Layoffs coming to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control; rescue groups worry animals may suffer

Posted at 5:43 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 20:47:26-04

A big shake up at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control has created panic and fear in the rescue community.

About one hundred different rescues work with the animal shelter to adopt out animals that are cared for at foster homes. Many of these are dogs and cats are on the shelter's kill list.

Now, with the announcement of layoffs hitting the shelter, rescue groups worry about the health and safety of the animals.

Melissa Gable a spokeswoman from Animal Care and Control said 11 staff members were told they would be facing a layoff, and they plan to leave five vacant positions unfilled.

"I myself was in tears with a couple of them yesterday, it's not an easy thing to be going through right now," said Gable.

She said this is a stressful time for employees.

"For the next week we're going to be a little short staffed, we need to have current employees put in overtime, and work harder take on additional duties," added Gable.

The layoffs come at a bad time for the shelter, during peak heat when they're the busiest. Kennels and cages are overflowing, and they needed more people than ever.

Gable said she hopes more volunteers will step up to the plate to help.  

The people who lost their jobs will be given a list of open jobs in the county, and with the department re-structuring, they can re-apply for the same job that maybe had a different title.

"I'm hoping some of them can come back by the end of next week," said Gable.

Animal welfare groups like Citizens Animal Welfare Society said they are hearing from many rescues who are concerned about the number of animals that may be euthanized because of the short staffing.

Some of the cuts came from the shelter's "Alternative Placement Department", which works closely with the rescues to get them out of the shelter.

Gable said other staff members will be moved to that unit, so it will be business as usual.

A shelter management group called Citizens for Animal Welfare Society specializes in modernizing shelters.

They, along with several others, placed a bid to take over some operations at the shelter but were turned down. 

Sam Basso, the founder of the group, said they hear many concerns from rescue groups in the community.

"This stuff looks rash, doesn't look planned doesn't look like the way forward... there's no hope in it. People are scared, we're here to say it doesn't have to be that way," said Basso.

"The concern is there's going to be a complete blood bath because they don't know what they're doing and where they're going.  Believe me, I've talked to the rescue communities. Everybody is scared that's what's going to happen," said Basso.

ABC15 took these concerns straight to shelter management.

"No this isn't going to affect the number of animals that are euthanized. Staff is still going to step up and do what they can to help. We hope that even though this has been a bit of shake up, we're still hoping rescue communities will come in, and still take animals that are at risk so we can save even more lives," said Gable.

Basso said he wants to know how the shelter plans to re-structure itself.

"If they're running a deficit tell me how they're going to save more animals, versus less animals, I don't see where it's coming from," said Basso.

Gable said they will be relying on the Department of Corrections work crews to help with cleaning kennels, as some of the people who lost their jobs were kennel workers.

The shelter could not actively solicit donations, as they were a government agency, but they were in need of volunteers to help care for the animals, and people could still donate through their website .

Their operational budget is about $9 million a year, and it comes from user fees and animal licensing.  

"We're always under constant scrutiny from the public, I totally understand that.  In addition to trying to work with fewer resources and not enough money, we're also trying to figure out what can we do to help the animals to make sure public understands that we do care," said Gable.