The animal lovers aren’t giving up.
After Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Wednesday nixed the same taxpayer-supported plan to stop killing unwanted animals at the county shelter that he’d supported on Tuesday, Pets’ Trust Miami had hired Ron Book, the Rin Tin Tin of South Florida lobbyists.
He plans to address the County Commission at a budget meeting Tuesday, as Pets’ Trust advocates rally outside Government Center.
Pets’ Trust co-founder Rita Schwartz said Book will fight for the nearly half a million people who voted “yes’’ to a tax increase earmarked for animal care, and to make sure that its proceeds are spent properly.
She said Book will be paid from a political action committee that Pets’ Trust Miami established before the November election.
In a barrage of emails and phone calls to county government office, some angry citizens accused Gimenez of betraying the animals; others of betraying the nearly 500,000 voters who in November approved a nominal property tax increase to improve animal services in a non-binding vote.
That would have raised an estimated $19 million in a year, costing the average property owner $20.
Some animal advocates went directly to the mayor’s Facebook page.
“What nerve to post a picture of the American flag when you just killed democracy... and thousands more homeless dogs and cats in Miami Dade shelters,’’ wrote poster Jennifer Cohen.
On Tuesday, Gimenez said: “We must respect the will of the voters.”
The next day he said he’d “heard from several people’’ who claimed they would not have favored the measure if it had been binding. He ditched the plan but vowed to “find’’ $4.5 million in the budget for animal care, which would limit any tax-rate increase to money for libraries and fire-rescue.
Not enough, said Book.
“Our position is that if we can’t get full implementation, let’s see if there’s a way to compromise, but a quarter of the money? That’s not OK.’’
County spokesman Fernando Figueredo insisted Gimenez is “committed to the spirit of the ballot question,’’ but lacks support from the commission, which recently unanimously accepted a blueprint for spending the $19 million that Animal Services Director Alex Muñoz compiled.
Figueredo said that with the promised $4.5 million, in addition to its $10 million budget, Animal Services can “create programs to expand adoptions and help to get [cats and dogs] off the streets, and also increase spay/neuter, and create programs to save the most at-risk animals by supporting rescue groups.’’
With that, he said, “We can at least being the process of ‘no kill.’ This mayor has been the most supportive of ‘no kill.’ It’s not like he’s backing away, but this year it’s not the right time.’’
Pets’ Trust, which fought to put the question of a possible tax increase on the county ballot and establish a board to oversee grants to rescue groups from the $19 million, had as its cornerstone a massive free and low-cost sterilization campaign to stem pet overpopulation and by extension, Animal Services intakes.
Such surgeries would have been conducted out of existing warehouses or modular structures in poor neighborhoods where residents don’t have access to retail vets, and couldn’t afford them even if they existed. Spay-neuter operations can cost up to $600 in private vet offices.