Pinal County Animal Care and Control, 1150 S. Eleven Mile Corner Road in Casa Grande, which serves the people of San Tan Valley, participated with a planned 12-hour day on Monday, June 11, that included adoptions, spay/neuter surgery, micro-chipping and vaccinations, according to a press release.
The event resulted in a total of 23 dog adoptions and two cat adoptions.
“Unfortunately, a fair amount of what animal control officers and staff have to encounter are unpleasant tasks such as capturing a stray or feral/wild dog, dealing with injured or neglected animals, investigating dog bites, etc.,” said Heather Murphy, public information officer for Pinal County and spokesperson for Animal Care and Control. “ The bright spots in their days are seeing an animal go to a new home, reuniting a lost pet with their family, nursing a malnourished or neglected animal back to good health, etc.”
Also on June 11, 22 dogs and five cats received free spay or neutering surgeries, 43 animals received microchips, 40 animals were vaccinated for rabies and 15 animals received parvo/distemper vaccines, according to the release.
Tours of the facility were given by animal care and control employees, a pet groomer offered her services later in the day and another person brought donated snacks for the public and staff.
People were able to learn more about the related organizations in the area with several animal rescue organizations on the premises.
The event, which was scheduled to occur from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. kept its doors open even later to finalize paperwork for the 25th adoption of the day, according to the release.
“ The enthusiasm carried over to Tuesday when five more animals were adopted,” stated the release.
“(The event) was so successful that we are planning to have open house events like this semi-annually,” Animal Care and Control Director Kaye Dickson said.
“ We were contacted by the organizers of a Facebook/Internet campaign called ‘Just One Day.’ It was a national effort to get shelters and rescue organizations to commit one day without euthanizing animals,” Ms. Murphy said. “ This was a goal that Pinal County could support so the staff agreed to participate.”
Normal office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.
The Paws and Claws Care Center in Apache Junction, 725 E. Baseline Road, also participated in the “Just One Day” event, opening on a Monday when the facility is usually closed, said Capt. Arnold Freeman of the Apache Junction Police Department.
PCCC is owned and budgeted by the city of Apache Junction and operated by the AJPD.
PCCC, which serves only within the city limits of Apache Junction, pledged not to euthanize any animals for just one day, as part of the event.
To help promote adoptions during the event, adoption fees were reduced by 50 percent for the first 20 adoptions on Monday and Tuesday that week.
City officials continued the event the next day to reach their goal of 20 adoptions, Capt. Freeman said.
Normal office hours are 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with euthanasia hours from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on those days.
Pinal County Animal Care and Control has euthanized 1,447 animals so far this year, from Jan. 1 to June 19, according to Ms. Murphy.
This number was impacted to a large degree by two huge hoarding cases that came in back to back and involved more than 150 animals, Ms. Murphy said.
Additionally, Ms. Murphy said the shelter receives vicious animals, wild animals that have been running wild in the desert, animals that are very old or sick that people can no longer care for and injured animals. “Presently, we can say with confidence that we only euthanize when we have to and then it’s usually very sick, frail, injured or feral/wild animals that are a risk to adopt,” she said.
Last year alone, Pinal County Animal Care and Control euthanized 2,136 animals (from December 2010 through 2011) and the year before that, 2,238 animals were euthanized at the shelter (from December 2009 through 2010), according to statistics provided by Ms. Murphy.
Seventy-two of those euthanasia cases were the result of owner surrenders where the dog was extremely ill and was brought in for euthanization, Ms. Dickson said. A total of 530 animals were owner surrendered as of June 21.
Last year 160 of the euthanasia cases were the result of owner-requested euthanasia, she said. A total of 1,042 pets were owner-surrendered to the Pinal County shelter last year.
These numbers are down from 7,089 animals euthanized at the shelter from December 2008 through 2009.
Ms. Murphy credits the drop in numbers at least partly to new management. An adoption coordinator was brought in and the shelter began working with the rescue community and doing more public outreach and networking.
Ms. Dickson also mentioned they now do vaccinations on intake to help curb the spread of disease within the shelter and make it easier to work with outside rescues and organizations.
All animals get parvo, distemper and bordatello vaccinations on arrival, she said. “ We don’t have a euthanasia problem in Pinal County,” Ms. Murphy said. “ We really have a responsible pet ownership problem… People don’t realize the commitment they are making when they welcome an animal into their lives – it’s a 12-18 year commitment.”
Ms. Murphy attributed some of the euthanasia cases to people failing to spay or neuter their pets, backyard breeding and others from people who face legitimate hardships or military service or relocation that forces them to give up their animal.
Law states that the shelter must hold strays for a minimum of 72 hours in case their owner can be found or comes in to claim them.
Because of their partnerships with the rescue community, Ms. Murphy said they euthanize mostly frail, sick, injured or vicious/ wild animals that pose a risk to other animals or humans.
Overcrowding plays a part in the euthanasia decision, Ms. Dickson said.
They can not refuse any animals even if they are at capacity. As a result, the Pinal County shelter in Casa Grande has taken in a monkey, sheep, chickens and other animals, said Ms. Dickson, who described the shelter as a “low kill” shelter.
The shelter has 134 heated and cooled dog kennels, 18 quarantine areas, 17 vet cages and 13 cages in the grooming area that can be used for dogs if necessary, Ms. Dickson said.
The shelter also has 34 cat cages and other areas for large hoarding cases that come in.
