The Pima County animal shelter just doesn't have the space to properly care for sick pets.
The crowded conditions are not ideal for animals trying to recover from illness or injury.
Pima County is contracting with Pima Paws for Life to remove sick dogs from the county shelter and keep them at the Pima Paws for Life shelter at 2509 W. Zinnia.
"I had always wanted to get the animals out of sick bay, first and foremost. I wanted to focus on the ones that had the lowest chance of making it out alive," says Pima Paws for Life President Kimberley Walker.
Walker's dream has now come true.
The Pima Paws for Life shelter opened Tuesday and received 21 sick dogs from PACC.
The private, non-profit Pima Paws for Life has a contract with Pima County to provide 14 days of care to dogs that have upper respiratory ailments, such as kennel cough.
The new facility opened after a lot of hard work by volunteers, and donations from the community.
Volunteers not only help treat the animals, they also socialize them and get them ready for new families.
"Our plan is to keep them and adopt them out from here. If it turns out that they have a more serious ailment, we also want to keep them, treat them and get them adopted out from here," Walker says.
However, in order to treat them for other issues or to keep them beyond 14 days, Pima Paws for Life has to come up with the money to do that on its own.
in fact, four sick dogs taken to the shelter Tuesday don't fall under the county contract.
A local veterinary clinic, Northwest Pet Clinic, provides low-cost care.
Clinic doctors even make house calls to the shelter.
We caught up with Dr. Erin O'Donnell as she was examining the 21 dogs.
Dr. O'Donnell says this work is about giving back.
It's emotional for her.
She had difficulty holding back tears as she spoke of the animals.
"Sick animals are often the last ones to get adopted. And sometimes get euthanized because of illness. So to have an opportunity to save pets from that fate and to improve their lives and be able to get them adopted is a wonderful opportunity for me," Dr. O'Donnell says.
The goal is to accept up to 80 county shelter dogs a month.
That will free up space at the crowded county facility.
At PACC two small or medium dogs might have to be housed in the same small kennel in sick bay.
At the Pima Paws for Life facility, each dog gets his or her own kennel with access to his or her own outdoor dog run.
This is just the start though.
The organization is hoping to raise enough money to build a shelter for sick cats, and eventually save many more lives.
" We want to be able to take animals that have other types of treatable illnesses and treatable injuries so that we can save even more lives. That's basically what it comes down to is not having to have animals destroyed for something that's really an easy fix," Walker says.
Pima Paws for Life is an adoption guarantee facility.
Walker says that means no animals will be euthanized to make space for other animals.
The private nonprofit depends on volunteers and donations to make all of this work.