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Pima, Maricopa County Shelters Saw Fewer Pet Surrenders Than Expected In 2020

By Bridget Dowd
Published: Friday, February 26, 2021 - 3:49pm
Updated: Monday, March 1, 2021 - 9:44am
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Every year there are pet owners who need assistance, but 2020 caused some to make especially difficult decisions.

“Do they buy food for their people or food for their pet? It’s just awful to have to be put in that position and we have people here in Pima County that don’t want folks to have to make those decisions," Reck said. 

The Pima Animal Care Center hosted a pet supply distribution event on Saturday. Nikki Reck said the shelter hopes to alleviate some of the stress the pandemic has put on pet owners.

“The goal is to keep pets with the people that love them," Reck said.

PACC received an average of 3,000 calls per month for pet support in 2020. With the help of a grant, the shelter is helping pet owners by covering the cost of minor medical issues, offering temporary foster care and putting on outreach events like the one last weekend.

“They’re overwhelmed, they don’t know what to do, they don’t want to give up their pet, but they think it’s better for them," Reck said. "When we talk to them we’re like ‘well there’s no neglect or cruelty in this situation, do you just need some dog food to get your through the next month?’ And they’re like  ‘well, yeah.’ And we’re like ‘well why would we take your pet from you?’”

In the spring of 2020, Arizona animal shelters expected to see an increase in pet surrenders due to job loss and other pandemic related issues. Luckily, for Pima and Maricopa counties, that wasn’t the case.

PACC was able to prevent owners from surrendering their pets in 529 situations and roughly 500 pets were treated in the facility's COVID-19 medical outreach clinic.

"Any sort of medical treatment can turn into a very expensive trip," Reck said. "So for folks who don't have that saved up or they're living paycheck to paycheck, that doesn't mean they shouldn't have a pet."

Monica Gery works for Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. She said her organization actually saw a decrease in pet surrenders during the pandemic. In 2019, they had 2,294 owner surrenders, compared to 1,245 in 2020. Gery said that could be due in part to the new appointment based system, but people were also home with their pets more. 

MCACC also launched, which offers bi-lingual resources, rehoming, and peer-to-peer temporary foster network that directly connects people in need with those who can help.