The 134 kennels can be doubled-up so they can hold 268 dogs, but Ms. Dickson said the shelter looks to euthanasia before they double all kennels because doubling them makes them harder to clean and can aid in the spread of disease.
If over half of the kennels are doubledup, they look to euthanasia, she said.
The shelter was at 90 percent capacity on June 21, according to Randi Murphy, adoption coordinator for the shelter.
The shelter will also utilize euthanasia before it is at capacity if they think a dog is vicious or sick, Ms. Dickson said.
On a good day the shelter may do three adoptions, she said. However, some days they do none, and the shelter does more euthanasias a year than adoptions, though that doesn’t count all of the animals sent out to rescues.
The return-to- owner rate of stray dogs at the shelter is at 37 percent, she said.
PCCC in Apache Junction euthanized 473 dogs from the shelter in 2011 and an additional 316 who were brought in by owners for the specific purpose of being euthanized.
Some people bring their animals in to the shelter to be euthanized because there they are only charged for the cost of medication, where at a vet’s office it can cost hundreds of dollars to euthanize, Capt. Freeman said. The total number is down from 786 in-house euthanasia cases and 414 pets brought in for euthanasia in 2010 and 613 in-house euthanasia cases and 364 pets brought in for euthanasia in 2009 at the Apache Junction facility.
Capt. Freeman said he is in charge of authorizing all euthanasia cases personally.
According to Capt. Freeman, the facility only euthanizes when all other resources have been exhausted.
The shelter also only euthanizes when it is at capacity, he said. Given the hot weather, animals can not be left outside when the shelter has reached capacity.
When animals are at-risk of being put on a PTS list, which stands for put to sleep, the shelter tries to advertise them by placing those animals on their Facebook page, www. facebook. com/ apachejunctionan imalcontrol, and marking them as at-risk animals.
The AJ City ordinance states a minimum of 72 working hours that animals must be kept before euthanizing occurs.
PCCC has also had to euthanize animals that had parvo or other illnesses because they pose a risk to the other animals in the shelter and the shelter doesn’t want all of the animals to be infected, Capt. Freeman said.
Euthanasia is the last resort and the shelter exhausts all options before they euthanize an animal, with the exception being suffering animals, Capt. Freeman said.
“If an animal has a medical condition and its quality of life is severely reduced, we can’t stand by and watch an animal suffer needlessly,” he said.
PCCC also utilizes local rescues when possible.
“ We have a list of rescues that actively assist us on a daily basis. In fact, some of our volunteers at the shelter also volunteer for some of the local rescues. Anytime we are at full capacity or have an animal that has been at the shelter several weeks, we notify our shelter network and get the word out,” Capt. Freeman said.
In addition to local rescues, PCCC works with Medical Animals In Need.
MAIN will pick up animals with medical problems too severe for PCCC, which does not have a veterinarian on staff, to treat.
Recently, there was a dog named Maggie with a large tumor at the shelter who was transferred to MAIN, said Constance Halonen, community resource coordinator for the Apache Junction Police Department.
Maggie’s tumor burst while she was being transferred to MAIN, shelter officials said.
If she was at the shelter even one more hour, she would have died, Ms. Halonen said.
If you find an injured stray, First Emergency Animal, 1423 S. Higley Road # 102 in Mesa, will take any stray dog or cat brought into them that needs medical attention. If not claimed, the Humane Society will then pick the animal up once it has been treated, she said.
The shelter would not be able to achieve what they do without the help of organizations like MAIN, animal rescues or their volunteers, Ms. Halonen said.
“PCCC benefits greatly from the generosity of volunteers who assist with cleaning the kennels, assisting in the office and providing companionship for the animals,” she said.
If people are interested in volunteering the first step is to complete a volunteer application at www.ajcity.net. At press time, PCCC was not at capacity and therefore didn’t have any at-risk animals. There were still approximately six to eight spots available at the shelter.
Among adoptable dogs available were three chow-mix puppies named Larry, Curly and Mo; a muscular, male pitbull named Dozer; and a 1-year- old, female pitmix named Indie.
A list of adoptable dogs and cats can be found online at http://www.ajcity.net/index. aspx?nid=162.
In addition to dogs and cats, PCCC has been known to take in pigs and horses, though they often work with other groups that are better fit to care for these types of animals on a long-term basis.
The Pinal County shelter in Casa Grande will allow people to sponsor individual animals, especially those with medical problems that require funds for fixing and making them more desireable to potential adopters, Ms. Dickson said.
The cost to bring a dog into the shelter is about $140 and for that amount the shelter will keep the dog alive and mark it as a sponsored pet, bringing the adoption cost down to $15. However, if the facility feels the dog has become sick or aggressive, they reserve the right to euthanize the animal anyway, Ms. Dickson said.
The Pinal County shelter also has plans to help reduce euthanasia cases in the future.
The shelter recently purchased a cargo trailer that will allow them to bring dogs around town and to adoption events for possible adoption, Ms. Dickson said.
Ms. Dickson also said the shelter has created a display made up of the saved collars and tags from euthanized animals and put them on display in the condition they were in when the animal died to help raise awareness.
“Society has got to wake up,” she said in regards to overpopulation of animals.
Pinal County Animal Care and Control in Casa Grande can be reached at 520-866-7600.
Paws and Claws Care Center in Apache Junction can be reached at 480 983-4405 during normal business hours or 480-982-8260 during after-hours.
By Nora Heston