Pictured: Staff member Sheridan with a shelter dog.
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MCACC announces plans to expand west animal shelter and close east shelter


Elizabeth Medora

PHOENIX – Maricopa County Animal Care & Control has announced plans to consolidate animal shelter services into one central location; architectural plans may be released by fall 2018.

Currently, the county operates two shelters: the west shelter, located at 27th Ave. and Durango, and the east shelter, located at Loop 101 and Rio Salado. In a Dec. 19 news release, the county shared plans to consolidate all animal shelter services into the renovated and expanded west shelter and close the east shelter.

“Centralizing our services to one high-functioning center that meets the standards of care expected today would be a good step for all of Maricopa County’s homeless animals and the people who care about them,” said Animal Care and Control Director Mary Martin in the Dec. 19 news release. “This move would allow us to reallocate staff to services that reunite people with their pets and prevent the break-up of families in the first place.”

Providing enough space for the number of animals the county takes in is paramount, and the goal in this plan is to expand the west shelter to ensure adequate space for all the pets in need.

In a follow-up email to The Foothills Focus, Maricopa County Communications Director Fields Moseley noted that they don’t know the exact capacity that will be in the final design, but that the county is committed to providing enough space for current and future shelter needs.

“There is no room for expansion at the shelter in Mesa and the building doesn’t function well,” Deputy County Manager Reid Spaulding said in the Dec. 19 release. “The mission is to find permanent homes for more animals.  That takes a facility with the capacity and layout to meet the demands we are seeing today and expect in the future.”

Moseley noted that there is no decision on when construction would begin.

“Design for a facility of this type can take about a year so the Board of Supervisors could potentially have plans by fall 2018,” Moseley said.

According to a Maricopa.gov open letter from Director Martin, MCACC has grappled with what to do about its presence in the East Valley for many years. Martin noted that the east shelter has remained “virtually unchanged since the ‘80s”. Martin added that the standard of care for the animals would not meet today’s standards.

“Because of help from animal advocates in the form of transfer partners, volunteers, staff and adopters, the shelter now has an excellent success rate. However, there is an enormous and rarely discussed cost to these caring people and the animals,” Martin said in the letter. “There is still no ideal housing for cats. The housing for dogs and lack of a proper exercise yard creates stressful conditions leading to illness and behavior problems.”

Due to these and other space issues, the county shelter is seeking options to improve homeless pets’ time at county shelters and improve the customer service experience for county pet owners.

“We took all of this into consideration, looking at available resources, trends in animal welfare and the experiences of our colleagues around the country,” Martin said. “Our conclusion is that centralizing our services in one high-functioning center will be a good step for all of Maricopa County’s homeless animals and the people who care about them.”

According to the Dec. 19 release, the Board of Supervisors recently approved $1.8 million to design a central shelter using the latest science about animal behavior and workflow in this type of facility.

“Animal intake in Maricopa County has declined 13% every year for the last five years, creating the possibility for a different approach to animal welfare that emphasizes service and prevention, not just sheltering,” Martin said in the news release.

Expansion of the playgroup program is a priority in the design plans. In early 2017, MCACC implemented Dogs Playing for Life, an enrichment program that lets dogs socialize in playgroups, allowing staff to assess the dogs’ sociability with each other and learn more about the dogs’ personalities. The playgroup program has helped relieve kennel stress and has encouraged more adoptions, sometimes right out of the playgroup yard.

Moseley emphasized that increased space for Dogs Playing for Life and general activity for dogs is a big part of the design work.

“While the current Durango shelter has a nice play area, the designers and county leadership envision something much larger,” Moseley described.

Per the news release, the county hasn’t yet decided what will be done with the east shelter building once the plans are complete. Deputy County Manager said in the news release that they are hopeful that “perhaps an organization engaged in animal welfare will express interest in the building.”

According to Director Martin’s letter, examples of what the county plans to offer in the expanded shelter include:

  • An in-house Lost and Found.
  • Affordable veterinary services.
  • Increased hours of operation.
  • An increased presence in the community in areas where intake is high and resources low.
  • A more efficient and pleasant experience for all our customers.
  • A robust foster program.
  • A revamped off-site adoption program.


See more information on the county shelter plans at maricopa.gov/ShelterPlans.