Guest Commentary

One interesting day at the Humane Society...

On behalf of all little critters in this town, allow me to tell you about quite an unfortunate turn of events regarding the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

I have always been a responsible pet owner, and I spay and neuter my animals. I would also do most anything to help poor, innocent stray animals.

One recent day, a stray puppy--which appeared to be a shepherd mix, no more than six weeks old--wandered into my yard from the nearby desert. I have cats and am not able to have a dog. I live on the southside of town, and not a day goes by when I do not see stray dogs running up and down the streets of Drexel and Valencia roads. Feeling for this defenseless puppy, my partner and I decided it best to take her to the Humane Society. I didn't feel right about leaving her in the wilderness.

We then embarked on a 45-minute drive to the Humane Society. After driving in the heat, with a migraine brewing and a scared puppy clawing, I was relieved when we finally arrived. I rushed the puppy inside, looking for the saviors who would offer this young thing a chance at life.

The fairy tale ends there. The desk wench who greeted us informed us that there would be a $25 drop-off fee. Confused, my partner and I looked at each other and wondered what we were to do. "Why do we have to pay? This is not our dog, and we don't have $25. We were trying to do the right thing."

The desk wench then informed us, in a not-so-friendly way, that we could take the puppy elsewhere. After wasting the 45-minute drive and the gas there, going elsewhere was simply not an option.

We became quite livid. I asked the wench: "What if I were to just leave the dog outside?" She informed me that it would be considered "animal abandonment," which is against the law. We replied: "But it's not our dog!" Finally, a woman who was in the room with us took pity and said that she would pay the fee.

Perhaps experiences like this explain why there are so many stray animals on the southside of town--no one can afford to pay the fee.

All this time, I was under the impression that the Humane Society cared about animals. Since obviously their "fee" is not common knowledge, let's help them get the word out. Picture an ad in the Weekly, with lots of adorable little critters and the Humane Society logo with the big red caption: "We Care About Animals--If You Have Money!"

Susan Wilson, president/CEO of the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), responds:

The Humane Society of Southern Arizona is a nonprofit organization that has existed in this community since 1944, supported by individual donations, bequests and active grant-seeking. The society fulfills its mission without county or state government funds, or support from any national organization.

HSSA is not to be confused with Pima Animal Care Center (PACC), which is fully supported by taxpayer dollars to care for stray and unwanted pets. As a government agency, its budget and policies are set by the community.

In 2003, HSSA faced some difficult decisions. After receiving more than 20,000 animals in one year, more than its resources or aging facility could reasonably support, the board acted. The choices were: Refuse to take any strays (like Arizona Humane in Phoenix); limit intake to a set number per day; or implement a fee system. (It is impossible to manage a fee program only for non-strays; proof of ownership is impossible to prove.)

Animals arriving at HSSA now have more options. Resources exist for treatment and rehabilitation, making more pets adoptable; animals are now managed instead of merely processed. The public also has options. People can either take stray and unwanted animals to taxpayer-supported PACC, or bring animals to HSSA and contribute to their care. If necessary, the fee can be waived for those who demonstrate financial need (donated funds subsidize this).

Simply stated, HSSA could not longer continue to give services away for free and keep its doors open. Since its decision, 17,982 animals have found loving, permanent homes.

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