A group of animal rights advocates spent the day at the Miami-Dade County Commission waiting for the final approval of the Pets' Trust – only to hear that the decision was delayed for two weeks.
"The people voted, 65 percent of the people voted, 500,000 people voted and this is what we get? This is not right," said Pets' Trust member Rita Schwartz, who was in tears.
The group, which received overwhelming public support in a nonbinding straw vote last November, is aimed at protecting stray and unwanted animals from euthanasia. But since then, commissioners said, they've heard concerns from veterinarians and animal rescue groups claiming that they weren't heard.
The most vocal opponent of the plan, the South Florida Veterinary Medical Association, says that money should go toward subsidizing low-cost surgery at existing hospitals, instead of creating new clinics, which would likely be customized trailers, according to The Miami Herald.
The trust is to be funded by an additional assessment of $20 per year for the average property owner. But commissioners said they were worried that voters didn't understand that the trust would be paid for by a property tax increase.
"Because we want to make sure everybody says your voice, so when we go out and say we're going to levy this tax to do this, to make sure we don't kill, that everybody's on the same page," said Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz.
Said Pets' Trust cofounder Michael Rosenberg, "And maybe that we should get the bond back for the schools, maybe they didn't know what they were voting for when they voted for the bond issue, let's bring back everything that the people voted on. Maybe we have the wrong president."
Now, a committee meeting will be held on the issue next Wednesday, June 12 at 9:30 a.m. at the County Commission. The commission's Pets' Trust vote has been deferred until June 18.
County Commissioners voted unanimously to put the initiative on the ballot last year.
Supporters say the initiative would improve the lives of animals by providing low-cost spay and neuter programs and low-cost veterinary care. The money gained from the assessment – an estimated $20 million – will execute the trust's plans of creating clinics to increase spay and neuter capacity and decrease shelter intake, the Herald reported.
Commissioners did agree to move forward with one pet issue Tuesday, doubling from $1,000 to $2,000 the fine for trunking, a new form of animal fighting in which two dogs are placed inside the trunk of a car and driven around with the music blaring to see which one survives.
The Pets' Trust's Plan of Action dictates that for the first two years of funding, 60 percent would be used for targeted spay and neuter programs, 35 percent would be designated for other programs and 5 percent would go toward administrative costs.
The trust believes that between 50,000 and 100,000 spays or neuters must be performed each year for fewer animals to be taken into shelters.
Each clinic would provide up to 50,000 spays or neuters per year, according to the plan of action.
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