To promote new tax, Pets Trust advocate spends weekend in Miami-Dade shelter dog cage

Michael Rosenberg’s weekend got a little hairy, but it was all for his pet cause: A Nov. 6 ballot question meant to gauge public support for a fund that would further the county’s commitment to curbing pet overpopulation.

10/06/2012 7:11 PM

10/06/2012 8:25 PM

In a smelly 4-by-10-foot dog cage at the Miami-Dade County Animal Services shelter in Medley, 60-year-old Michael Rosenberg, a Kendall businessman and founder of the Pets Trust, has been sitting for more than 24 hours, his back hunched against the wall.

It’s uncomfortable, to be sure, but the PR stunt is worth it to him if it helps generate “yes’’ votes for an animal-care proposal on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The non-binding ballot question is meant to gauge public support for a fund that would further the county’s commitment to curbing pet overpopulation, and bring down the euthanasia rate at the shelter.

Voters will be asked whether property owners should pay an extra $10 per $100,000 of taxable value to keep about 20,000 cats and dogs from dying every year at the shelter.

A “yes’’ vote on #240 approves the measure, which advocates say is the only way to meet the county’s recently adopted “no kill’’ goal: saving 90 percent of shelter animals.

The result wouldn’t actually establish the Trust, but would indicate to county commissioners that citizens favor the concept. The commission would then have to approve it.

In his cage Saturday, Rosenberg was a welcome attraction. Volunteers and parents told their children about his cause, and dished out the occasional “thank you.”

They included volunteer Hilda Mueller of Kendall, who said she has spent the past week talking up the ballot measure to neighbors, and at groceries and pet stores.

“I haven’t stopped,” Mueller said. “We have an over-population and we need to help the animals.”

If the county commission imposes the new tax, it would raise about $20 million a year for clinics offering free or low-cost spay/neuter and veterinary care services, administered by nonprofits, not the county. It would also underwrite community campaigns and school curricula promoting responsible pet ownership.

Back in the cage, Rosenberg, fortified by bottled water, trail mix and Scooby Doo snacks, said he isn’t daunted by the enormity of the mission.

“You don’t just say, ‘We have a lot of problems.’ You focus and you fix it, one by one by one,” he said.

The shelter, also running a discounted-rate adoption blitz that continues Sunday, saw two parking lots filled with people looking for an animal to take home.

Rosenberg received a food delivery from a nearby deli. The night before, he said, he “snuck” out for a walk, looking at sleeping dogs.

“I know that on Sunday, I am going home, I am going to live— maybe,” he said jokingly. “These dogs here, they have been here for five days, maybe six days, then that’s it. Then they kill them.”

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