Maricopa County animal shelter dealing with surge of strays, lost pets

The agency took in over 100 dogs just over the weekend, and only 12 of them have been reunited with their owners.
Published: Nov. 15, 2023 at 2:50 PM MST|Updated: Nov. 15, 2023 at 3:50 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Maricopa County’s animal shelters are struggling to keep up with strays and lost animals. The agency took in over 100 dogs just over the weekend, and only 12 of them have been reunited with their owners. The shelters are full, and a spokesperson says they are desperately trying to get these animals into loving homes.

In October of this year, more than 1,300 dogs came into the shelter, but only 139 were returned to their owners. The agency’s ideal capacity is about 640 dogs. “We need dogs adopted now. We need dogs to find forever homes,” Kim Powell, the communications supervisor with the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, said. “We have more than 800 dogs, and we’ve been over 900 dogs for all of October. We are struggling still.”

A big problem contributing to this is the number of stray or lost dogs coming into the shelter. “On average, we get at least 45 dogs in a day that are lost or stray,” Powell said. A majority of the dogs coming in don’t have a microchip or collar, “so it makes it nearly impossible for us to help find their owner,” she said.

The shelter is now taking to social media, posting pictures of lost pups along with the location near where they were found. “We’ve had a handful of people actually message us saying, ‘Hey, this is my dog,’ which is great and makes us feel good if we can make that connection,” Powell said.

So far this year, more than 11,000 strays or lost dogs have come in. Only 14% were returned to their owners. Last year, there were more than 13,000 stray or lost dogs. Only 18% were returned. “There is a clearly a problem with stray dogs in Maricopa county,” Powell said.

In an effort to lower these numbers, the agency is offering free microchips through the end of the year at both of their shelter locations. Powell is hopeful this will help with capacity but also keep dogs safe. “That’s the easiest way to make sure your dogs come home,” she said.

If a stray or lost dog goes into a shelter without a microchip, they are held for 72 hours, so the owner has those three days to come and find their dogs.

The most important thing a dog owner can do if their pet is missing is go to the west shelter. They can walk through the kennels and search but also talk with their lost and found division so they have all of the information needed if or when their dog shows up.

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