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Miami-Dade County commission pushed to fund Pets' Trust

Mayor supports no-kill shelters with no raise in tax rate

MIAMI – Those in attendance at Tuesday's Miami-Dade County commission meeting heard some impassioned pleas from animal activists to fund the Pets' Trust and stop killing strays at the shelter.

"Here it is at the very end," said Michael Rosenberg, of Pets' Trust, while showing the 2012 ballot with the straw poll for pets. "What did they do this time? They took the most dangerous weapon in the world -- a pen -- and they marked it."

This time, the head of the Pets' Trust, who once lived in a cage to focus attention on animal services, led the crowd in red to demand commissioners honor that non-binding 65 percent vote to raise the tax rate to fund a no-kill shelter.

"(We need) a vote to stop the killing, a vote that the community was willing to pay," said Beth Fishman.

"We destroy our animals because we don't have the means or the space to care for them," said Kathy Moore.

Lisa Heller said arguments that the voters didn't know what they were voting for is a failed argument.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the budget continues to hold the line on property taxes.

The mayor and an almost unanimous commission support a budget plan that spends more on services, including the animals and a no-kill goal, but with no raise in the tax rate.

"It was a clear-push poll, because nobody in community is going vote against something that's humane like that," Miami-Dade County commissioner Steve Bovo said. "But there was a different dialog when talk began with folks about tax increase."

The mayor said he will not raise taxes, but said taking action on what they are asking for -- moving to no-kill county -- allocated $4 million last year.

"I am not willing to raise the taxes," said Gimenez. "We're going to achieve the same things without raising taxes."

The county has increased the Animal Services budget, is opening a new shelter and officials said euthanasia rates are dropping.

"(The) save rate is 50 percent to 88 percent," said Alex Munoz, the Animal Services director. "We hope to get to 90 percent. Hopefully we'll get there, and then hard part is sustaining it."

The stats show euthanasia rates are dropping, but the voices for animals included stats and accusations that those numbers may be cooked.

Jacquelyn Johnston, a former Pets' Trust employee, said some are "playing numbers games to make the shelter look better."

"What we need is an outside board to oversee the spending," said Johnston.

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