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County animal shelter aggressively working to cut euthanasia rate

Posted at 7:48 PM, Feb 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 08:05:07-05

In an ambitious effort to become a "no kill community", staff at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control are hoping to form an aggressive partnership with community groups to help reduce euthanasia rates at the shelter. 

Last year MCACC took in more than 35,000 animals -- about 4,700 of them had to be put down. Melissa Gable, a spokeswoman for the shelter said those numbers were already a big reduction from five years ago, but they hoped to do even better. 

"In order to get to that next level, we're going to need even more help," said Gable. 

She admitted that it was unrealistic to say that the shelter would never euthanize an animal, as it would not be humane for them to let a dog they knew to be very aggressive go home with a family, but they wanted to get as close to it as possible.  

With new leadership now at helm, Gable said they were committed to working with existing partners, and thinking outside the box to form new partnerships with the community. 

Right now MCACC works with more than 100 different groups and has a wide foster network of families who help rescue many dogs, but they hope to recruit more.

"These groups will drop everything they're doing and come to the shelter and pick up those dogs and make them available through their network," said Gable.

Foster orientation takes place once a month. Gable said they were also willing to work individually with those who were interested in fostering animals.

She encouraged the community to continue spaying and neutering.

The shelter faced some controversy in December when they had to euthanize pregnant female dogs. Gable said the decision to euthanize animals was never easy.

"I know that's difficult for people to hear.  It's not something we want to do but the reality is there are so many animals coming into the shelter.  If no one is able to step up and take those dogs, we don't have the ability to house pregnant moms in our facility because we're taking in 100 animals almost every single day," said Gable.

She said some of the staff and volunteers took the criticism personally.

"I guarantee you there's not a single staff member that wakes up in the morning and says 'okay, I'm off to kill animals today'.  It's not something anyone wants to do," said Gable.

"It's tough. Some of the employees here are young kids. For them to be called 'murderer' on Facebook, it's hard to hear," she added.

MCACC had started several programs to get more dogs into forever homes.

They were socializing dogs considered aggressive, and seeing big changes in their personalities.  

"Because of that we're already putting down less animals," said Gable.

They were also working with the group Lost Dogs Arizona to help find the owners of all the lost dogs in the shelter.  Gable estimated there were hundreds of lost dogs housed at MCACC.  She said they were instructing staff to consider every dog as a "lost dog" and not as a stray. 

Cindy Goetz with Lost Dogs Arizona said their social media page gave a lot of exposure to lost animals.  They posted almost thirty new pictures a day and tens of thousands of people were liking and sharing the posts.

"We've had over 10,000 reunions since we've been around.  Some amazing ones.  A dog found a year and half later, a dog found at a campsite by another family, it's just amazing," said Goetz.

A town hall meeting is set to take place Wednesday between MCACC and community groups involved in the effort. It begins at 6 p.m. at Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park, at 300 E. Indian School Road.

If you would like to help, you can contact MCACC at https://www.maricopa.gov/pets/adopt.aspx

Gable said everyone in the community could also help by simply sharing photos of shelter dogs, lost dogs, and encouraging others to adopt or rescue from the local shelter.