As the economy struggles, volunteers of nonprofit pet rescue groups throughout the Valley are seeing record numbers of abandoned pets.
As people continue to lose their homes through foreclosure and eviction, sometimes leaving their pets behind, workers and volunteers of nonprofit pet rescue groups throughout the Valley are seeing record numbers of abandoned pets.
And as they grapple for space to keep the animals in foster homes or shelters, they also have seen a decline in donations.
The Valley-based Lost Our Home Pet Foundation, a no-kill pet rescue group that serves real estate professionals who discover pets abandoned in backyards without food or water, saw calls double from 15 to 30 a day during the summer, according to Jodi Polanski of Mesa, president of the group.
From 2007 to 2008, the Arizona Humane Society experienced a 100 percent increase in animal abandonment calls for cats, dogs and other pets and responded to about 16,000 calls last year, according to Kimberly Searles, humane society spokeswoman. This year, the calls are on track to match last year's, Searles said.
Many of those groups, such as Gilbert-based Friends for Life Animal Sanctuary and Phoenix-based Paws and Claws Animal Rescue, report they also have seen cash and pet-food contributions slow, attributing the downturn to a bad economy and people relocating for jobs.
Not only have the pet rescue groups seen a decline in donations, but fall brings a slowdown in pet adoptions, according to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control. The county’s animal care and control facility can have up to 200 animals come through its doors in a day, and last year, more than 57,000 animals were brought there, according to Aprille Hollis, spokeswoman for Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.
A number of fundraisers have been scheduled by pet rescue groups in the coming weeks - where one can sip on a "Muttini," listen to live music at "Pet-a-Palooza" or take a stadium stroll with your pet.
"Everybody has been holding back," said Polanski, a mortgage lender whose pet rescue group consists of 25 volunteers, many of whom foster several pets because the nonprofit group does not have a shelter. "There's been a big difference from last year to this year in the way of donations, and the economy has been playing a role in that. Less resources have been coming in as companies from around the Valley have cut back."
This year, Lost Our Home Pet Foundation has set a goal of raising $20,000 at its second annual Pasta, Poker and Pets party fundraiser from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 10 at the DC Ranch Community Center in Scottsdale. If the rescue group reaches its goal, it would double the amount of funds raised last year, Polanski said.
Donations made to the nonprofit organizations are tax deductible.
Polanski said Lost Our Home is spending as much as $5,000 to $6,000 a month on animal health care.
"The one thing that is apparent is that our vet care costs have steadily gone up every month and the pets coming into us are sicker and need more medical attention," she said. "These pets often have gone without food or water for long periods of time and sometimes are emaciated and it takes some time before they are nursed back to health."
Currently, Lost Our Home has 136 pets in its care and 101 of them are available for adoption. The other 35 pets are in a temporary foster program and are slated to go back to their owner, Polanski said.
But the passion and dedication remain for members of pet rescue groups to move forward with their missions of saving pets and finding loving homes for them.
"As painful as this mission is, it's a calling, it's a passion," said Nancy Hobbs-Donovan, who is one of five board members of the Paws and Claws Animal Rescue in Phoenix, founded in 2005 and that now consists of 24 volunteers. "Our mission and desire is to take animals out of bad situations."
To accomplish that mission, Paws and Claws conducts a background check on applicants for the pets and does a home visit before the pet is given to a new owner.
The Arizona Humane Society, which has about 300 pets available for adoption, does not receive any government funding and is struggling to keep up with the $300 cost of an average 10-day stay for an animal at its two shelters before they are adopted, Searles said. No pets have been euthanized at the humane society for space reasons since it added its second shelter at 1521 W. Dobbins Road in Phoenix in 2002, according to Searles.
"We've definitely seen a drop in donations, and we rely on those," Searles said. "Obviously, those factors are attributed to the economy because everybody is wanting to hang on to the money they have. People lose their homes to foreclosure, leave their pets behind and downsize to smaller apartments where sometimes larger dogs may not be accepted."
Friends for Life Animal Sanctuary, a 16-year-old pet rescue group with about 150 volunteers at 143 W. Vaughn Ave., west of Gilbert Road, spends about $15,000 a month, but has received about $70,000 less than it received last year. Despite this, the volume of strays has gone up, said Barb Savoy, a spokeswoman for the group, who has three dogs and one cat of her own.
Currently, Friends for Life has about 130 animals in its care, many now staying in a network of foster homes.
Friends for Life has had to cut back some of its expenses, such as training and deciding what kind of health care they can spend on an animal, Savoy said.
"The number of strays is discouraging," she said. "Animals are getting loose or turned loose. It's a sad reality what a domesticated animal faces on the street. They can be targeted by another animal, they can easily get hit by a car or face starvation. They're used to getting fed and being in a home."
PET RESCUE GROUP FUNDRAISERS/EVENTS:
Friends for Life Animal Sanctuary
What: BARKtoberfest (A party in the park for pooches and their families)
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 10
Where: Gilbert Towne Center, 50 E. Civic Center Drive, Gilbert
Cost: Free; however, some activities may require a donation to participate.
For more information visit www.azfriends.org or call (480) 497-8296.
Lost Our Home Pet Foundation
What: Second Annual Pasta, Poker and Pets Party
When: 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 10
Where: DC Ranch Community Center, 18600 N. 98th St., Scottsdale
Cost: $40 per person, $75 per couple
For more information, visit www.lostourhome.org or call (623) 215-8657.
Paws and Claws Animal Rescue
What: Bark Avenue, a Phoenix Animal Care Coalition-sponsored event
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 11
Where: 3109 E. McKellips Road, Mesa
Cost: Free to the public where many pet rescue groups from throughout the Valley offer hundreds of pets for adoption.
For more information, visit www.pacc911.org or call (623) 330-6254.
Arizona Humane Society
What: Pet-a-Palooza and Stadium Stroll
When: Nov. 7
Where: Peoria Sports Complex, 16101 N. 83rd Avenue, Peoria
Cost: Registration for stadium stroll is $25 per walker, and tickets to Pet-a-Palooza are $10.
For more information, visit www.stadiumstroll.azhumane.org or call (602) 997-7586, ext. 1303, by Oct. 30.
For donations, the Arizona Humane Society has a wish list on its Web site, azhumane.org.
Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
What: Walk to Save Animals
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nov. 14
Where: Tempe Beach Park at Tempe Town Lake, 80 W. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe
Cost: Suggested minimum donation - $25.
For more information or to register, visit www.aawl.org or call (480) 423-1511.