Tent city proposed to ease dog overcrowding

2013-11-02T00:00:00Z 2013-11-02T00:15:46Z Tent city proposed to ease dog overcrowdingBy Joe Ferguson Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

A tent city, built with taxpayer money, will go to the dogs next year.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry is asking the Board of Supervisors to sign off on more than $400,000 to build a temporary structure to ease chronic overcrowding at the Pima Animal Care Center.

The funding, if approved by the board next week, will allow the center to hire more workers and to put up a semi-permanent 120-by-60-foot tent next to the current facility off North Silverbell Road.

Plans also call for a concrete floor, as well as heating and cooling of the temporary shelter.

The general manager, Kim James, said overcrowding over the last few months is the price the county is paying for euthanizing fewer animals.

In the summer of 2011, 49 percent of the  animals in the center  found new homes . Two years later, the figure is up to 72 percent.

The massive tent, which would hold 100 new modular kennels, is only a temporary measure as county officials look at building  a new state-of-the-art facility next door to the current facility, built in 1968.

The $22 million proposal hinges on the postponed county bond package, which would delay building of the facility until at least 2017.

James said that, with the bond election pushed back for another year, the county had to find an interim solution.

Overcrowding, he said, meant more and more dogs were fighting with their kennel mates.

The center receives roughly 60 dogs a day, while only 20 are adopted on most days.

The center’s finite resources also mean it has not been able to treat all the animals that come into the county-run facility, leading to some animals with serious medical issues being euthanized.

James said the Pima Animal Care Center has changed its mission over the nearly 45 years since the facility was built, moving away from the public-safety aspect of keeping rabid dogs off the street to something much more humane.

More staffers, he hopes, will allow the center to reach out more into the community and will lead to more adoptions, allowing sick dogs to recover from their injuries.

Jack Neuman, a volunteer at the Pima Animal Care Center, assists in organizing a small army of volunteers who help run day-to-day operations at the facility.

He said the overcrowding problem has gotten worse; it is a sign the county is being proactive in helping stray animals find new homes.

The massive tent city for dogs is not a perfect solution, he concedes, but he believes it will help more animals find loving homes.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@azstarnet.com or 573-4346. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFerguson.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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