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New Maricopa County shelter expects terrified dogs | News

An animal shelter in Mesa, Maricopa County, is already full and is expected to get even more overcrowded this week as dogs are frightened by fireworks and run away from their homes, a sad annual occurrence.

But now that the county has replaced the aging site in Rio Salado at Loops 101 and 202 with a brand new facility, the annual ritual will take place in a much improved environment for both dogs and humans.

There, the dogs no longer stare at each other through a fence across a passageway, but are instead placed at an angle behind glass doors for quieter, more hygienic conditions.

Located at 1920 S. Lewis, just northwest of the intersection of Mesa Drive and Baseline Road, the 84,000-square-foot facility now boasts 21 play areas, up from just two at the previous site, and the layout of its 346 kennels is designed to significantly reduce stress for residents.

“Especially when people come here who were at the old East (shelters) they're amazed at the difference, especially with the dogs. They used to all look at each other and bark and growl and provoke each other,” said Kim Powell, spokeswoman for Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.

“And now the dogs are angled so they don't bother each other, which means stress levels are lower and it's very quiet in the kennels.”

The exception to this is when a dog explodes with excitement when a human passes by.

The $43 million shelter, which also includes a surgery center for spay/neuter and other procedures, is four times the size of the old shelter, which was no longer in use.

There is also a quarantine area for sick dogs, an option not available at the Rio Salado shelter.

Despite the new county shelter in Mesa, the “guests” are still hoping for a permanent home.

“There was a huge risk of disease,” said Powell, whose sanctuary has been closed twice in recent years due to distemper outbreaks.

A standard kennel is 4 feet wide, nearly twice the width of the kennels at the previous shelter.

Several “showcase” spaces in the lobby are even larger, allowing better visibility of dogs who have been at the shelter for a long time or who want to escape the noise. The dogs are separated into large dog and (much smaller) small dog areas.

Maricopa County Supervisor Tom Galvin, whose county includes the new shelter's location, said the new shelter has received rave reviews from major donors, including Kathy Bissell, founder of the Bissell Pet Foundation, which has helped with thousands of adoptions across the country.

“She attended the grand opening and said the old facility was one of the worst she'd ever seen, but this is the best she's ever seen,” Galvin said. The shelter officially opened on May 2 and began accepting animals on June 10.

He said building shelters is a top priority for county leaders, and they plan to replace the shelter on the west side in the future.

“I'm sure the people who went to the last shelter looked down on the county and said, 'What are you doing to make sure the animals are treated more humanely?'” Galvin said.

He added: “Everything here is about making sure the animals are OK, and it's the people who look after them, and it's vitally important for staff, volunteers and families who visit that they come to a place where they feel comfortable and welcome.”

Bissell's nonprofit has continued to help the county as overcrowding issues that have plagued animal shelters since the pandemic ended have been transferred to the new shelter.

The county's two shelters exceeded their capacity of 640 dogs combined this month by more than 100. The foundation covered adoption fees for several days in June and has a national “Empty the Shelters” campaign planned for July 8-31 aimed at lowering fees.


The $43 million shelter, which also includes a surgery center for spay/neuter and other procedures, is four times the size of the old shelter, which was no longer in use.

“We don't euthanize due to space, but we recently had to make difficult decisions about whether these dogs were still safe in our shelter. Some of them have a history of biting. Overcrowding would cause stress for the dogs and pose a risk to the safety of our staff,” Powell said.

“And we put out a petition to our partners and luckily they've all found new homes. So they need to find new homes quickly – not because they're bad dogs, but because we need to be safe and they need to be safe.”

Powell said the county shelter has an average rescue rate of 94 percent. Dogs are sometimes euthanized due to illness or “kennel deterioration” if their behavior deteriorates in a stressful kennel environment.

Animals with behavioral or health problems are placed on a priority adoption list for a limited time, after which they may be put down.

This week, county animal control officers and officials from the Mesa and Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Communities will be handing over a number of seized dogs that went missing during the Fourth of July unrest.

All pets are placed in a safe haven for at least 72 hours before being adopted. Pets that are microchipped or otherwise clearly belong to someone else will be placed in safe haven for at least five days.

Owners of lost dogs can search for them at the East Shelter or other county locations in Phoenix, 2500 S. 27th Ave., or call 602-506-7387. They can file a lost pet report and check the lost pet map.

The county does not impound stray or stray cats, and adoptable cats that have come into county care can be viewed at the adoption center at the Petco store, 4535 E. Thomas Road.

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