The Marana Town Council voted 5-2 last week to create a Marana animal-control department and sever ties with Pima County’s Pima Animal Care Center.
Council Members Roxanne Ziegler and Herb Kai voted against the plan.
Supporters of the change said rising costs and a lack of customer service for Marana residents led to the move. Over the past decade the town has seen costs from the country rise from $10,000 to over $230,000 annually as the county facility has moved toward finding homes from the animals in its care rather than euthanizing them.
Marana town staffers as well as council members said that they field numerous calls from Marana residents who cannot get Pima County Animal Control Officers to respond to calls in the town. In response, the town will hire two full-time animal control officers, build a temporary kenneling facility and contract with the Humane Society of Southern Arizona to provide sheltering services.
“Our top priority is to be responsive to resident requests,” said Marana Town Manager Gilbert Davidson. “By managing our own animal control officers, the town will be able to tailor animal care to the needs of our community. We will be able to respond promptly to all calls and meet the high expectations our residents have for their government.”
Marana began exploring the option over the past year. That process included visiting other jurisdictions in the state who handle animal control needs in a variety of ways. Town officials pointed to Avondale and Casa Grande as examples of similarly sized towns who handle animal control services. Avondale provides animal control services themselves and has their sheltering and licensing services through Maricopa County. Maricopa County has this agreement with most municiplalites in the county. They provide free sheltering and in turn keep all proceeds from licensing.
Pima County charges for animal control services, but gives the bulk of the licensing fees to the individual cities.
Casa Grande, which has a similar size and population as Marana, handles all their own animal control needs including enforcement, sheltering and licensing.
Lisa Shafer, Marana’s director of community development and neighborhood services, will oversee the implementation and operation of this new program.
Opponents to this plan complained that the Humane Society does not provide many of the same services that PACC does, including off-hour admissions and emergency veterinary services. Although officials are still working out the details, the town plans to partner with local veterinarians to provide emergency care for animals picked up by town animal control officers.
“One thing we want to emphasize is that from the public perspective, the list of services which residents currently enjoy will not change,” Shafer said. “They will still be able to adopt pets, drop off strays, license their dogs, and so forth. The only difference is that now the town will be able to enhance those offerings for everyone involved.”
Town officials have said that the Marana Police Department will assist the local animal control officers. Ziegler said at the council meeting that she was worried that the additional work would add to a greater burden to Marana’s police officers.
Davidson believes the move will actually mean police will need to respond to fewer animal control calls, since they currently respond when Pima County animal control officers do not.
The calls to which Marana Animal Control Officers will respond to include barking dogs, loose dogs, dog bites, animals left in a car, animal welfare checks and the removal of dead animals in the road.
Under the plan, Marana would replace PACC with the Humane Society. The organization was the only facility to respond to a request for proposal from the town and that they would offer nearly all of the same services that PACC was providing, including the acceptance of strays from town enforcement officers and town residents, acceptance of owner released pets, animal adoptions, public education and spay/neuter and vaccination clinics. The Humane Society normally charges for animal drop-offs, but those fees would be waived for Marana residents.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity which this program affords,” Shafer said. “We feel very strongly that every animal in Marana deserves to be treated with care and compassion. This new program will help us achieve that vision.”
The town estimates cost at approximately $156,000 in start-up, including the acquisition of vehicles, equipment and licensing software. The cost of providing the service is estimated at $212,000 each fiscal year. That compares to county charges to the town of roughly $230,000 for fiscal year 2017. The county was estimating a cost of $215,000 for the fiscal year 2018.
Marana is anticipating bringing in at least $75,000 in licensing fees and hope that they can grow that amount since it will be done “in-house.”
Marana Animal Control will begin servicing the town on July 1, 2017.