Special Business Report

Phase I of PACC’s improvement plan is complete:
a new 60,000-square-foot facility on Silverbell Road.

PACC’s Chief Animal Protections Officer Adam Ricci
poses with one of the adorable dogs looking for a new home.

The clinical area at PACC, formerly housed in a cramped
prefab building, is now more spacious and state-of-the-ar


PACC Director Kristen Auerbach oversees an agency
that took in more than 16,000
animals last year.

The Changing Face of Animal Adoptions

New Facilities, New Hope

Two of the largest organizations in Southern Arizona involved in assisting our animal friends have dramatically upgraded their digs, and created new hope for creatures in their care.

“Animals are more than ever a test of our character, of mankind’s capacity for empathy and for decent, honorable conduct and faithful stewardship. We are called to treat them with kindness, not because they have rights or power or some claim to equality, but in a sense because they don’t; because they all stand unequal and powerless before us.”

— Matthew Scully, author, journalist, and speechwriter

According to the Chinese Zodiac calendar, 2018 is the Year of the Dog. Perhaps it is ordained by the stars that wonderful things are to come for our community’s four-legged friends this year. But truth be told, it is the dedication, passion, sweat, tears and sacrifice of many in Southern Arizona that have brought about changes to a status quo of care for the dogs, cats, and other domestic animals living among us.

Domesticats & Dogs

A long held belief is that humans domesticated canines between 13,000 and 17,000 years ago. But a 2017 discovery of fossilized footprints of a child and wolf walking astride in Southern France may indicate canine/human companionship existed nearly 30,000 years ago. Because cats are, well, the way cats are, the human/feline relationship is newer. The earliest evidence of a wild cat buried with a human about 9,500 years ago was discovered by archaeologists on the island of Cypress. Of course, many of us are familiar with the 4,000-year-old Egyptian paintings depicting cats with members of the ruling class.

The idea of dogs and cats as valued companions is certainly not new. However, until relatively recently, unless used to perform skilled work like herding, hunting or guarding, dogs and cats were considered disposable nuisances. Pounds were established in colonial towns to contain wandering domesticated animals, mostly livestock. Owners would pay poundmasters a fee to retrieve their animals. When dogs and cats were added to the mix, they were mostly destroyed because they had no perceived value. In more urban settings, pounds (primarily for dogs) became more prevalent as a way to provide public safety and protect property rights rather than providing humane care. The process of licensing dogs was developed to fund the pounds.

Fast forward a couple hundred years. In 1866 the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) — America’s first animal welfare organization — was founded with the primary focus on ending the mistreatment of horses. This organization opened a door for the Philadelphia-based Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania SPCA to become the first organization to encourage humane treatment of shelter animals, focusing on smaller domesticated animals. The 1970s saw the veterinary community becoming more involved with management and care in animal retention facilities. Until then, the emphasis had mainly been placed on providing euthanasia.

Years of the Pound Are In The Past

Thankfully, or rather, mercifully, times, they are a-changing. Over the last 40 years animal sheltering has taken a dramatic turn. Focus has shifted from capturing and disposing of animals to care, rehabilitation, placement, and reduction of the numbers of animals that come to shelters. Saving healthy, adoptable animals from poor living conditions and euthanasia is now the name of the game.
The catalyst of the no-kill movement was a stand taken by Richard Avanzino — known as the founding father of the movement in — 1989. Working at the
San Francisco SPCA, he refused to allow a collie mix named Sido, surrendered due to owner death, to be put down as decreed in a will. The SPCA was sued. Because of the publicity, more than 3,000 people volunteered to adopt Sido. Avanzino kept her for himself and a movement was born.

Those in charge of the care of “unwanted” animals identified a community itch that needed to be scratched, and the evolution of modern shelter care programs had begun.

A New Kind of PACC

County-managed Pima Animal Care Center has made great strides in its transformation from “pound” to shelter/community partner. PACC differs from private shelters in that it is under government oversight, funded by tax dollars, and required to take surrendered animals regardless of the animals’ health/adoptability or boarding space. The organization also shoulders the responsibility of animal-related law enforcement and control. As mindsets and missions of other animal welfare agencies across the nation have evolved, so has PACC programming and tactics.

Built in 1968, the PACC building at 4000 N. Silverbell Road was designed for stray animal control and animals with rabies. There were originally no facilities to keep animals alive. Over the years, there were adjustments made to the property, buildings and practices, and PACC Chief Animal Protections Officer Adam Ricci notes that seismic changes began at the Tucson facility within the last decade. “Across the country the mentality transitioned to a focus on keeping animals alive and healthy.” PACC is taking it a few steps further. There’s a philosophical change that the organization’s leadership has sunk its teeth into. The enforcement pillar, while still important, is not the primary, or even secondary focus. Rather, focus is on keeping pets in the facility safe, healthy, and sound of mind; ensuring as many as possible are adopted; and reducing the number of animals that come into the shelter through community programming and education. Ricci states, “Our goal from a field perspective is to shut the shelter down. We don’t want to have to take pets. The only pets that should be coming here are those that are really in need, sick, stray or rescued.”

