Will Miami-Dade commissioners back a special tax for animal services?

Miami-Dade commissioners meet tonight for final decisions on the 2023-2024 county budget and Pets’ Trust activists are still urging the county to implement their plan. 

In an email to members, Pets Trust President Michael Rosenberg wrote:  “Tell them to stop the madness and instead give the Pets’ Trust plan a try.” 

The Pets Trust plan has been on the table since 2012, when commissioners successfully put a nonbinding straw ballot in front of Miami-Dade voters. The question was whether the public would support an increase of $20 a year per household in property taxes to raise $20 million for animal services in Miami-Dade.  

The $20 million would have been used to fund spay and neuter operations and increase pet ownership education in the community, according to Rosenberg. 

More than  64% of voters said yes, but more than 10 years later, the tax has not been implemented.

November 2012 election results / chart provided by Michael Rosenberg

“We won, but they won’t implement what the people voted for,” said Rosenberg. “And now for the last 10 years, we have been proven correct because the animal overpopulation problem continues to get worse, in shelters and out on the streets.”  

While the trust and tax have not been put in place, the county has made improvements to its animal shelters in the last decade, building a modern new facility in Doral and increasing the overall budget for animal care.

Flora Beal, who oversees Miami-Dade Animal Services, said the intake for animals in the county has been steady despite a national surge in stray animals since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more animals in Miami-Dade shelters, but for another reason, she said. 

“Our intake numbers haven’t shot up or anything like that,” she said. “ It’s just a matter of our pets being here longer due to lack of adoptions, which can be seen all throughout the country.”

MADS has two animal shelter locations: Doral, which opened in 2016 and the older Medley location, which is no longer open to the general public. 

The Medley location is now used as a supplemental shelter, typically being used as a quarantine when the animals are ill, or as a stop before going to the Doral location when no space is available. 

The Doral location has 512 units for dogs and the Medley location has 164 units, Beal said. 

Activists claim that the Medley location is unsafe for dogs with no central AC unit, lack of care from workers, and poor living conditions. 

Pets’ Trust co-founder, Rita Schwartz, said she saw the dogs in the shelter barking in cages with no access to water. 

“I was there right before we had the protest and I saw the animals outside in the record heat with no water,” she said. “ I was there for days setting up for the protest and saw the animals in the heat, panting.”  

Mayor Cava has responded to the allegations in an op-ed for the Miami Herald in August stating that the county has performed more than 19,000 spay and neuter surgeries and she has proposed $2 million in the upcoming county budget for animal services. She also says that while they are over capacity, the animals are well cared for. 

“Here in Miami-Dade, the Pet Adoption and Protection Center can comfortably house up to 300 dogs, but we are caring for more than 650,” she said. “The pets housed at Medley are regularly fed, walked and cared for by specialists and veterinary staff.” 

Schwartz was not happy with the mayor’s response. 

“Nothing could be further from the truth in every single thing that she wrote in the article,” she said. “Her promises have fallen short and now animals are being housed in the old Medley shelter which is actually a house of horror.” 

The budget hearing begins at 5:01 pm in the Stephen P. Clark Center commission chambers and residents unable to attend can watch via livestream.

Angela Rivas is a Miami native majoring in Journalism and minoring in Criminal Justice. She has a passion for writing and dreams of becoming a journalist telling stories about our world.