When out-of-work bartender Carole Kanoff came to Pima Animal Care Center with $40 in her pocket, she was hoping she could get a shot for Koheed, her shar pei-husky mix. Not only did PACC give Koheed his shots, they also clipped his nails, offered pounds of dog food and helped get his ear treated from an infection—all for free.
“That was something I wouldn’t have been able to afford right then,” Kanoff said. “I was very happy. I couldn’t believe they did all that for me. At most I would have been able to get him a shot, because he needed to have his shot. But I wouldn’t have helped his ear and his pain.”
Koheed was one of many pets helped by a new PACC pilot program to help keep more animals in homes and out of kennels.
PACC is one of 12 organizations in the nation embarking on a pilot program called Human Animal Support Services, led by American Pets Alive! and funded by numerous animal welfare organizations. HASS offers resources including veterinary telehealth and text support, pet food, stray and lost pet rescue teams and other welfare services. The goal is to encourage the adoption or foster of more furry friends and decrease the intake in shelters.
Kristen Hassen, PACC’s Director of Animal Services and an executive committee member for HASS, says the program was created from discussions between leaders in animal shelters nationwide.
“Right after COVID hit, we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Hassen said. “Because of that, HASS was born. We realized that there were many changes we need to make in animal services… We should be helping more animals stay with their owners and in foster rather than take them in the shelter. Regardless of COVID, it’s a more humane way to operate for both people and animals.”
According to Hassen, the HASS program has been a helping hand for pet owners and the shelter.
“For the first time ever, we’re able to provide boarding for pets owned by people sick with COVID. We’re able to provide boarding for people who have lost their homes and are looking to find pet-accessible housing and crisis boarding,” Hassen said. “We’ve never had kennel space to do that.”
Hassen said PACC has managed to keep 70 to 80 percent of their animals in foster homes throughout COVID. The county-run facility is also stocking food, collars, dog booties (for the Arizona heat) and other supplies for owners in need.
Maddie’s Fund Pilot Implementation Director Bobby Mann, who oversees the HASS operation, says the organization hopes to learn what works and what doesn’t though the pilot program.
“This is absolutely a learning experience for us as well,” Mann said. “These are not new ideas created by us, this is something people wanted to do for a long time and we’re just helping people get a platform to try it out.”
Hassen said it could not have been made possible without the top-to-bottom support from the board of supervisors to city partners and the local volunteers.
“This motto of ‘it takes a village’ has carried us thus far...Everyone in this community wants to help pets and people, and it makes Pima County pretty remarkable,” Hassen said. “We’re just committed to working together and this is one of the most pet-loving places in the country.”
After getting help for Koheed, Kanoff said she was so happy with PACC that she’s thinking of volunteering in the future.
“I think it’s amazing, because so many people give up their pets because they can’t afford it if something medical comes up,” she said. “It certainly helped Koheed and I out. I’m not sure what I would’ve done without it. Kills a pup parent to see the dog in pain. I think it will help a lot of people keep and care for their pets that otherwise might give them up.”
For more information on HASS, visit humananimalsupportservices.org
For Pima Animal Care Center page, visit webcms.pima.gov/government/pima_animal_care_center/
Mekayla Phan is a Tucson Local Media intern.