AZ Giving and Leading: Fix.Adopt.Save. Campaign

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Nearly 90,000 dogs and cats came into Maricopa County shelters last year, the second highest county intake in the U.S. after Los Angeles County. There is a solution. The Fix.Adopt.Save. initiative is designed to increase spay/neuter surgeries and adoptions. Heather Sheston, project manager for Fix.Adopt.Save., and Melissa Gable, a spokeswoman of Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, will discuss the issue.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona giving and leading looks at a new pet adoption campaign. It's called Fix-Adopt-Save, and it's designed to increase spay and neuter surgeries, along with adoptions. Here to tell us more is Heather Sheston, project manager for Fix-Adopt-Save, and Melissa Gable of the Maricopa County animal care and control. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Heather Sheston & Melissa Gable: Thanks for having us. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Fix-Adopt-Save. Give me a better definition.

Heather Sheston: That is a three-year collaborative initiative in Maricopa County aimed at ending pet homelessness. We have seven of our local animal welfare organizations working together. Through increasing adoptions at our local shelters and rescue groups and increasing our spay-neuter services available throughout Maricopa County.

Ted Simons: How would you do this? I would imagine that's a year-long 24/7 process. What's different about this campaign?

Heather Sheston: The difference for Fix-Adopt-Save campaign is the collaborative initiative. All of these organizations have already been doing a lot of this stuff throughout the county, but now they're working collaboratively to make a bigger impact.

Ted Simons: It sounds like there's a focus on pit bulls, on chihuahuas on cats. Is that true?

Heather Sheston: Yes, those are what we consider our high-risk breeds. So we have a lot of them coming into our shelters and we have very few making it out alive. In fact, last year we had a little over 30,000 cats come into our shelters, and about 40% of them made it out alive.

Ted Simons: Pit bulls, chihuahuas and cats. What's going on here? I understand that next to Los Angeles County we have the most of animals turned in. What's happening out there?

Melissa Gable: We do, and I think part of the issue is here in Arizona is the animals can breed year-round, just because of our climate. And we also find, for instance, with chihuahuas, you go through that Paris Hilton trend where she has a chihuahua, Beverly Hills chihuahua comes out everyonce wants a Chihuahua, then the novelty wears off and those animals are brought to the shelter. They're wandering the streets, they're overbreeding, they're overbred. And those animals are coming to us and let's face it, pit bulls at this particular point in time are harder to adopt than some of the other dogs.

Ted Simons: Indeed. Talk about cultural issues as well, because I understand Hispanic population maybe not as likely, I think they didn't research on this, showing that Hispanic families and those pet owners not as likely to spay and neuter. What's that all about?

Melissa Gable: I think it's just - Like you said, it's a cultural issue. But we found that it's just an educational issue. If we go out to those neighborhoods and we explain this is why you should spay and neuter, and these are the benefits of spay and neuter, they're very open to doing it. They just aren't aware of why they should. So we're making some efforts to go out and educate the community and then to also provide those spay and neuter services at no cost to certain areas of town where we're seeing a lot of pit bulls and chihuahuas.

Ted Simons: How best do you educate folks on this? What do you do?

Heather Sheston: We've been doing a large-scale media campaign. So getting out there to the televisions, to radio, especially the Spanish speaking community, just letting people know that these spay and neuter surgeries are available for free and they're available throughout Maricopa County. It's really easy, and they can do it.

Ted Simons: As far as adoptions are concerned, how best to increase adoptions? Some folks see a dog, they want that kind of dog, they think it's a purebred, they don't realize all the obligations and -- You got so many wonderful animals just waiting to be adopted. How do you get those animals out of there?

Heather Sheston: Absolutely. So more specifically Fix-Adopt-Save campaign focuses on increasing funding for behavioral and medical treatment for dogs. So animals that might have come that wouldn't have otherwise had the funding to take care of them. And then increasing kitten fosters, so kittens that come into the system that need to go immediately to foster homes and thus become available for adoption afterwards. But people really need to know we have all types of breeds and all kinds of animals in the shelter system if they're looking for something particular, we have it. And they're a great value. They come back, they get microchipped and they already have been spayed and neutered.

Ted Simons: And a lot of them already have that foster family, we adopted a couple of cats not too long ago, and the thought whoever took care of these, we got them at three months old, whoever the foster family was, did a wonderful job. I mean, it really does make a difference.

Melissa Gable: It does because they're there and a part of what they're doing is obviously making sure that the kittens are healthy and that they're ready to go up for adoption, but they're also spending a lot of time socializing them. And making them friendly, introducing them to different situations, so that when they bring them back to the shelter, these kittens are used to kids, and other animals, and the foster family can also provide that little extra information about hey, I know that fluffy likes to do this, and doesn't like to do that. Which is helpful for a potential adopter.

Ted Simons: And again, as far as ways to get more of those animals out of there, are we missing something out there? Are -- How does Fix-Adopt-Save change all this? Or is it just basically you do the best you can and maybe work a little harder?

Melissa Gable: Well, I think we're all -- We all do believe that, we need to work a little harder, but we're also focusing on different events and things that we can do. We have an event coming up this weekend, it's the Maddy's pet adoption days. And it's a huge event across the country. Actually 14 different communities. We are one of those participating communities. It's free adoptions, and there's 40 different locations across the valley, again, it's Saturday and Sunday. And it's the Fix-Adopt-Save's partners are participating but we also have groups involved as well. So it's a great opportunity for people that maybe want to adopt, but they haven't really know what they should do, come down, and look and see some of the animals we have available, because it is, it's not just pit bulls and chihuahuas, there's some really cute animals as well.

Ted Simons: You can take a look or a lot of folks, we looked at the website. The Humane Society's website. We took a look, so that's possible as well.

Heather Sheston: Yeah. If you actually go to, we can connect you to any of our participating organizations. And you can go to each of their websites and see what animals they have available.

Ted Simons: So last question here. It seems to be a little bit of a debate on whether or not this neuter, spay, and release, these programs actually work. Is that a good idea, or is that something that you need to kind of be careful about?

Heather Sheston: If you're talking about trapping and return, free roaming cats or outdoor cats, the studies and research has shown it's really the most humane way to take care of the problem. So we do like Melissa already stated, we have wonderful weather year-round, which creates a really long mating season. We're in midst of kitten season right now so we have tons of kittens coming into the shelter that are going to need homes. So when you do the trap neuter return, the cats come into the shelters or spay neuter clinic, they fix them and they go right back to where they were before. Thus preventing them from being able to have any more litters going forward.

Ted Simons: All right. Free pet adoption this weekend, all over the place. So be aware of that. Go to your website,

Heather Sheston: Or you can go to

Ted Simons: Let's hope it's a grand success. Thanks for joining us.

Heather Sheston & Melissa Gable: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thursday on "Arizona Horizon," another update on the special legislative session to address Arizona's child safety services. And political pundits will offer a preview of Arizona's upcoming elections. Thursday on "Arizona Horizon."

Ted Simons: That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Heather Sheston:Project Manager, Fix.Adopt.Save. Campaign; Melissa Gable:Spokeswoman, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control;

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