by ANDREW PAXTON
Pima Community College student Francy Luna knows every time she volunteers at Pima Animal Control Center, she is making a difference.
“They don’t turn down animals, and they do whatever they can to save a pet’s life,” says Luna, who has been volunteering with PACC for more than a year.
“I fall in love with each pet, and I feel an overwhelming happiness when they find a loving family to love them too,” she said.
The problem is PACC receives far more unwanted pets than it’s able to help find homes. Since moving toward a no-kill policy several years ago, the number of dogs and cats at the facility have skyrocketed, so much so that Pima County voters were compelled to approve a new multimillion dollar facility in 2014.
PACC takes in about 25,000 animals every year, according to the county. Many of those are strays or feral animals born to wild dogs and cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered.
Advocates said the simplest way to reduce the number of intakes at the shelters is to reduce the number of new animals being born.
That goal in mind, PACC has been partnering with local animal welfare organizations and veterinarians to hold free and low-cost spay and neuter clinics around the county.
One such event was the 48-hour spay/neuter MASH clinic, which was held at Los Ranchitos Elementary School from Oct. 9-11. The organizers had hoped to alter more than 500 animals, but ended up fixing about 800, according to a news release from the group.
Sara Dent, a local lawyer and animal activist, said she volunteered at the event because “I believe in responsible pet ownership.”
“That means adequate vet care, altering your pets so that they cannot contribute to intake at shelters, because accidents happen even to the best people,” she said.
PACC is investing more than $600,000 this year into low-cost spay/neuter programs for Pima County residents in an effort to reduce the number of rescued strays and feral animals.
Dent said the city of Austin, Texas recently achieved no-kill status at their shelter, and that Tucson should follow their example.
“Austin is a larger metropolitan area than Tucson, and there is really no reason why we cannot accomplish that same goal here,” she said.
PACC also partners with many non-profit groups, such as Animal Welfare Alliance of Southern Arizona, to get the word out about low-cost clinics and other resources for pet owners and those providing foster or temporary care for sick animals, or those looking for a permanent home.
“AWASA promotes the reduction of pet overpopulation and advocates for animals by increasing the number of spayed/neutered animals in our community,” the website said.
Activists like Dent said the work is vital to achieving no-kill status in Tucson, which could mean that 90 percent of animals taken in eventually would receive homes.
“Spaying and neutering him is not the only answer to reducing the numbers of animals that get killed every week at our local shelter and across the nation, but it is a part of the solution,” Dent said.
For those like Luna giving their time to help the animals, the need for the work that PACC and other groups are doing is immeasurable.
“Volunteering at PACC has been a very rewarding and happy experience,” she said. “They offer Tucsonans the opportunity to be part of the important work they do, as well as giving families happiness when they adopt a new family member.”
She is also grateful that PACC is focused on saving more animals through spay/neuter programs and increased adoption outreach.
“I thank PACC for all they do for our community and for our pets,” she said. “They are life savers.”