Muñoz incorporated that idea into his blueprint, but stripped it out after the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association hired its own powerhouse lobbyist, state Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former County Commission chairman, to oppose the clinics.
The commission accepted the blueprint, with the skeptical support of Pets’ Trust advocates who doubted that retail vets could or would perform 1,500 extra sterilizations per week, the target number for helping Miami-Dade become a “no kill’’ municipality — a goal that the commission unanimously supported last year.
“No kill’’ means a 90/10 percent “save rate.’’ According to Muñoz, the save rate for dogs has reached 80 percent, 60 percent for cats, which are mostly feral and released to their colonies after being sterilized.
For Pets’ Trust co-founder Michael Rosenberg, the businessman who captained the movement with Schwartz, a furniture-store owner, and marketer Lindsay Gorton, the mayor’s 180-degree turnaround is deeply personal.
Rosenberg, active in Kendall civic affairs, heard about the shelter’s kill rate — often more than 20,000 animals a year — and asked to spend a day in the euthanasia room.
He emerged determined to stop the carnage, and threw himself into the Pets’ Trust cause, even spending a weekend in a shelter dog run — an arrangement that the mayor approved.
Seasoned observers of Miami-Dade politics told Rosenberg he was wasting his time. The commission never had and never would give animal services the money it needed to stop the killing, they told him. And in a recession, no one would vote for a tax increase.
Still, Pets’ Trust built a coalition among animal-welfare and rescue groups that had deep philosophical differences, and with the encouragement of the mayor and supportive commissioners, chiefly Sally Heyman and Jose “Pepe’’ Diaz, hundreds of volunteers pressed ahead.
The nonbinding straw ballot question received a 65 percent “yes” vote.
In a blistering email to Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak after Gimenez’s about-face last week, Rosenberg noted that “9,000 people voted for the average commissioner, 125,000 people voted for Mayor Gimenez, almost 500,000 for the Pets Trust, and these votes meant nothing.’’
The voters “brought to you a solution...so creative that the entire country is looking at it. They call it the ‘Miami Model,’” he wrote. “Then you killed it...You try to hide behind ‘straw and non-binding.’ So sad.’’
Rosenberg said he was hearing from people who voted against the ballot measure not because they didn’t want to help animals, but because “‘we told you the politicians would mess it up...’ The truth is, tens of thousands voted against this because they did not have faith in their leaders. You just proved them correct.’’
The most vocal opponent of a tax increase for animals has been District 13 Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo, who in a statement Friday said he was “pleased that Mayor Carlos Gimenez has dropped his request to raise a portion of the millage rate to fund the animal care initiative.’’
He said he plans to “present a resolution to create a mechanism for private fund raising and voluntary donations that has county oversight and accountability to ensure money is properly spent for animal welfare.”