A Facebook post by local talk show personality Shaun McClusky said Marana was “locked down like Ft Knox” after town staff put padlocks on the gates of fields near schools that were dealing with regular incidents of dogs off leashes and forsaken dog poop.
Marana town staff admitted to utilizing locks, but said that the gates were still open during the day.
The photos in the post are close up enough that it takes the keen eye of an amateur sleuth to determine the gates were indeed open, a discovery confirmed by three Marana staff.
Marana put padlocks on the gates, but kept them open at a number of shared-use fields next to schools to deter dog owners from letting their dogs off their leashes. The fields are maintained by Marana Parks and Recreation, and are enjoyed by both dog walkers and local youth sport teams for practice.
The field in question, Continental Reserve, is technically on a school’s grounds. And lately, not all dog walkers are picking up after their furry friends or keeping them on a leash, both requirements posted on signs at shared-use fields, according to town staff. For a short time, there was a sign at one park saying it was closed during school hours, but the town took it down.
“We’ve had some of the little league teams very upset about having to clean up the fields,” said Marana Communications Specialist Brad Allis.
Parks and Recreation Director Jim Conroy said while it’s not prohibited to walk dogs in any park or field, Parks and Rec would prefer if dogs stayed off the ball fields. Dog feces and football, baseball, rugby (really any sport that involves sliding, rolling or being thrown into the grass) just don’t mix.
Of course, Marana has three popular dog parks, with two more in the works at Tangerine Sky Community Park. Part of what prompted the gates being locked open was residents calling Animal Services to complain about dogs being off their leashes and there was an abundance of feces.
Animal Control officers patrol all the parks, and if they see someone violating the rules, they try to have a discussion “to educate the public,” said Community Development Director Lisa Shafer. Officers will only give a citation if people refuse to comply.
“We’re just saying leash your dog and clean up after your dog,” Shafer said. “Most of the time, we talk to them, and they’re pretty good about it after that.”
It’s been over six months since Marana brought its animal services in house, and the department is serving the community and paying off financially.
Marana opened its Animal Services in July, after leaving a 35 year partnership with Pima Animal Care Center—an endeavor that was embroiled with controversy.
The town council voted 5-2 in March 2017 to spend $159,000 to bring the services in house, including hiring two animal control officers, purchasing necessary equipment, establishing a licensing program and contracting with a new shelter—in two-and-a-half months’ time. Council members Herb Kai and Roxanne Ziegler voted against the change, which Ziegler passionately argued was unfounded and would cost the town money.
But at the six month mark, animal service expenditures were down about 17 percent and revenues were up about 11 percent, compared to 2017, said Shafer, at the Feb. 20 town council.
Less than a decade ago, Marana was paying a yearly $10,000 to PACC for animal services, an amount that rose to $230,000 by 2017, in part due to cutting back on euthanizing animals and developing a new animal-care facility. Marana town council members who voted for the move said it was not only the cost but poor service that prompted the change.
Seven members of the public spoke against the move during the March 2017 council meeting, some of whom Ziegler said she encouraged to come speak.
One main concern they expressed was that without PACC, sick or injured animals wouldn’t get the help they needed in an emergency. At the time, the town didn’t yet have an emergency plan in place. Now they contract emergency services with Twin Peaks Veterinary Center
“A year ago, I think a lot of the animal lovers thought the world was gonna end,” said Vice Mayor Jon Post in response to the six month update. “We all took a giant step forward, a big leap of faith and, man, it has turned out phenomenal.”
The town has two animal control officers who engage with the community and enforce rules. They canvass neighborhoods and parks, talking to people about licensure and vaccinations, especially rabies. If a dog that doesn’t have a rabies shot bites someone, they need to be quarantined at the Humane Society, which is a $350 cost to the owner, according to Shafer.
Marana shelters animals at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. When people see strays and runaway pets, they can call Animal Services, who will either take the animal to the HSSA or return them home.
Animal Services has held two microchipping events, paid for by No Kill Pima County. They’ve also done two low-cost spay and neuter clinics, which included vaccinations, a partnership with Asavet Charities. The town also hosted a vaccination clinic with the HSSA and encouraged adoptions at town events.
Animal Services will have another adoption event at the Marana Founder’s Day event on March 10 and another vaccination clinic is scheduled for April 14, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Marana Municipal Complex Courtyard, which will include free microchipping and is only for dogs.
Rabies vaccinations are free for Marana residents at these low-cost events; Animal Services covers the $6 cost HSSA charges. Anyone living outside of Marana can take advantage of the clinics by paying the $6.
At the clinics that spay and neuter, the cost to Marana residents is $15, and the town pays $60.The town budgeted for these continued clinics in the 2018 budget. People can also donate to the Animal Services division, which helps pay for these community services.
Mayor Ed Honea said he was walking in Ora Mae Harn Park when he passed a spay and neuter clinic the town held a couple weeks ago.
“There were 45 dogs there to be spayed and neutered, and there were so many families, mom and dad and kids,” he said at the council meeting. “For an opportunity to get a spay and neuter for 15 bucks, there were a lot of happy people there. Good work. Dogs weren’t happy, but the people were.”
At the council meeting, Schafer outlined the 2018 Animal Services budget, which includes $229,400 in expenses, $85,000 in licensing revenue and $5,000 in donations. What they budgeted last year came in at a slight surplus.
There are many ways to reach Animal Services, including phone, email and walk in. And if they receive a call after hours, they almost always respond the next day. Although, they often return calls after hours, and even returned one during the town council meeting where they were giving the six month update.
Another good resource is the Animal Services website, which has a resource page that includes local veterinarians, info on vaccination clinics and other community resources. Marana residents can also take advantage of a number of services, including looking up laws pertaining to Animal Control, taking care of licensing needs and filing complaints. Town staff also posts photos of recently found animals with the location where it was found.
“We said we were getting into this business to provide outstanding customer service to our residents,” Schafer said. “And I believe we’ve done just that.”
A few more highlights of six month update from July through December:
Over 2,000 dog licenses have been processed, which Animal Services expects to increase by 10 percent. Animal Services picked up 146 lost and stray animals, of which about 47 percent were immediately returned to their owners, the majority of which were chipped. Animal Services responded to over 500 calls for service, many which required follow up visits, such as dog barking complaints and licensing.
More Info: Call Animal Services at 382-8020, or their police dispatch line at 682-4032, email at Animal Services@MaranaAZ.gov, or check out the website at maranaaz.gov/animalservices. Go in person: 11555 W. Civic Center Drive. There is also a mobile app to access Animal Services, which can be downloaded at App Store and Google Play.