How volunteers make a difference at Valley animal shelters

PHOENIX - Even if you can't adopt a dog or cat, you can still help Valley animal shelters by offering your time as a volunteer.

The Maricopa County Animal Care and Control shelter houses hundreds of lost, forgotten,discarded or neglected dogs, all deserving of loving homes. But for those canines who are misunderstood -- for what appears to be bad behavior -- it has historically meant euthanization.

But that is changing, thanks to a volunteer group devoted to re-assessing dogs with questionable personalities. Two thousand dogs at  MCACC have been spared in the past three years because of the Second-Chance Assessment Team.

One such dog is Memphis, a year-and-a-half old, mixed breed and over-zealous eater.

He was originally thought to be aggressive because he is enthusiastic by nature, but the shelter's Second Chance Assessment Team found otherwise.

By removing Memphis from the stress of a loud, scary kennel, the team can test the dog on a fair playing field, putting him in different situations with food and other dogs.

A female pit bull mix named Molina had a similar bad review. When we visited her in the kennel, she jumped so high she frightened us.

But Second Chance team co-founder, Michelle Lilly, says Molina is simply misunderstood. We watched how her demeanor changed entirely once the team gave her some one-on-one attention in the shelter's fenced yard.

"She was so anxious and she could have made someone think she was aggressive if they didn't know how to read the full body language of a dog," Lilly said.

Within minutes, Jason Carey, founder of the Second Chance Assessment Team, was down on Molina's level, bonding with her as she licked his face.

"Are you a people dog? Yes you are a people dog," Carey says to the skinny pit bull. "I want them all to get a fair shot. Not every dog is gonna make it."

But thanks to these volunteers, Memphis and Molina will get a good report and a fair shot at a happy home. 

A facility like the MCACC shelter needs hundreds of volunteers daily to run. 

If you are interested you can go to their website, www.pets.maricopa.gov and click on the volunteer section . There you will find an orientation schedule. You must attend the orientation to find out more about volunteering.

Looking for a new friend? Join us Saturday and Sunday at the ABC15 and PetSmart Adopt-a-Pet Weekend ! We'll have adoption deals at 8 Valley locations and hope to pair up as many animals and families as we can!

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