- The Arizona Humane Society took in about 17,000 pets last year.
- AHS’ Pet Resource Center is an empathetic team of trained professionals dedicated to providing resources to Valley pet owners, keeping pets in homes and helping to save lives. This team can be reached at 602.997.7585 ext. 3800 daily from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
8,500 dogs and cats in Maricopa County shelters: Why do people give up their pets?
Maricopa County-run animal shelters have taken in more than 8,500 pets so far this year. The Arizona Humane Society and other rescue organizations have taken in thousands more.
Most of these animals come into the shelters as strays. But many are given up by their owners for reasons ranging from cost to behavior issues.
The county shelters and other local rescue shelters have limited spaces for pets and a gargantuan number of stray, injured or sick dogs and cats to care for.
Last year, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control took in 28,000 animals. The Arizona Humane Society took in about 17,000, 70 percent of which required medical treatment for illness or injury.
In attempt to minimize the number of owner-surrendered pets, the county and local organizations are offering resources to keep people and pets together, even in difficult times.
“We try to find every means possible to keep the dogs out of shelter so we have the space for those animals that are truly homeless and don’t have a chance otherwise,” Maricopa County Animal Care and Control spokesman Jose Miguel Santiago said.
Why do people give up their pets?
According to data collected by Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, the reasons for surrendering a pet are scattered, but often it’s because of the owner’s inability — either financially or otherwise — to care for the pet.
Since January, 554 owners have surrendered their pets to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. Just over 400 of those owners reported a reason for giving up their pet.
The top five reasons were:
- The owner was moving.
- The owner had too many pets.
- The owner didn’t have enough time.
- The animal was aggressive.
- The owner could not afford the pet.
Arizona Humane Society spokeswoman Bretta Nelson said her organization hears similar explanations from owners who surrender their pets. “Too many pets” and “cost” are at the top of their list.
The cost of pet ownership
According to the latest analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. households spent an average of $528 on their pets in 2015.
Keeping pets and people together
In 2014, Arizona Humane Society established the Pet Resource Center to help pet owners who fear they may have to give up their pets.
Nelson said owners rarely want to give up their pets — they just feel they have no other option.
The Pet Resource Center is made up of a team of trained professionals who take calls from concerned pet owners. They listen to the reasons the owners are considering surrendering their pets and determine whether there are resources available to assist them.
For example, the resource center connects owners with low-cost medical options, pet food pantries, pet-friendly housing options and other programs.
Last year, the center received nearly 71,000 phone calls and provided 35,000 resources to pet owners, helping to keep 4,200 pets in their homes, Nelson said.
“There are people and organizations out there to help. There are shelters and rescue groups that want to see pets and people stay together,” she said.