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Miami-Dade backed 'Pet Trust' bill stalls in committee after cat fight with NRA

A bill that would allow local taxpayers to create special taxing districts for the purpose of spaying and neutering animals stalled in a House Committee on Thursday, after the National Rifle Association and others voiced opposition. 

The bill, HB 1127, seeks to use property tax dollars to help reduce the number of animals euthanized each year in Florida, which some say is as high as 800,000. 

Last year, a majority of Miami-Dade voters supported the idea of a small new tax for helping to control the pet population. The bill would have made it easier for voters in other counties to do the same. 

But the clock ran out at the House Committee on Local and Federal Affairs before a vote could take place. No one on the committee requested an extension of the meeting, the customary practice in the Legislature when there’s a time crunch for a vote. Instead, the meeting ended abruptly. 

It was not clear if the bill would pass -- it faced strong opposition from gun rights groups and veterinarians. 

Marion Hammer, a lobbyist for the NRA and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida, said the bill would make Florida a dumping ground for other states to offload unwanted pets. 

“If this bill passes, Florida could become the pet welfare state of the nation,” she said. 

Michael Rosenberg, director of Pet’s Trust—the organization that launched the successful ballot initiative in Miami-Dade County—told lawmakers that a small increase in property tax (about $20 per home) would save money on expensive euthanasia  on the back end. 

He said government’s already pay hundreds of dollars for each pet that is eventually euthanized, and spaying and neutering is a cheaper alternative. 

“The actual killing moment, the shot, that’s $10 or $15,” he said. “But there are things that happen  way before that. You have to pick the animal off the street, you have to take it to the shelter, you have to treat them…When they all add up, that’s $250 to $300.” 

It’s not clear what will happen to HB 1127 next.

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is the sponsor. Thursday’s non-vote was the second time in the last week that Artiles has had a bill cut off by the clock in committee.

Last week, an insurance bill pushed by Artiles died in the Insurance & Banking Committee when time ran out and no one made a motion for an extension.