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Adoption push gets PACC shelter under 500 dogs, after July 4 overcrowding meant possible euthanasia

The Pima Animal Care Center is down to 478 dogs in its still-crowded shelter, after officials said last week that they may have to start euthanizing dogs due to a lack of space to hold them.

The shelter announced news of the reduced numbers Monday morning on Facebook. PACC saw an influx of dogs brought in last week after the July 4 holiday, which pushed the shelter well above capacity and to the brink of having to put animals down solely due to a lack of space.

“We are down to 478 dogs in the shelter and that is amazing news,” PACC wrote online. “Slowly but surely we’re moving in the right direction; let’s keep it up and see just how low we can get that number by the end of the week.”

Over the weekend, 63 dogs were adopted from PACC, with a total of 124 leaving the shelter, including those who were placed with foster families and rescue groups. That meant that the county shelter had no dogs available for adoption being held in "non-public kennels," where potential new owners could not even see them.

PACC's Director Monica Dangler credited a community effort for the progress made since last Thursday's peak of 538 dogs in the shelter. Six employees came in during their day off Saturday to help process a busy day of adoptions, she told the Tucson Sentinel on Monday.

A donation from the Click Family Foundation to Friends of PACC, a nonprofit that supports the shelter, paid for boarding some dogs elsewhere and provided a $50 credit to PACC's store to people who adopted large dogs over the weekend. Dangler did not disclose the amount of that donation.

The shelter has been reduced from "code red" to orange, meaning crowding is still at "high capacity," for one of the few times since last July, she said.

Last Wednesday, PACC officials said they might have to start euthanizing dogs due to the "critical" levels at the already packed shelter, officials said. PACC was holding 3-4 times as many dogs as is usual this time of year.

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That would have been the first time since PACC opened its new shelter in 2017 that officials would have to take "such a heartbreaking action."

"The decision to euthanize is gut-wrenching," Dangler said in a news release last week. "The last thing PACC wants to do is take this step. Ultimately, we have to make the decision that benefits the largest number of animals possible, keeping as many animals safe and healthy as possible in hopes that they can be reunited with their families. We’re begging Pima County residents to stop by the shelter to claim their lost pets or adopt or foster. You will, quite literally, be saving a life."

Although progress has been made since last week, PACC remains crowded.

Despite the many adoptions, "we still have about 100 more dogs in the shelter than we did last year at the same time, and we were really full last year. It’s fuller than we normally would," she told the Sentinel on Monday.

Fourth of July havoc

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona and Pima Animal Care Center had each received more than 70 reports last Wednesday of lost and found pets, primarily dogs, after fireworks lit up Tucson sky’s last Monday night.

The uptick in the number of missing pets is expected after holidays like the Fourth of July. This year’s figures pushed PACC further past its capacity and continued a troubling trend of July 5 reports for the Humane Society.

“We were already over capacity and then Fourth of July, so it puts us in a pretty bad situation,” PACC Director Monica Dangler told the Tucson Sentinel last Tuesday.

When last Monday began PACC had 665 dogs and cats in its care — up from 490 on July 1. As of 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday, the agency had received 49 stray animals for the day, with an expectation that roughly 30 more could arrive later in the evening, Dangler said. About 400 dogs were likely to be brought to the county shelter last week.

Fireworks can be stressful and confusing for animals, who do not know how to escape the cacophony of sounds, said Camille Hall, a spokeswoman for the Humane Society.

“They don't realize that getting out of their current situation isn't going to relieve them from the fireworks that are going off all across Tucson,” she said.

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The majority of strays PACC takes in are not reclaimed. The shelter is currently waiving fees for some owners who reclaim their stray pets.

“Regardless if it's Fourth of July or just any other day, typically only about 15 to 20 percent of dogs are reclaimed from the shelter,” Dangler said. Pets found by a neighbor have an 80 percent chance of being reunited with their owner. Because of that, PACC has suggested that anyone finding a stray pet should, if possible, temporarily hang onto it and try to locate its home nearby, before bringing it to the shelter.

PACC offers year-round adoption fee waivers for pets who've been in the shelter for more than two weeks, and for pets more than five years old. Right now, they're also offering free adoptions for one pet per family, in order to decrease the number of animals being held at the shelter. Licensing fees for adult dogs may still apply.

Lost and found reports help inform organizations like the Humane Society what pets are being looked for and where located pets are. “We can keep an eye on where pets are because it’s really a Tucson-wide issue, so having those reports come in is really vital to getting pets back to their people,” Hall said.

Putting on a television, some soft music or staying with pets can help combat the bangs and booms of Independence Day, Hall said.

Microchipping and ensuring data on the chip is up to date is crucial to finding lost pets, she said. Veterinarians and staffers at both animal shelters will check for a microchip early on when stray animals are brought in.

Pets with microchips are more likely to be found as cases of lost animals increase, Hall said. “So I would really urge anyone in the community who has a pet, who maybe just hasn't done it yet to really consider getting that microchip and adding that extra layer of protection for your pet.”

The Humane Society offers microchipping for $25, and the county provides additional information on the service here. Individuals can report lost and found pets on Petco Love Lost, which is linked to both the PACC and Humane Society databases.

From PACC:

People can help several ways:

  • Adopt a medium- to large-sized dog
  • Foster a medium- to large-sized dog
  • Hang on to friendly strays. Pets that stay in the neighborhood where they are found have an 80 percent chance of making it back home
  • If the finder needs supplies in order to hang onto the pet, PACC will provide those supplies free of charge
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PACC

A dog awaits adoption at the Pima Animal Care Center. The center's shelter is under 500 dogs after greatly exceeding capacity last week.