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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pet overpopulation prompts reform

Justin+Sayers+%2F+Arizona+Sonora+News+ServiceKennels+at+the+Pima+Animal+Care+Center+sometimes+hold+as+many+as+four+dogs+to+one+space.+PACC+asks+the+Pima+County+community+to+vote+yes+on+Proposition+415.

Justin Sayers / Arizona Sonora News Service

Kennels at the Pima Animal Care Center sometimes hold as many as four dogs to one space. PACC asks the Pima County community to vote yes on Proposition 415.

Anais Orantez holds out a blue toy for Luna, a 2-year-old brown-and-white Rottweiler mix, in the outdoor area of the Pima Animal Care Center.

Locked eye-to-eye, Anais throws the ball, but 85-pound Luna doesn’t flinch. Instead, she runs up to 10-year-old girl and begins licking her face.

Luna is one of the lucky ones. Just one month after arriving as a stray at the center, she exits through green, swinging double doors with Anais and her dad, Manuel Ortiz, and hops into the family’s silver Chevy Malibu. She has a home.

The rising number of stray animals is a state and national problem, officials said. With an estimated 8 million animals in shelters in the U.S., Arizona ranks second to Los Angeles County in terms of areas with the highest pet overpopulation rates, according to the Arizona Humane Society.

A mixture of a push to move toward no-kill practices, a lack of financial and physical resources and a warm climate create the perfect storm for Arizona animal shelters.

Pima Animal Care Center, or PACC, is the largest pet adoption agency in Southern Arizona. The facility was built in 1968 and needs renovations to accommodate the rising number of dogs and cats, according to the center.

Challenges include too many animals per kennel, too much noise, not enough quarantine space, limited space for cats, a lack of natural lighting and inadequate medical facilities, center officials say.

The center, which doesn’t turn away any pet in need of care, took in 24,332 animals in the last fiscal year.

Pima County residents will vote Nov. 4 on Proposition 415, a nearly $23 million bond proposal to pay for a renovated shelter. If it passes, bonds would be issued in January and construction would begin around July 2016. The bond would cost the average homeowner $3 a year.

Kim Janes, the center’s chief of external affairs, said PACC was originally designed to warehouse pets, which gets in the way of the current goal of saving as many animals as possible.

Vince Rabago, co-chairman of Pets Are Worth Saving, a campaign to help pass Proposition 415, notes that the original center was built at a time when the population in the area was approximately 300,000 people. As of the last census in 2010, that number hovers around 1 million, he said.

“The center does not meet current needs in any way, shape, or form,” he said. “Having a new animal care center we believe will provide a more humane center that is fit for today’s modern needs and population and that will also reduce euthanasia.”

Deputy Pima County Administrator Jan Lesher said the center is now treating about two-and-a-half times the number of animals treated when the care center opened. Renovations would be the first significant updates to the shelter.

If the proposition passes, the updated facility would have a medical center to isolate sick animals and prevent diseases from spreading, Janes said. Updates would also provide additional kennel capacity.

District 1 Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller opposes the bond project. She said she doesn’t think that county residents, who saw their county property taxes jump 17 percent last year, should have to pay another tax.

She also noted the county’s ballooning debt ranked highest among Arizona counties. At $1.4 billion in debt, Pima County carries twice as much debt as Arizona’s other 14 counties combined, according to the Stop Prop 415 Committee. Property taxes have increased by roughly 24 percent over the past two years.

While Miller acknowledges that the animal care center is in need of renovations, she said she thinks the Pima County Board of Supervisors could have taken other measures to find money for the project.

Miller noted that the total cost to taxpayers is $22.8 million, even though the project costs only $18.5 million. Lesher said the extra money accounts for the cost of inflation and contingency since construction is not slated to begin for another year or more.

“The $22 million is the cap, not the floor,” Lesher said. “Yes we believe that the project will cost $18 million, but it’s always wise to look at what contingency or inflation might do.”

Janes said he believes Proposition 415 is another way of attacking pet overpopulation in the county because a renovated shelter would provide the resources and space necessary for veterinary efforts. The Board of Supervisors also recently increased funding to conduct significant spay and neuter services for pet owners in the community.

“We need to do what we can to eliminate our overpopulation problem in our community,” Janes said.

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Justin Sayers is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News Service. This article originally came from the Arizona Sonora News Service.

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