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Pet owners to the ramparts! Let's fight. Broward County animal care officials want us to fork over about $279,000 so they can flash-fry 45 dogs and cats each day. County commissioners last week approved a blueprint for purchase of a sophisticated new incinerator and building that will eventually send 300 pounds of pesky pooches and feral felines up in smoke per hour.

Why, you ask, should your taxes help pay for peticide?

A stray-pet problem has long plagued this part of the subtropics. Officials pick up animals, hold them for at least five days if they are wearing tags or a minimum of three days if they aren't, then put 'em down with a shot of sodium pentobarbital and turn 'em to ash. It could be worse. Eight or nine years ago, when the county bought the present 150-pound-per-hour propane furnace, the agency was burning 75 Fidos and Fluffys each day.

But even as officials have found alternative ways to, um, extinguish the problem -- such as better adoption -- hydraulics have aged and the machine has degenerated, says animal care and regulation assistant director Rick Richter. The county spent $100,000 in repairs during the last five years, he estimates. "We operate every day," Richter says. "There's so much work we can't take it out of commission for a long time."

We first knew Phil Snaith as a member of the Broward County chapter of Mensa who delighted in quoting Scottish poet Robert Burns from memory and tossing off terms like lepidopterist. The fact that he chain-smoked Viceroys and drank Pabst Blue Ribbon only served to endear him further to us. "I feel sorry for those who don't drink," he said, "because they never get silly."

In March 2000 Snaith called to tell us he had Lou Gehrig's disease. "You need a Pulitzer, and I need a podium," he said. So Bob Whitby wrote a cover story ("Let Me Kill Myself," June 22) describing Snaith's suffering. He was a proud man who said he had no intention of spending his final days "... sitting there with a tube to drink with, and a tube to eat with, and a tube to pee through, and someone to come around and wipe your butt every once in a while." He wanted to end life on his own terms before things got ugly. And he wanted a doctor's help to do it. Snaith, age 56, saw himself as a poster boy for physician-assisted suicide, which is illegal in every state except Oregon.

He died January 18 after checking into the V.A. medical center in West Palm Beach, unable to breathe. Doctors had two options: put him on a respirator and prolong his life for a few months or let nature take its course. His wife, Pennie, chose the latter, and Snaith was spared the lingering death he considered so repugnant.

Goodbye, Phil. We'll tip a few in your honor.

Yet another lesson in ethnic pandering from 1 Herald Plaza: This past Thursday The Herald printed a front-page article about the trend toward multiculturalism in children's TV programming. The story, by staff writer Terry Jackson (who, by the way, writes about cars and TV -- nice gig), was a sober look at new kids' shows with nonwhite characters. The identical story ran in both the Miami-Dade and Broward editions of the paper; the accompanying illustrations, however, differed. Down south, the editors chose the image of a smiling Hispanic tot and his dragon friend from PBS' Dragon Tales. Up north they picked a shot of the dreadlocked black teen star of the WB's superhero cartoon Static Shock banging fists with his white pal. Did the greater number of Hispanic readers in Miami-Dade than Broward have anything to do with the choice of art? "It is interesting, but there wasn't a high-level discussion about including a demographic," says Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch. "We have two different page designers..., and we want front pages that are different."

Take a look, then ask yourself if you believe The Herald.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse

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