The Arizona Pet Project’s Position Statement on Managed Admission

Managed Admission and What It Means

In October, Maricopa County Animal Care & Control began a managed admission program for both the East and West facilities. Owner surrendered pets are accepted by appointment only.  Families receive an appointment within two weeks of requesting to surrender. 10 appointments are available per day, 7 days a week. Injured or ill animals or those who can create a public safety risk will still be accepted on a walk-in basis.

Owner Hazel hugging dog T.I. in shelter lobbyManaged admission is a policy that focuses on receiving owner surrendered pets into the shelter during set hours or by appointment. Some feel if a shelter does not accept every pet brought in, their owners will choose to abandon them somewhere else. Consequently, this would pose a risk to the pet and the public. However, this assumption stems from the idea these owners do not care about the well-being and safety of their pets.

Through industry leaders, like the ASPCA,  and from our experience we have found this concept could not be further from the truth. People turn to the shelter because they have no other options and they hope to find help.

Let’s Take a Closer Look

Oftentimes, people surrender a dog or cat due to a lack of financial resources. Typically, limited income is tied to a sudden change in circumstances. Reasons may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Pet or owner illness
  • Lay off or loss of employment
  • Costs associated with a move (pet deposit, transportation, etc.)
  • Owner homelessness
  • Divorce
  • Pet age or health
  • Behavioral challenges

For many, arriving at the shelter holding their beloved furry family member is an upsetting conclusion to a series of events they have little control over. The choice to surrender is complicated and easily misunderstood if we rely on assumptions that these owners are heartless or undeserving of a pet.

How Does Managed Admission Help?

Shelter policies have greatly progressed in recent years. Gone are the days where municipal shelters only serve as rabies control, fulfilling a public health purpose. Today, shelters strive to create programs that support pet owners.

Implementing a strategy that schedules surrenders by appointment is a reflection of this change in focus. Managed admission may be seen as selective service or denying owners an option. However, in reality, it serves as a way to prevent overcrowding.  When a shelter is above capacity, animals are at higher risk of injury, illness, and euthanasia.

Shelters using a managed intake system often retain policies of accepting strays or emergency situations as needed. Therefore, the goal is not to turn a blind eye to pets in need or the public approaching the shelter for help. Managed admission is a proactive plan. It allows the shelter to better determine available space and how many pets they can effectively care for.

Focusing on Alternatives

Many shelters across the country have adopted this new approach to accepting pets. However, according to Dr. Emily Weiss of ASPCAPro, the key to reducing the homeless pet population goes beyond adopting managed admission. The shift in policy must also focus on offering alternatives to empower pet owners with other avenues to explore.

In 2017, The Arizona Pet Project implemented a shelter intervention program to offer families in Maricopa County alternatives to surrender. Our counselor meets with owners, discusses their situation, and offers assistance through support services and community resource referrals as appropriate. Read more about our program here.

Chico in Kennel at Maricopa County Animal Care & ControlAdmission by appointment presents a unique opportunity to connect with pet owners. Call center staff scheduling appointments provide information that may prevent the need to surrender before owners ever arrive at the shelter.  During an appointment, families have extended time for a conversation that tailors resource referrals to their individual needs.

In conclusion, offering other options can ultimately save more lives than simply accepting a dog or cat. Sometimes a little pet food or help finding a low-cost clinic is enough to keep a pet in their home. Talking with owners before they surrender offers helpful information to place a pet in an appropriate home as well.

What Does the Data Say?

According to the ASPCA, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Animal Care and Control (CMPD-ACC) made the switch in 2015, owner surrenders decreased by 30%.  That is 541 fewer animals were surrendered from the previous year. Shelter staff credits their success to improved, individualized attention for each customer. In addition, giving owners more time to think about the decision and try other options while they await their appointment has also been helpful.

The SPCA serving Erie County reduced cat admissions, eliminated overcrowding, and stopped severe disease outbreaks by implementing an appointment policy.  Cats stayed with families 8% of the time by owners on the appointment waiting list. 12% rehomed their felines with safety tips from the shelter. Only 2% took their cats to another shelter or rescue group. Many cases that arrived for appointments to surrender were multi-cat homes. These owners became overwhelmed by lack of sterilization and continual litters.  Read more about their positive results here.

Ultimately, shelters using a managed admission approach are adjusting their focus from intake on demand to keeping pets in homes and out of the shelter system. Organizations can better utilize resources for cases truly in need of sheltering services to save more lives.

Barking Up a New Tree

Family assisted by shelter intervention programThe Arizona Pet Project has provided assistance to prevent the surrender of nearly 400 pets from implementing a new shelter intervention program at Maricopa County Animal Care & Control this year. Those 400 pets belong to people who care deeply about the safety, health, and well-being of the animals they love.  Pets who receive assistance are able to stay in their homes. Diverting these surrenders allows the shelter to better care for the dogs and cats who do not have that option.

Maricopa County Animal Care & Control states that applying a managed admissions program will help “reduce undue stress that can lead to potential illness, maintain a proper level of safety and care, and place more animals into forever homes.”

We support this approach and believe trying new strategies will continue forward momentum in Maricopa County to save more pets.