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Maricopa County animal shelter full ahead of schedule for second year in a row

Due to the number of dogs the shelter is taking in, space that used to house cats at the county's west shelter is now all holding dogs.

MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz. — On Tuesday afternoon, just as one staff member at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control took a lost dog out of a kennel and back to their owner, another staff member brought in a small dog returned to the shelter.

It’s a scenario indicative of how full MCACC is right now, ahead of the typical ‘busy season’ for the shelter.

“As of this morning we have 697 dogs in our care,” Kim Powell, Communications Officer for MCACC said.

That’s almost two hundred dogs above what Powell says is a ‘comfortable’ level for the county’s shelter.

Powell said more dogs began coming into MCACC’s care than were being adopted out around the end of March and beginning of April, which isn’t normal this time of year.

“That’s always a little terrifying, especially when the busy season isn’t technically here,” Powell said.

The busy season is usually the summer when things like fireworks and storms lead to more stray dogs coming into the shelter.

"It was really after the pandemic that we started seeing things change,” Powell said.

For some context, the number of dogs coming into MCACC between January 1 and April 24 over the last two years has been thousands of dogs higher than in 2021.

In 2021, 2,538 dogs entered the shelter in that time period. In 2022, that number was more than 6,000 dogs.

For that time period this year, 4,743 dogs entered the shelter.

As for why these last two years have been higher, Powell says a shortage of veterinarians causes fewer dogs to be spayed and neutered, which led to more puppies, in addition to other pandemic effects.

“After the pandemic, a lot of people went back to work. And they said, ‘I'm just too busy for my dog, you know, I can't keep them anymore, I don't have any time.’ So they come to the shelter,” Powell said. “And other times, it's a financial problem and they just, they can't afford their pet anymore because of financial issues after the pandemic.”

Powell said dogs are not euthanized for space or length of stay at MCACC, and several events are coming to help keep dogs in their homes and get more dogs adopted out. Including an ‘Empty the Shelters’ event running May 1-May 15, where adoption fees will be waived for all dogs 6 months and older.

In addition, MCACC is also working to revamp and create a new capacity for care plan.

“So that when these situations do come up, we know exactly what steps to take, and so that it’s not so much of a wear and tear on staff,” Powell said.

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