In just 10 years, PACC successes skyrocketed from a 50 percent live release rate to 91 percent in 2017. Last year they took in 16,430 pets, (nearly 2,000 fewer than the previous year and 10,000 fewer than a decade before). More than 9,100 pets were adopted out, 2,100 pets went to rescue or shelter partners, and 1,894 lost pets were returned to owners with 85 returned by animal protection officers without being brought to the shelter. All of this was achieved from an aging building and a “circus tent” type of structure on the Silverbell campus.

Extensive improvement of the existing facility has been in the works for several years. In 2014 Pima County citizens voted to allow the county to borrow $22 million to improve the shelter. Leadership partnered with Tucson-based architectural firm Line and Space to research and implement state-of-the art facilities. In December 2017, Phase I of the construction portion of the improvement project was completed and christened as operational, both ahead of schedule and under budget.

The new building, situated just east of the original structure, ensures that pets, the people who care for them, and those looking to adopt are all able to have the best experience and care possible. The exterior of the new 60,000-square-foot space is modern and impressive, but the most dramatic improvements are apparent upon entering. There are now separate pods for animal housing, a clinic, admissions, adoptions, administration, licensing and law enforcement. Color-coded lobbies for adoption, surrender, and clinic facilities assure a better experience for visitors with different needs. In the adoption area, meeting spots are available for counselors to get to know what potential adopters are looking for in a new pet, away from the bustle of a lobby or the kennels and enclosures. This counseling time is imperative to determining compatibility of animal and owner.

Previously, dog kennels consisted of a gate and four cement walls. Residents now occupy indoor/outdoor areas with elevated beds and sturdy, warmly colored synthetic walls that are easier to sanitize and help limit sound reverberation. Pets rescued from traumatic abuse or hoarding situations are placed in a separate, quiet zone to allow for de-stress and recovery. Socialized cats lounge in the Cat Nip Café or Tiger Lounge community rooms that offer enrichment tools (cat trees and toys) and access to screened outdoor areas for play and relaxation. Housing areas receive natural light and are much more open, and people/pet friendly. Socialized dogs also may take advantage of several larger outdoor play yards equipped with toys and staffed by volunteers. Meet-and-greet rooms allow adopters to engage with the pups and better gauge a personality match without the stress or distraction of wet-nosed neighbors. Private rooms are available for cats to begin walking all over their potential new owners.

The clinical area is equipped for on-site lab testing and analysis. Minor treatment, anesthesia, recovery, dental and intensive care spaces are separate from an enclosed surgical suite. Surgical teams and facilities may perform services ranging from simple sterilization to high-level procedures like amputations. Clinicians are able to enjoy a dedicated workstation near, yet separated from, treatment areas. Previously, medical teams were relegated to two double-wide mobile trailers where work stations often doubled as exam tables. Near the treatment centers, regulated specialty isolation pods for dogs with ailments like parvovirus and distemper are equipped with clean-room prep areas to contain contaminants and keep patients safely separate from the general population, yet near caregivers. There also is a dedicated room for nursing babies. A few short steps from the clinic, an indoor/outdoor community room replete with A/V equipment has already begun hosting volunteer and community training sessions, board meetings and events.

Phase II of the improvement project includes partial demolition and remodel of the original facility. Estimated completion of construction is this summer.

Additionally, PACC is moving away from the old model of “animal control” by working to educate and provide resources for pets and owners. “We have data suggesting a majority of pets come to us from specific zip codes,” says Ricci. “In these areas, we focus on creating community rapport and providing pathways and resources on how pet owners can get to where they need to be and better care for their pets. If we are considered a heavy-handed enforcement agency we won’t become a trusted source.” In doing so, pet support (which receives 8,000 calls per month) and dispatch groups are merging to work together with communities to provide solutions that range from emergency food supply, to leashes and training programs, to fencing materials. Similarly, these staff are instrumental in identifying locales where the spay, neuter, and release and working cat programs, which put human-tolerant feral cats to work as a natural “nuisance” solution, are effective. In addition to becoming more lax on fees and fines, only an $18 license purchase is required to pick up wandering pets with a complimentary spay or neuter if necessary.”

Public funding supports, but does not fully maintain, the programming PACC is creating to reduce the number of pets that will require use of the new facility. In 2017 the organization applied for and received $570K from Maddie’s Fund for foster program expansion; $250K from Petco Foundation to support community partnership programs; and $100K from PetSmart Charities to fund the Pet Support Center. Similarly, PACC appreciates the support of nearly 1,300 volunteers who provided 77,890 hours of service last year – the equivalent of 38 full-time staff positions! Around 100 foster partners helped to connect 700 foster families with 2,130 pets in 2017, which surpassed by 1,000 the number of pets fostered in 2016.

At PACC, support in the form of time, money, pet care products, or new ideas for programming always are welcomed, as are opportunities to educate citizens about their mission and pet care. Currently, the organization is in dire need of families willing to foster animals with medical issues like valley fever. Visit http://webcms.pima.gov/government/pima_animal_care_center/ to find a way to help.

