MIAMI - To "How can people do that?" a friend asked me recently? "How can they just take a part of their family and give it away?"
"I guess in a society where people beat and abandon their kids, this should come as no surprise," he said, answering his own question.
My friend was reacting to an e-mail I'd forwarded him about a dog that had been dropped off at Miami-Dade Animal Services because its family "no longer wanted him." It was one of dozens I receive weekly about what has become an epidemic in South Florida.
Hundreds of animals are being abandoned by people who no longer want them. Sometimes the reasons are legitimate. People have lost their jobs and don't have the financial resources to care for the pets they love.
But reasons like "he's not purebred," or "I just don't want her anymore," are inexcusable. And they fuel the anger of pet advocates in our community. (The two dogs shown above were surrendered because they aren't purebred. Thankfully, a rescue group found them good homes.)
Every day, about 70 animals are killed at Miami-Dade Animal Services to make room for the hundreds that they take in each week. It's called euthanasia. But let's not kid ourselves.
Euthanasia is the practice of ending the life of an animal with a terminal illness or an incurable condition. And while many pets are put down for these reasons, hundreds of healthy, adoptable animals are put down simply because there's no room for them.
That's not euthanasia. It's killing, plain and simple. Seventy dogs and cats a day, every day.
These are animals that are either surrendered by their owners or picked up on the street by animal control officers after they are thrown out of cars, dumped in the Everglades, or just left to roam the streets on their own.
Who's to blame? We are.
Why doesn't someone do something to find a permanent solution?
Well, someone has. His name is Michael Rosenberg.
Last year, Rosenberg adopted a 6-week-old kitten from Miami-Dade Animal Services and named her Wren. Four days later, Wren died – just one of the victims of panleukopenia, a deadly virus that spread through Miami-Dade Animal Services, forcing the shelter's temporary closing. Dozens of cats had to be euthanized after they contracted the highly contagious, incurable disease.
Though heartbroken, Rosenberg vowed to make something good out of the situation. With the help and support of animal advocates and local rescue groups, he came up with the idea of creating The Pets' Trust in Miami-Dade County.
"The County has managed Animal Services for at least the 25 years I've been here," Rosenberg said. "What are the results? 21,000 animals killed every year -- over half million in the past 25 years. And the County just keeps those lethal injections coming."
The Pets' Trust would help provide funding for programs and resources that would cut down, and hopefully eliminate, many of the problems that plague Miami-Dade Animal Services.
The goal is to end the senseless killing of healthy animals and promote responsible pet ownership. Monies deposited into the fund would go toward operating and staffing a new shelter – set to open next year – lower the cost of spay/neuter services and fund programs to educate pet owners about the importance of vaccinating and microchipping their animals.
To fund the Pets' Trust, Miami-Dade homeowners would be assessed approximately $13 each year on their property tax. A $13 assessment may not seem like much, but at a time when so many families are struggling just to keep their homes, asking them to fund the county's animal shelter may not seem like a good idea.
Nonetheless, Rosenberg says he's received a lot of support from everyone with whom he shares his cause. That's why he thought getting it on the ballot for a general vote would be as easy as getting the Miami-Dade Commission to approve it. But, he says, he has hit a wall of bureaucracy when trying to get the support he needs to even get the petition on the ballot.
"Almost all the animal rescue groups and animal advocates have come together and we created The Pets' Trust for the people of Miami-Dade County to vote on," Rosenberg said. "All we want is to have it on the ballot so people can vote. How will we know if people want this or not, if we don't give them the chance to vote on it?"
Even if you're not an advocate for the animals, at least you can agree that the citizens of Miami-Dade County should have the right to decide what they want on the ballot.
How can you help? For starters, go to www.PetsTrustMiami.com and sign the petition asking for the right to vote. For more ideas, and to keep up with the latest on the petition, follow The Pets Trust on Facebook. Once it's on the ballot, you can always vote against it. But let's at least get the petition on the ballot.
"Cut the bureaucracy and let the people decide," Rosenberg said.
I couldn't agree more.
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