County to pitch tent for dogs - Tucson News Now

County to pitch tent for dogs

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima Animal Care is saving more pets than ever before.

But that comes with a price tag.

Tomorrow, the county is expected to approve a plan to take $401,000 from the contingency fund to build a tent shelter for dogs.

In the next two or three weeks, a concrete slab 100 feet by 60 feet will be poured just North of Pima Animal Care on Silverbell Road.

Then comes a tent which will be secured to the concrete.

It needs to be secured to withstand summer monsoon storms and to keep out predators.

It will sit next to the Silverbell Park which is known for predators like coyotes and bobcats.

"It will be fenced," says Kim Janes, the shelter director. "Then it needs something on top of it, like razor wire to keep the predators out."

It will not have 24 hour surveillance which could be a problem too.

"We've had people try to break into the shelter before," Janes says. "So we need security."

The Pima County shelter takes in 60 dogs a day but adopts out 40 a day.

That's been adding up over the past two years, packing the shelter.

"In the past, we made the tough decision to put those with medical needs and behavioral needs, we'd euthanize them," Janes says. "We want to stop doing that. The county is committed to that."

Two years ago, an animal brought to the shelter had a 50-50 chance of survival.

If a pet was not claimed within 72 hours, it was euthanized.

Now, some pets are kept for weeks until they can be claimed, adopted or taken by a rescue group.

72% of the dogs and cats in Animal Care in the past three months left alive.

An impressive turnaround.

"We're really making an effort to save as many lives as possible," says Animal Care advocate Justin Gallick. "It's getting better and better."

But it's also getting more expensive.

As dogs stay longer, the costs rise. The shelter may be saving more lives but it's expensive to provide the medical care, behavior training and one large animal per kennel instead of three or four.

In the past two years, the Animal Care budget has increased fro $5.5 million to $7.5 million.

And next week, the county administrator will ask the county for $300,000 from the contingency fund.

The money will be used to help relieve overcrowding. It will be used to build tent facilities and 100 new kennels for the dogs and cats.

Extra money was approved last year and this year is no different.

"The long term permanent solution is to basically invest $22 million in the new bonding program for a new facility," says Chuck Huckelberry, the County Administrator.

But he adds "we can't just build bigger and bigger animal care facilities."

He believes the answer is free and low cost spay and neuter programs.

Already an aggressive program has reduced intake numbers from about 26,000 down to 22,000.

But more is needed.

The county approved a $3 increase in its license fees two years ago, money which is targeted at those programs.

The county has raised $220,000 to that end.

A month ago, it asked all the other jurisdictions to follow suit to reach a goal of $500,000.

But so far, there have been no takers.

"We heard from Sahuarita which said it didn't have the budget," says Huckelberry. "We haven't heard from the others."

The city of Tucson told the county to take it from the money it already pays for animal services.

"So that wasn't of any benefit,: he says.

Education may be the key he believes.

As they learn about the benefits of spay and neuter, they may come around he believes.

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