Prevention through intervention
In Maricopa County, the number of pets entering shelters has steadily declined over the past decade from 105,000 homeless pets in 2005 to 49,000 in 2016. This decline is thanks, in part, to the availability of free spay/neuter services for owned pets, especially those living in low-income households.
Despite the reduction in unwanted litters, shelters are still receiving more than 56,000 pets each year. In Maricopa County Animal Care & Control shelters alone, 11,000 dogs and cats entered as a result of owner surrenders, which have increased over the past several years. This year, by implementing a shelter intervention program, we have successfully diverted 450 pets from being surrendered.
It’s a Dying Shame
Pets surrendered to shelters by their families face euthanasia rates which are approximately 20% higher than dogs and cats who are brought in through other channels, making them one of the most vulnerable groups of pets.
Oftentimes, people surrender pets due to a lack of financial resources tied to a sudden change in circumstances. These circumstances may include:
- Pet or owner illness
- Costs associated with a move (pet deposit, transportation, etc.)
- Owner homelessness
- Pet age or health
- Behavioral challenges
Many pet owners love their pets, but are unable to pay for the expense of care—situations which in most cases could be resolved for less than $300. Head to our blog to read about these families and their stories.
Barking Up a New Tree
Recently, a new assistance program was introduced in another community similar to Phoenix. When presented with financial assistance and resources as a way to keep their pets in their homes, over 80% of that community’s pet owners agreed to talk to a counselor to explore their options. Of those, 88% decided to retain ownership of their pets, thereby reducing intake and euthanasia in the shelters.
In 2017, The Arizona Pet Project began offering this assistance by implementing a shelter program called S.I.T. Stay (Shelter Intervention Team, Helping Pets Stay in Homes).
Through this program, a full-time Arizona Pet Project counselor has been hired and placed at a local shelter where the demand for assistance is high. This employee works with pet owners to provide counseling, including medical and resource referral services, such as pet-friendly housing. This year, our shelter intervention program has successfully diverted 450 dogs and cats away from the shelters and back into their homes.
Read some of the incredible stories of families and pets who have received assistance on our blog.
Veterinary costs to the community have increased 60% over the past 10 years and are expected to continue to rise.
There are several low-cost clinics to assist pet owners in need, but none offer free services for families in extreme financial distress.
Owner surrenders are nearly 20% more likely to be euthanized than strays.