Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Give nod to Pets’ Trust

At least Miami-Dade County residents got to vote on it. That’s just one of the reasons why the County Commission, ever shy of raising taxes to help fix even the most intractable problems, should go ahead and create the Pets’ Trust. It’s a tax increase to which the majority of the people who voted in last year’s straw ballot said Yes.

Here are some other good reasons to go forward:

•  The Pets’ Trust is a well-integrated plan to reduce the number of stray cats and dogs roaming the streets through a low-cost spay-and-neuter program that targets the pets of the people living on low or fixed incomes. The goal is to turn Miami-Dade into a no-kill county.

• The plan will reduce the number of healthy animals that are euthanized each year by the thousands. That has been the experience of other cities, including Jacksonville.

•  It’s cost effective. The county shelter receives about 37,000 dogs and cats each year. On average, 20,000 of these animals are killed. It costs taxpayers $300 to house, then ultimately euthanize these animals. Compare that to the $60 the Trust’s spay-and-neuter programs could cost.

The plan’s opponents say that the Pets’ Trust entails yet another tax increase, right on the heels of a public vote to pay to renovate schools throughout the county, and in addition to past sales-tax increases to help fund healthcare for the indigent, Miami Dade College (it failed in Tallahassee) and the Children’s Trust. Enough, they say.

Other opponents decry the fact that about $20 million will be spent on animals when there are people in this community who need affordable housing and safer neighborhoods; seniors who need meals and toddlers who need daycare.

But a majority of voters agreed to pay for better healthcare for their neighbors in need, a quality education for everyone who needs it and to ensure that someone else’s kids are cared for because they realized that when one population faces a challenge, the rest of us do, too — and that we must share in the solution.

Plus, we pay dearly when such problems are allowed to continue, or escalate. The Pets’ Trust, like those other initiatives, allows the community to spend less money more effectively. It makes sense, doesn’t it?

The Pets’ Trust is not a boon for a small or elite group of pet owners. Rather, it’s an issue of health, safety and economics.

Fewer animals roaming urban streets, the beach or dumped in rural areas means fewer people will be exposed to the health hazards of animal waste. It means fewer dog attacks and cat bites from feral strays. And, costing an average of $20 a year per household — $10 per $100,000 of value — it’s a smarter way to use the funds.

Of course, where there’s extra revenue, there must be transparency, accountability and monitoring of how those funds are used. The plan envisions an independent advisory board to oversee programming decisions and contracts. Who appoints the board is anyone’s guess, right now. So are the qualifications to be selected.

One thing is clear: Taxpayers are getting tired of the same well-connected, politically savvy people put in charge of the money they are forking over.

The Pets’ Trust needs committed and impartial volunteers who bring an expertise in veterinary science, public health, finance and other pertinent areas.

But, county commissioners have to follow through on voters’ wishes first — and say Yes to the Pets’ Trust.

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