The Man Who Stayed in The Cage

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You would never know that Michael Rosenberg is a relative newbie to animal advocacy. In less than a year, Michael has been on a mission to find the solution to the homeless pet crisis in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and has accomplished a whole lot in a very short period of time. Through a tremendously clever and dramatic public relations stunt, Michael got the attention of the local and national media and put a spotlight on an issue that struggles to stay in the headlines: the plight of shelter pets. Earlier this month, Michael lived at Miami-Dade Animal Services, the county’s animal care and control headquarters, for three days and two nights. He stayed in a dog cage and lived the life that nearly 37,000 Dade County homeless pets live every year. The big difference though? Of the 37,000 that come through this shelter’s doors annually, roughly 20,000 do not leave alive. Michael got to go back home on day three.

Michael founded Pets’ Trust Miami after he was struck by the insanely high euthanasia rate at the county’s animal shelter. Pets’ Trust is striving to solve this county-wide problem by generating new funds to increase the availability and access to life-saving services, such as spay/neuter and low-cost veterinary care. Currently, these are services that are practically non-existent in the area. Michael says these services will lower intake over time, saving lives.

Michael’s project easily raised awareness about Pets’ Trust mission and, perhaps more importantly, put adoption back in people’s minds and vocabulary.

“I had one person tell me that their father called them while watching a [local news] segment, at exactly the same time the son was watching on another station in his house, about [Stay in the Cage] on T.V. and they called each other at exactly the same time saying they needed to go to the shelter the next morning to adopt,” he said. “It’s hard to know the total impact, but it gave me hope.”

The Stay also achieved another tremendous victory: 115 pets left alive and with new families. This number of adoptions was three times higher than a normal weekend. Score!

Looking forward from The Stay, Michael and his experienced team at Pets’ Trust have their sights set on a new goal. They have been working hard to raise awareness about the Pets’ Trust ballot initiative, #240, which, if passed by voters on November 6, would create a new line of funding for life-saving services through a minuscule property tax increase. If passed by voters and approved by the Commission, #240 ticks up the county’s property tax mileage rate .1079 mills, and, based on an estimate provided by Pets’ Trust, will cost an average Dade taxpayer roughly $20 per year. Annually, the initiative could potentially produce $20 million in new monies to go towards saving Miami’s shelter pets, which Michael says will have a visible and lasting impact on the status of homeless pets in Miami-Dade.

“With Pets’ Trust having the proper funding, we’d be able to do better education and awareness campaigns. If [Miami-Dade] voters vote yes on #240, we have a chance to stop killing animals and get the population under control. For voters who vote no, nothing changes and the animals will continue to be killed indefinitely. Yes on #240 is solution to our overpopulation problem,” he said.

Early voting begins in Miami tomorrow, October 27, 2012, and goes through Election Day on November 6. Learn more about Pets’ Trust Miami and ballot initiative #240 by visiting www.PetsTrustMiami.com .

Jessi Freud is a dog advocate who has been volunteering with rescues and shelters for nearly 10 years. Most recently, she was a volunteer news writer for Best Friends Animal Society and an active volunteer with Texas-based shelter Austin Pets Alive! Currently, Jessi is attending law school where she is a member of her school’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter. Follow her on Twitter at @Canine_Advocate.

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