He might be known as America’s toughest sheriff, but Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has a soft spot when it comes to animals.
Arpaio was at Arizona Mills mall in Tempe on Saturday with his Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit to help find homes for abused and neglected animals and to collect donations for displaced animal victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Mall patrons stopped to fawn over the nine formerly abused dogs and cats brought from the Maricopa County Sheriff ’s Animal Safe Hospice.
The cats rubbed against the hands of the people who stopped to pet them through their cages.
The dogs licked the hands and faces of the children who bent down to play with them.
And some of the pets were adopted.
Nick Moszynski adopted a Rottweiler-Labrador mix puppy found wandering in the desert.
"I eventually wanted to adopt a dog, but I wasn’t planning to do it this soon," he said.
But he said he fell in love with the dog the moment he saw him.
In 1999, Arpaio turned the vacant First Avenue Jail in Phoenix into the hospice to provide a safe air-conditioned shelter for abused or neglected animals.
After Hurricane Katrina hit, Arpaio opened the hospice to displaced animals from the tragedy.
"We’ll take in as many as they need us to house," Arpaio said.
The money collected Saturday will contribute to supplies, including pet food and kitty litter.
Arpaio’s shelter, a no-kill facility, uses detention officer staff and female inmates to care for the animals.
Most of the animals brought to the hospice have been rescued by the Animal Cruelty Investigative Unit, which employs six detectives.
"We investigate a dog death like any other murder," Arpaio said. "Anyone who abuses animals goes straight to jail. I don’t give them tickets."
Mike Winks, a lieutenant in the investigative unit, adopted his two horses and one of his four dogs from the hospice.
He said he has seen a lot of abused animals get a second chance.
One case involved a female Chihuahua named Peanut who was leashed to a bumper of a van and dragged by her owner.
The owner surrendered Peanut and the hospice was able to get her adopted.
"This animal had a horrible, traumatic event in its life," Winks said. "And we were able to give it a good home.
Arpaio’s shelter is currently home to 110 dogs, 64 cats, and 32 horses.