3241 E Shea Blvd #416, Phoenix, AZ 85028 info@azhartt.org (602) 601-2604

Phoenix-Area Animal Shelter Capacity Update

Home Phoenix-Area Animal Shelter Capacity Update

Hi, everyone, I wanted to jump in because there is much concern currently about MCACC, AHS and other larger area shelters – here is what’s going on in my opinion

DEFINITELY, MCACC is absolutely overwhelmed right now. The overpopulation problems in our community have always been horrible, but they have been exacerbated lately. As we have all heard, many people who adopted pets over COVID have now surrendered them. And, with inflation at an all-time high, many people can barely afford to rent an apartment or purchase a home; they struggle to put gas in their car; the cost of groceries, furniture, EVERYTHING is sky high. AND, 401ks and investments are losing value.

So, there are far more animals that find their way onto the streets. And, those who TRY to do the right thing by taking their dog to a shelter when they are unable to care for them any longer are turned away, only to be told they must make an intake appointment that may take a week or more. AHS has only taken owner surrenders by appointment for quite some time. County has recently implemented this “managed intake” process because their kennels are FULL.

It’s a horrible situation. When you, for example, have 40 dogs being adopted per day and 150 more that come in either over the counter or through field officers as strays, or as owner surrenders, that’s hypothetically a net 110 more dogs than you had yesterday! And yes, these are close to REAL numbers. It’s a community-wide crisis.

HARTT is full; our rescue partners are full. Everyone is doing what they can, but what do you do when there are far more animals than there is room for? There is also the added problem of many unfilled job openings in society in general, but definitely in animal welfare. Not enough people want to work! So, you can’t just keep stuffing animals into building that have no room and not enough staff.

The ONLY alternatives are:

1. Give dogs away for free (which we HATE for obvious reasons – it costs money to have a pet and if you can’t afford an adoption fee, you shouldn’t have a pet because their care will cost far more!).
2. Transport animals out of state (MCACC is considering reinstituting transfer programs currently, but this is only a partial solution).
3. Pleading with the public to adopt, sterilize, be patient with behavior problems, etc.
4. Become hoarders and resort to irresponsible sheltering practices such as doubling up incompatible animals in the same runs, which puts them at risk for disease transmission and dog attacks.
5. Euthanizing for space.

The Arizona Revised Statutes have ALWAYS allowed for the “disposition” of an animal after a 3 day stray hold – this could be adoption, transfer or euthanasia. This is nothing new. It’s just sad that we have hit the point in our overpopulation crisis that it’s happening AGAIN (it hasn’t for quite some time). Note that pushing shelter populations to their limits is how disease spreads – and NONE of us want to go through the horrible distemper outbreak that our community experienced last year! We at HARTT see the results of irresponsible pet ownership every day, more than most, because we operate in the field.

Regarding stray dogs, we must ask ourselves “Is this animal better off where s/he is, rather than facing risk of euthanasia if trapped?” It’s a legitimate question. Dogs who are highly under-socialized are at the biggest risk. Smaller dogs get adopted far quicker in shelters than larger dogs, so shelters and rescue partners are more likely to say “yes” to intaking small dogs. We are a small organization and even we have space constraints. And so do our partners – almost all of them have told us that they, too, can’t intake any more dogs for awhile.

But, HARTT is doing everything in our power to have an impact where we can! For example, before we do an RTO (return to owner), we now implement a state statute that gives us the authority to sterilize the animal prior to going home. We used to not compel the owner to do this, but we do now. It’s actually a part of the form that they have to initial on our RTO form now! Fortunately, since we’ve done this, nearly every owner has been ok (or even happy) to have their pet sterilized at a discounted rate! In case you’re curious, a private vet charges about $300-$500 to sterilize a dog. We are charged only about $100-$125 for the same surgery.

We continue to provide guidance on keeping pets safe through our “Escape proof your dog” document. And, we are always working to expand our own network of RESPONSIBLE rescue partners.

We also welcome and encourage HARTT volunteers to consider fostering or even temporarily holding animals until we can get them into partner rescues – if you would like to do this, please fill out a foster form! It’s different than the regular volunteer application you’ve already filled out: https://azhartt.org/foster/

Please note that you MAY NOT hand a found/trapped/leashed animal off to a community member without permission from Tina or Stacey! Once we touch an animal, we become obligated, and potentially liable. These individuals MUST fill out a foster form AND be approved BEFORE an animal is sent there! Same with rescues – all rescue placements must go through Stacey – you may not transfer a dog or cat to a rescue organization or individual without permission first. We have certain rescues that we will approve transfers for, and others that we will not. You must check first. This is for the safety and wellbeing of the animal, and it assures we are not overwhelming any group that we are aware is at or near capacity.

So, we know the current situation is deeply disturbing, but the problem starts far above the Animal Control level. It starts with a horrendously-low animal control budget at the county level. This can ONLY be solved through taxation. I realize none of us ever wants to pay more taxes, but that is ultimately the only way out of this mess. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions, and THANK YOU for being a part of the SOLUTION and for making a difference for these at risk animals every day!

With gratitude,