Pinal County’s Animal Care and Control officers picked up 7,700 stray cats and dogs last year.
Of that number, 5,500 were euthanized, and this year isn’t looking any better, said Pinal County Animal Care and Control Director Ruth Stalter.
“Those aren’t just unwanted or aggressive animals — a lot of those are good animals we just don’t have homes for,” she said. “This just puts us in a position to make a decision we don’t want to have to make.”
But much of the euthanizing could be avoided if people spayed or neutered their pets, she said.
“We’re turning into an urban community throughout the county, where it was just rural before,” Stalter said. “We have people moving into areas where, if they don’t want a pet, they’ll dump litters of puppies and kittens on a farm. They assume because it’s a farm the animals will be taken care of, but they’re not.”
Because of the large number of unwanted animals, Pinal County officials are pleading with residents to spay and neuter their pets and trying to educate them about the effects of not doing so.
According to “Puppy Math” on the department’s Web site, one male dog can sire 750 offspring in a lifetime. “It’s an epidemic,” Pinal County spokeswoman Heather Murphy said.
Pinal County has two programs aimed at reducing the number of unwanted animals through spay and neuter programs. There are mobile clinics announced during certain times of the year.
There is also a voucher program offering discounted spay or neuter surgery. The vouchers are for $75 for a female dog, $50 for a male dog and female cat, and $30 for male cat.
“It may not cover the entire surgery but every little bit helps,” Stalter said.
The programs are funded through Arizona’s special Pet Friendly license plates with a $9,500 grant, along with other small donations and grants.
Donations to both programs are vitally needed, Stalter said, noting that the voucher program had to be ended Sept. 15 because of a lack of funding. She said the county will apply for the grant again.
Stalter said last week that the county’s 85-pen shelter in Casa Grande was so full they had to double-up 75 percent of their dog pens. The cages for cats were completely full.
Stalter said they also have stray drop-off pens that regularly see upwards of 30 animals after a weekend.
“They are always, always full, even during the week,” she said. “We want people to understand that owning a pet is a lifelong commitment. You shouldn’t get rid of them because they chew on something or don’t match the couch. As an owner, they need to be responsible — get them altered and vaccinated and keep them for life.”
Pinal County Animal Control, 764 S. Eleven Mile Corner Road in Casa Grande, is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Adoption hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon.
The San Manuel shelter, 27390 S. Veterans Memorial Blvd., is open by appointment only. For information about Animal Care and Control visit http://co.pinal.az.us/AnimalControl/