The Humane Event

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), a no-kill shelter, represents the new breed, having saved over one million pets in its 73 years of operation. Donations, grants, and volunteer work have kept the humble organization — unaffiliated with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — that sits on 2.5 donated midtown acres in action. Operating from two renovated houses, mobile trailers, and a Quonset hut enclosing approximately 3,700 square feet, a lean force of employees and a growing number of volunteers have achieved a jaw-dropping number of life-saving feats. In 2017, 5,359 pets were taken into the shelter; 1,302 pets were received from other shelters, 4,040 pets were adopted out and a 95-percent live release rate was achieved. But HSSA’s mission extends far beyond just sheltering and matching or reuniting pets with people. Within the walls of one of those renovated homes works a seemingly tireless crew of veterinary specialists who performed 4,051 surgeries on shelter guests and 3,150 on public pets. Records show 15,264 shelter pets and 9,844 public pets were vaccinated and 27,296 shelter pets and 3,720 public pets received treatment for sickness or injuries.

HSSA recently opened a new five-acre, 3,700-square-foot facility at 635 W. Roger Road. At the ground-breaking, Chief Development Officer Diana Cannon stated, “Our current campus is over 72 years old, and we are in serious need of a new home. We don’t receive any government funding or assistance from national organizations. We are completely locally funded by our community, and they have been extremely generous in helping us raise the funds for this new campus. This new home is going to mean so much to the people and pets we serve.”
The property was purchased in 2010 and a $10 million capital campaign was launched. For nearly a year before shovels breached the grounds, HSSA staff also were deeply entrenched in the process of designing their future facility. They worked side by side with The Architecture Company — a local, award-winning women-owned business — to create a place that could facilitate best practice cleaning, ventilation, disease control and public service.

The original facility allowed for a 500 animal (cats, dogs, chickens and pocket pets) maximum capacity, and the new facility will hold up to 700 animals safely and comfortably. “Capacity isn’t necessarily the name of the game, quality of life is,” states Vanessa Ford, HSSA Director of Marketing and Communications. The new digs has jumbo dog runs; five large off-leash play yards complete with agility equipment akin to canine jungle gyms; a designated dog walking path; and indoor/outdoor screened group cat habitats. There also are smaller cat apartments for those who don’t play well with others. Clinic Director Pat Brayer traded her windowed office for a windowless room so the new Kitten Kindergarten area could offer natural sunlight to feral kittens undergoing socialization with humans. Kittens aren’t the only pint-sized beneficiaries of dedicated space. A dedicated puppy room/maternity ward allows mama dogs and puppies to be together, away from the general population to encourage development and manage stress.

The new clinical facilities are vastly upgraded, too. Grant and donor funds have supported the purchase of new testing equipment so blood draws and analysis may be performed on-site. In the old clinic, surgery and recovery took place in the same room. Now HSSA has a surgical suite with a surgery theater and dedicated recovery rooms.

With the goal of getting and keeping pets healthy within the facility, color-coded lines will be painted on the floors indicating pathways for animals with certain conditions to follow for treatment and housing. “We really engineered the building so that sick pets will never cross the path of a healthy animal,” explains Ford. Built-in systems such as these, in addition to the state-of-the-art air exchange system, will vastly improve and maintain the health of the animals in the shelter so they may be adopted.

With all of these amazing upgrades and facilities in place, Ford maintains that what many in the organization are most proud of is the programming they offer to support a tandem goal of educating and involving the community in their mission. “We go out to 300 classrooms a year, completely free of charge. Docents and volunteers teach kids proper animal handling, how to interpret animal body language, avoid dog bites, and how to understand desert creatures.” Human volunteers are often accompanied by Valentino the three-legged dog, or Sir Galahad and Monty (both pythons). HSSA offers high school internships, summer camps (which fill up every year) the Hand in Paw education series, and a free speakers bureau on pet first aid and venomous creature avoidance. There also is a pilot program at the juvenile detention center in which animal behaviorists work with kids to increase animal compassion.

Many of the cadre of 1200 volunteers take animals out into the community — in addition to working the adoptions floor, the thrift store, or the two PAWSH adoption locations. The Pet VIP program arranges for certified handlers to go to elder care facilities and hospitals to provide companionship and comfort. Companies also have the opportunity to welcome handlers and pets on-site for a little stress relief and education session like TEP’s Snuggle Fest. The new facility will allow for larger groups to come in for off-site events as well.

The biggest change that staff are seeing as a result of these programs is the improved medical state of the animals that come through their doors. Typically they are spayed/neutered and vaccinated, but they are exhibiting conditions requiring attention that is above and beyond basic care, like dental issues and diabetes. In response, HSSA is developing more wellness programs to educate and help owners keep their pets well at home.

HSSA volunteers contributed more than 140,000 hours of time last year and more than 800 individuals and families opened their homes to foster pets. More volunteers and fosters are always welcome. If someone wants to help but is short on time, they should consider a tax-deductible donation; 78 cents of every dollar goes directly to animal care, including housing, microchipping and vaccinations. There are myriad ways to help this amazing organization assist our community’s pets and pet owners. To learn more, visit www.HSSAZ.org. tl