It's a "ruff" time to be a dog or cat in the Old Pueblo.
At least that's what Citizens for a No-Kill Tucson, a group of "concerned citizens," has to say.
The group got started shortly after Nathan J. Winograd, the author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, paid a visit to town in May 2008.
"He has a 10-step outline of how things should go if you're going to try to make a city a no-kill city," explains Mel Mason, who is involved with the organization (and who, it should be noted, is a Tucson Weekly contributor). "This group stemmed from that. We wanted to take some action here in Tucson, because this particular author has changed things in unimaginable ways."
Mason says Winograd's book has led to significant improvements for animals in cities like San Francisco and New York.
"There are other places that have followed his model and have received great results from it—bringing their kill levels at shelters down into the single digits instead of upwards of 40 to 60 percent," she says.
For Tucson, adopting Winograd's model could mean saving the lives of more companion animals, she explains.
"We feel like there is a whole lot more that can be done, and as long as the people at the top of the chain care about what they're doing, creative solutions can be found, and more animals can be saved," Mason says.
While some animal-rights groups in town support Winograd's 10-step program, many key organizations do not.
"There are a lot of people out there who are not on board with this, and that includes the Pima Animal Care Center and the Humane Society (of Southern Arizona)—they're not on board with this model at all," Mason says. "That's what we're trying to change: We want to make taxpayers aware of how their money is being spent, or misused."
Mason says tax money is being misused at what she calls "traditional kill shelters," because shelter managers don't find alternatives to euthanizing animals. For example, they could treat ill animals with antibiotics rather than killing them.
"There are animals who are obviously suffering from terminal illness, and have catastrophic injuries—and then euthanasia is, of course, expected," she says. "But ... you don't kill a dog just because it is sneezing; that's just killing, and that's what they do at Pima Animal Control."
According to statistics posted on Citizens for a No-Kill Tucson's Web site, 61.65 percent of animals that went into the Pima Animal Care Center didn't make it out during the 2007-2008 fiscal year.
Mason says these numbers mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 died.
Educating the public and raising awareness are the first steps toward changing these numbers, Mason says; next comes passing legislation for more animal rights and protection.
"(But) that's a sticky issue, too, because people think 'animal rights,' and they think, 'Oh it's a bunch of crazy people,' so there's this stigma attached to that," she says. "But ... PACC is a government-run agency, so there has to be transparency with the public at some degree."
Transparency, she says, means more accountability—like telling the public where the money is going, how it is being spent and what the real situation with the animals is.
It also means accepting responsibility, instead of placing blame on pet owners for, say, not vaccinating their pets or not renewing tags, Mason claims.
"The excuses—I mean, they're running out of excuses. It's just not compassionate," she says.
To help raise awareness and gain community support, Citizens for a No-Kill Tucson, along with KXCI FM 91.3 community radio, the HOPE Animal Shelter, the Center for Animal Rescue and Adoption, and Spay and Neuter Solutions, will be hosting a free concert.
The event, No More Homeless Animals Day 2009, will feature performances from eight musical acts, including Seashell Radio, Tom Walbank, and the El Camino Royales.
Mason, who is also a DJ at KXCI and organized last year's event, explains that a concert to raise awareness seemed like a no-brainer.
"If we could just get traffic to the Web site, and people fostering and adopting more animals, that would be fantastic," she says.