MIAMI – To draw attention to and support for an initiative that's on the Nov. 6 ballot in Miami-Dade County, a South Florida man is doing what no other animal activist has ever thought of doing to remedy the problems that plaque the county's animal shelter.
This weekend, Michael Rosenberg will spend three days and two nights locked in a cage at Miami-Dade Animal Services, just like any of the hundreds of thousands of animals that are surrendered there each year.
"My plan is to stay in that cage for the weekend to bring community awareness for The Pets' Trust, and also to have every single animal adopted that weekend," he said. "When I leave on Sunday night, I want to be the only living thing in that shelter. (If I am still living.) I want every animal out of that place. This hopefully, will be the greatest adoption event ever."
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 to create The Pets' Trust in Miami-Dade County.
But contagious diseases are not the only reason that animals are put down at the shelter.
"In Miami, we kill 20,000 adoptable dogs and cats every year, and have been doing so for at least 25 years," said Michael Rosenberg in November of last year. "We want it to stop!"
For almost a year since Wren's death, Rosenberg has been working the cause and spreading his message.
The road hasn't been easy. He has battled the skeptics, cut through miles of red tape, each time surpassing his efforts to draw attention to what pet advocates see as the solution to saving thousands of adoptable animals the shelter kills each year.
During his journey, Rosenberg has received support from county commissioners, animal activists, and pet parents across South Florida. But his support hasn't been limited to the local area. Among his supporters are Dog Whisperer's Cesar Milan and he has received an endorsement from the Humane Society of the United States. Most recently, singer Lissette Alvarez recorded a song about the Pets' Trust.
Rosenberg is a man who walks the talk.
In November, he spent a Saturday morning in the shelter's "A Ward," watching animals being put to death.
"I spent three hours in the most horrible room in Miami-Dade County. It's so sad. I can only tell you to never go there," he said. "I watched about 15 animals euthanized. The amazing thing is each one has a story. They didn't just pop in for a visit. All of them had a journey. Some of those stories just tear you apart."
Just when I thought his passion for pets couldn't be any greater, a few weeks ago, Rosenberg shared with me his crazy idea to spend a weekend in a cage at MDAS.
"I wanted to let you know that I received official word tonight that I will be allowed to "check in" to the Animal Shelter and experience what our animals go through," he wrote in an e-mail in early September. "On October 5th, I will be escorted to the "surrender" section of Animal Services and formally processed as a new 'inmate.' I keep thinking of that story Christina (Local 10 reporter Christina Vazquez) did about the death of Wren, where I said, 'We've got to do something,'" Rosenberg said.
And something he did indeed.
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 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 question on creating a Pets' Trust will be on a nonbinding straw ballot Nov. 6, but if voters say yes, then the County Commission would likely approve it.
We will follow the developments live on Local 10 news tomorrow morning. On Sunday, Rosenberg will be a guest on This Week in South Florida with Michael Putney.
For more information on this weekend's event and to find out how you can adopt a pet this weekend, click here.