PHOENIX – With more consistent practices, the rates that animals are being euthanized in Phoenix has rapidly decreased.
A study by The New York Times showed that the rate of dogs and cats being euthanized at shelters in Phoenix fell from 46% in 2012 to 4% in 2018. Overall, the study showed, rates are down by 75% at the 20 largest cities in the U.S.
Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Director Mary Martin said her agency and the Arizona Humane Society take in approximately 45,000 pets per year. When Martin first started in the business in the ’90s, those numbers were close to six figures, and shelters would euthanize about half of the dogs and cats that came through their doors.
“When you can reduce intake to that extent, you take the pressure off the organization to make euthanasia decisions quickly,” Martin told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday. “We can be much more thoughtful about that process.”
Their return to owner program is led by a team of people dedicated to lost and found dogs. They also have an interactive map where people can note where they lost their pet and report found animals.Martin said organizations like MCACC and AHS implement different programs to lower the risks of euthanizing animals. A number of the initiatives revolve around responsibly preventing animals from coming into the shelter in the first place.
If an animal makes its way into the shelter, organizations are proactive in trying to get the pet home.
Martin also noted that they focus on working to hinder their biggest struggle.
“Space is the No. 1 challenge,” Martin said. “When we have room to accept animals, it also means we have room to work with animals. When we get 50 or 100 animals in a day and there aren’t enough kennels to hold them, we have to make difficult decisions. That has not been the case for a long time.”
Organizations like MCACC and AHS are proactive in adoption events and even waive fees to send pets home.
Martin also said a big program in the last three years has been transport programs.
“The northwestern area of the country has shelters that are nearly empty,” Martin said.
Dogs that typically would spend a longer amount of time in shelters in Phoenix, like pit bulls, are flown up north to fill the shelter need.
In addition to the newer programs that have been implemented, spaying and neutering pets is a big initiative to keep pets out of shelters as well and helps with overpopulation.