Cutler Bay

Humane Society could lose contract to run spay-neuter clinic

The Humane Society of Greater Miami is worried about being pushed out of its Cutler Bay clinic by the county in favor of an out-of-town nonprofit.

Humane Society leaders say that although no official decision has been made, several county officials have told them repeatedly that they will be losing out on a new three-year, $3.6 million county contract for subsidized spaying and neutering and use of the county’s south Miami-Dade animal clinic.

The county wants to bring the number of spay and neuter surgeries done out of that location to about 19,000 a year as part of a ramped-up effort to confront a pet overpopulation problem. And although the society is currently averaging only about 5,500 surgeries annually at that clinic, society officials say that the kind of funds the county is offering up is precisely what they need to increase their numbers.

“We don’t have the funding to advertise or to give the surgeries away for free to the people that need it… but that’s the only thing that’s stopping us,” Humane Society of Greater Miami executive director Laurie Hoffman said.

The society doesn’t receive any county funds right now – and pays rent to the county for its facilities. With the new contract, Hoffman says the society could easily do about 13,000 surgeries from that clinic – which is the most she says that can be done safely and humanely out of a facility of that size.

But she also says that with the nonprofit’s contact with private vets in the community, the contract could also allow for a voucher program that could make available another 10,000 low-cost surgeries.

“We have a fully operational spaying and neuter clinic at this location. ... All that’s needed is more funding for us to do more. We just want an opportunity,” she said.

The county acknowledges it had told the society it preferred a proposal submitted by Target Zero Inc. – a Jacksonville-based nonprofit with a record of providing surgeries at a much higher volume than the society. But, county officials say, a decision is months away from being made.

The proposals were only a result of the preliminary Request for Information (RFI) process, the county says, and a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) is being drawn up right now.

“The county is going out with a proposal now – an open and competitive proposal – in which any and all interested parties will be able to bid. And no one — big emphasis — has been screened out whatsoever,” said Miami-Dade County Animal Services director Alex Muñoz.

But Hoffman says that back in February, she was being told by both Muñoz and a commissioner that it was already a done deal.

“The county told us that they were going to go with the other company and that it was going to go to a vote at the commissioner meeting in April and that we would have 60 days to get out,” she said.

Somebody – she wouldn’t say who – even sent her a rough draft contract between the county and the Jacksonville company. A price schedule attached to the shell contract is dated Feb. 13.

Muñoz confirmed the draft contract was authentic, but said it was just part of the normal vetting included in the RFI process. He couldn’t say why a similar rough draft hadn’t been drawn up for the Humane Society, which also submitted an RFI proposal.

In a phone interview with the Herald, procurement management assistant director Miriam Singer said Thursday that a rough draft contract between the county and a company would certainly indicate the Jacksonville firm’s RFI proposal had stood out.

“If the information [in an RFI] leads us to a recommendation, then we would … draft an agreement and engage a firm. And then obviously there’s many levels of approval and review and vetting,” she said.

But Singer also said that the Humane Society had also been sent a draft contract, on March 26.

Hoffman says she’s glad the county has at least decided to go forward with an RFQ, but she also says she hopes it will be a fair process.

“We hope that the Request For Qualifications is not written in such a narrow manner so that we actually will not be eligible,” she wrote in an email to the Miami Herald.

According to Singer, the RFQ process mainly differs from the more common Request for Proposal (RFP) process in that it puts a premium on qualitative factors like experience – and pricing isn’t considered.

The county resolved over a year ago to become a ‘no kill’ community, which would limit euthanization to 10 percent of the adoptable pets brought into shelter. In September, county commissioners voted to give the county’s Animal Services Department an additional $4 million annually for more spaying and neutering after nixing a $19 million plan that would have required a small tax hike.