Open Letter from Director Mary Martin

December 19, 2017

For many years now, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control has been grappling with what to do about its presence in the East Valley. A little history about the shelter will offer perspective and help you understand why we are considering closing the facility.

The shelter was moved to its current location when AZ-Loop 101 was built and has remained virtually unchanged since the ‘80s. At that time most of the animals were “caught” and ultimately euthanized. Care of the animals was minimal and would meet no one’s standards today. 

Because of help from animal advocates in the form of transfer partners, volunteers, staff and adopters, the shelter now has an excellent success rate. However, there is an enormous and rarely discussed cost to these caring people and the animals. There is still no ideal housing for cats. The housing for dogs and lack of a proper exercise yard creates stressful conditions leading to illness and behavior problems. Many people will not take sick animals from the East Shelter, leading to longer stays. Those who do often pay expensive veterinary bills to save their lives. Potential adopters walk down the wings holding their ears because the noise is deafening and the customer experience is generally bad in a tiny lobby used for too many services.

These deficiencies combined with a lack of space at the property make renovation and expansion unreasonable. The parcel of land is simply too small to build a shelter that meets any kind of humane standards.

The good news for animals is that our shelters have seen a 13% drop in intake every year for the past five years, largely because of spay-neuter efforts by multiple groups.  We expect this trend to continue.  

We took all of this into consideration, looking at available resources, trends in animal welfare and the experiences of our colleagues around the country. Our conclusion is that centralizing our services in one high-functioning center will be a good step for all of Maricopa County’s homeless animals and the people who care about them.

Here are some examples of what we plan to offer:

  • An in-house Lost and Found
  • Affordable veterinary services.
  • Increased hours of operation.
  • An increased presence in the community in areas where intake is high and resources low.
  • A more efficient and pleasant experience for all our customers.
  • A robust foster program.
  • A revamped off-site adoption program.

Although I am very positive about what a high-functioning, service-oriented facility could do for our animals and our community, we are looking to experts to get their input. Our architectural firm is partnering with one of the most respected shelter medicine programs in the country. They are studying our community and looking at animal welfare trends as they design a central facility.

I hear your legitimate and important concerns and will continue to listen. In my personal sheltering experience, providing quality care is far more important to most citizens than physical location. In other words, if people have transportation, they will make the drive to find their lost pet or get services their pet needs. We will also increase our community outreach to support those people who have transportation issues.

There is no doubt that the people who use the East Valley facility on a regular basis will be inconvenienced. Our staff, our volunteers and our stakeholders will all be impacted. However, the over-all impact for animals will be positive.

As the plan begins to take shape, we will be sharing information and updates with you through our website specific to this project. In the meantime, feel free to contact me directly at marymartin@mail.maricopa.gov or 602-506-8515

In gratitude,

Mary