PHOENIX — Maricopa County's animal shelters have had more animals in their care than they have space to accommodate them in recent weeks.
At the start of September, 50 temporary kennels had to be used to hold the pets in the shelter.
One factor shelter staff say is contributing to so many animals in their care is more people surrendering their pets this year.
"So far this year, we've had more than 2,000 animals surrendered into our care. That's a 33% increase compared to last year," said Kim Powell, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control's communications officer.
County data shows every month this year has had more pets given up to the shelter than in 2021. August 2022 had the most surrenders with 401 pets given up to MCACC's care.
"People are facing financial hardships, maybe they gotta move apartments and apartment prices are sky high, and people are turning to the shelter saying 'I just can't afford to have my pet anymore,' which is heartbreaking," Powell said.
The shelter will be adding a new position aimed at helping residents keep their pets. The shelter diversion specialist will be working with those who are planning to surrender their pets. No one has been hired for the position yet.
"They can work with them, help them pay that pet deposit, maybe find a different housing option for them. And they'll be able to work with them so they can keep their pet," Powell said.
Still, there are resources for people who are struggling to keep their pet. MCACC has a list of resources on its website and help is available through Pet Housing Help AZ for people struggling to care for their pet.
But the extra animals are putting more pressure on the county's shelter.
"It's been a really challenging summer for us," Powell said.
Powell said the policy is not to euthanize animals for space, and the shelter has maintained it's 95.95% save rate despite the 14,000 animals they've had enter the shelter in 2022.
MCACC has 755 kennels, and several days in September had them housing more than 800 animals. That means everyone who works for the shelter, including finance and IT employees, were forced to help care for the animals, Powell said.
"We just had so many, (we) were out numbered," Powell said.
Help from rescue partners and more adoptions has meant dogs aren't in temporary kennels outside right now.
Starting Saturday, Oct. 1, the Bissell Pet Foundation will be sponsoring adoption fees for pets through Oct. 8 at MCACC shelters.
The hope is with those fees being waived and the holiday season approaching, the shelter won't be home for animals for too long.
"We don't want the dogs to come here. We're a last resort. We want to make sure that they're in a comfortable space and able to be home," Powell said.
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