.
To view the current action plan, please visit the county government website (http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/commminute.asp?cmbmeetdate=3347&file=false) and scroll to Item 9A1 and click.
The PTM Board will continue to work with the county commission and Animal Services until the new advisory board is established and operational. We sincerely hope that our local veterinary community will begin to collaborate and work with all of us to accomplish the goals our community clearly voted for in November.
Our community is being watched by other communities all over the country and we hope the Pets’ Trust and its programs will be the gold standard emulated by others to improve the welfare of our animal companions nationwide.
Yvonne Grassie, an attorney, is a
former Pets’ Trust board member.