A decision to change policy at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control has animal rescuers upset, and could impact potential rescuers.
During a meeting held Aug. 30 between MCACC and Independent Animal Rescuers, MCACC decided to only allow independent rescuers to take two animals at a time.
However, the shelter and county are considering raising that number to four.
Independent Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization that cares for stray, abandoned and abused animals.
The majority of animal rescuers in the Valley tend to adopt animals from MCACC. With the policy change, in order for independent rescues to adopt more than two animals at a time, they must partner with a program called New Hope.
According to its website, the New Hope program is a partnership between MCACC and other animal welfare agencies to help ensure that as many adoptable animals as possible are placed into permanent and loving homes, according to the New Hope website.
Partners in the program will take animals from MCACC that might otherwise have to be euthanized or that haven’t been adopted.
The partnership’s goal is to become a no-kill community. The program aims to develop positive, beneficial working relationships between the agency and the rescue organizations with a focus on clear communication and professionalism.
"All of these people have the best intentions. They are really trying to help the animals, but what is happening is you have a few where it can become a hoarding situation," said Melissa Gable, the public information officer from Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.
MCACC recently received graphic images of an independent rescue location showing cats that appeared to be neglected and sick.
In addition to recording and tracking animal adoptions, such hoarding situations are one of the many reasons MCACC decided to require independent rescues to partner with New Hope to adopt more than two animals per year.
"If they were a New Hope partner and someone forwarded us pictures and said 'ABC rescue, this is the conditions,' we can then go there and do a welfare check and need be, we can suspend their license or their agreement, contract and say you can't rescue for six months or whatever," said Gable. "With the independent rescues, we don't have the ability to do that."
Gable said independent rescues that become New Hope partners are able to adopt as many animals as they can properly care for. If they don’t become partners, independent rescues can align with a New Hope partner and to pull animals off the euthanasia list off and transfer the animal to the rescue.
The county created New Hope to combat animal hoarding, but it also comes with new rules for those who partner through the program.
Some of the required duties for rescue staff:
1. Mandatory training
2. Carry contractor ID cards
3. Remove animals on "at risk" list from county within 24 hours
4. Pay adoption fee
5. Pay for all costs of caring for the animals once removed from MCACC
6. Abide by the contract
7. Make themselves and their facilities available and open to inspection
8. Most importantly, provide documentation/ verification/proof of ownership when animal is adopted
Several independent animal rescues and individuals who regularly rescue animals think the new adoption rule is appalling.
"The meeting was on Aug. 30. I learned that Maricopa County was having a meeting for Independent Rescuers. We were not invited to that meeting," said Callie Maxwell, one of the directors for the Independent Rescue E-List Angels.
E-List Angels is a non-profit dog rescue in Phoenix geared towards savings dogs who are wrongfully placed on the euthanasia list at the county shelters. They also take owner surrenders, according to their website.
"At that meeting I learned they were holding independent rescuers to some standard that was supposedly in place all along. Although it's hard to know when we have pulled already over 240 dogs to why we are arbitrarily being limited to two dogs per year, but I went to the meeting and sure enough they decided to treat independent rescuers the same as just a member of the general public," said Maxwell.
Maxwell said due to this decision, their rescue has currently shut down. E-List Angels has been active for about a year. Since September 2015, they have saved about 240 dogs from the euthanasia list and 400 rescues and owner-surrenders.
Maxwell wants the county to recognize the difference between independent rescues and regular pet owners.
During the meeting, MCACC stated they are enforcing the two animals per year limit for anyone who’s not a New Hope partner, Maxwell said.
Maxwell hopes that one day MCACC will make it easier for rescues to adopt, including offering some type of online adoption payment so people don’t have to go in person to the shelter all the time.
We asked Callie Maxwell and Jessica Ireland, another former rescuer, their thoughts on what they find objectionable about independent rescuers partnering with New Hope.
Ireland and Maxwell listed a few concerns in a message:
1. The ownership of the animal must remain with the New Hope partner, which puts the financial responsibility of health care costs.
2. Most rescues struggle financially and becoming a New Hope partner requires extra costs.
3. Many of independent rescuers have other jobs. Putting together and submitting a packet to become a New Hope partner isn't something that can be done overnight.
4. The two-month process can be a determent.
Another hurdle is a contract coming from the county, which rescuers will have to sign in order to become a New Hope partner. This is making it difficult for several independent rescuers to comply.
Maxwell said E-List Angels will eventually apply to partner with New Hope, but that is a work in progress for now.
"I'm not quite sure why Maricopa County is making it so difficult to do that. I understand the need for reporting, but there should be some interim program between New Hope partners and independent rescuers that are held to two dogs per year and I don't know why they don't even consider such a thing," said Maxwell.
While some rescue organizations aren’t happy with the changes. Some have already joined the New Hope program and disagree, saying there are benefits to partnering through New Hope.
"I think becoming a New Hope partner is important because it gives you the ability to take sick dogs out of the shelter. They don't have to get altered here if you are under New Hope rights.So if they are really sick and they get altered, it compromises their immune system and they can get sicker," said Ashli Porto, the director of BB's Honor, a group that recently became a New Hope partner.
Porto also said she’s access to the kennels under the program that wasn’t previously available. She can go get the key and meet the animals herself.
"When you are a New Hope partner there is a lot of accountability. It's a partnership between the rescue group and the county shelter, and that partnership works both ways,” said Kelly Ferreria. “They support us when we need help and we support them by taking the animals that would be otherwise not adoptable."
Ferreria is the founder and president of Medical Animals in Need Dog Rescue. She also said that several independent rescuers possibly wouldn't want to be part of the New Hope Program due to the insurance that has to paid monthly.
However, Ferreria said the insurance is necessary and allows rescues to host events at stores and become PetCo Partners or PetSmart Partners.
At the moment, there is still no confirmation yet about the four-animal limit for independent rescuers and this is still an ongoing process.