A happy adoptable dog

In 2013, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) killed one animal every ten minutes they were open to the public.
It does not have to be this way!


MCACC Shelter Statistics


MCACC 2009*MCACC 2010*MCACC 2011*MCACC 2012*MCACC 2013*
Impounds 46,361Impounds 54,525Impounds 48,731Impounds 45,399 Impounds 42,462
Impounds per capita
12 animals/1,000 people
Impounds per capita
14 animals/1,000 people
Impounds per capita
12 animals/1,000 people

Impounds per capita
11 animals/1,000 people
Impounds per capita
10 animals/1,000 people
Kill rate 17,650 (38%)Kill rate 23496
Kill rate 19,234
Kill rate 15,904
Kill rate 12,464
Adoptions 13,837
Adoptions 14,100
Adoptions 13,399
Adoptions 12,656
Adoptions 10,560
New Hope 8,543
New Hope 9,323
New Hope 8,402
New Hope 10,204
New Hope 12,996
Return-to-Owner 646
Return-to-Owner 2,296
Return-to-Owner 4,713
Return-to-Owner 4,636
Return-to-Owner 4,732
Foster 1,446
Foster 1,682
Foster 863
Foster 964
Foster 1,233


In 2011, MCACC began charging $96 to take in stray cats, which led to the decline in the number of cats MCACC took in. In turn, the Arizona Humane Society saw a corresponding increase in killing. It does not matter who is killing them, it matters they are still being killed.

By 2009 and after over 90,000 spay/neuter surgeries, we had expected to see a bigger reduction in MCACC intake numbers. For over a decade, MCACC consistently took in over 45,000 animals and killed an average of 45 – 55% of the animals admitted each year. In fact, MCACC killed over 23,000 animals in 2010 and showed that spay/neuter efforts were not decreasing shelter intake or shelter killing.

The data shows there was very little to no change in the outcome of the shelter animals. The number of MCACC live outcomes stayed static around 27,000 per year, year after year, even after budgetary increases. Maricopa County and the non-profit animal welfare partners were providing substantial community services for spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and wellness clinics; however, MCACC’s live releases had not changed at all in spite of the wealth of community resources that were geared towards lowering shelter killing.

It was clear that MCACC had a system that was capable of producing no more than around 27,000 live outcomes per year, regardless of intake numbers, which meant that shelter killing only fluctuated when intake numbers fluctuated. If intake went up, killing went up. If intake went down, killing went down.

*Data acquired from public records request



In 2000, the Mayor’s Alliance for New York City’s Animals announced a five year plan to make New York City shelters No Kill by 2005. As the campaign commenced, surrounded by lots of fanfare and millions of dollars flowing into the coffers of the groups involved, the Mayor’s Alliance was telling people they were “on track” to achieve it. Privately, they realized they were failing.

In 2003, aware that the goal would not be met, they announced a new five year plan, promising No Kill in New York City by 2008. Millions of dollars more continued to flow through their coffers and once again, the Mayor’s Alliance was publicly assuring anyone who would listen that they were “on track,” their go-to catch-phrase. Privately, they again understood they were failing. In 2007, they announced yet a new five year plan, promising No Kill by 2012. And, yet again, despite public assurances they were “on track,” in 2010—as if the previous three five year plans were never announced—they announced the fourth five year plan (rebranding the third as a “ten year” plan) promising No Kill in New York City by 2015. Once again, they claim to be “on track” to achieve it, even while the New York City municipal shelter system was then and is now a den of rampant neglect, abuse, and systematic killing.

Anyone familiar with the systematic culture of failure (by design) of the New York City pound system, and the callous indifference of groups like the Mayor’s Alliance and ASPCA, knows that 2015 will also come and go, and far from No Kill, the groups will announce a new five year No Kill plan; and whatever the results, the private acknowledgment of failure will be ignored in favor of the public claims that they will be “on track” to achieve it at some new date in the future. No matter, with resources coming in from the ever-willing-to-help animal-loving American public, to groups like the Mayor’s Alliance and ASPCA there’s no downside.

In fact, while the Mayor’s Alliance is taking in millions by claiming a serial string of five year plans, other groups are realizing that claiming a five year plan to No Kill will not only fend off criticism about killing today—kicking the can of accountability into the future—but is very lucrative. As a result, they are announcing five year plans of their own, promising the public that the light is at the end of the five-year tunnel, if the public just digs deeper and donates more. Not to be outdone, Maddie’s Fund is also claiming—as part of its own cycle of fail-to-deliver five year plans—that the whole nation will be No Kill by 2015; that every single shelter in every single community in every single state will have ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals by achieving save rates of roughly 95%.

Like New York City (as well as Contra Costa County in California, the entire state of Utah, the City of Los Angeles, San Antonio, Texas, Maricopa County in Arizona, and everywhere else that we’ve been promised a five year plan to No Kill), it won’t happen. It won’t happen in New York City (at least under the current leadership), it won’t happen in other communities promising five year plans for success, and it won’t happen nationally by 2015. In fact, it has never happened.

Not because it can’t happen; it can. We can be a No Kill nation today. Five year No Kill plans don’t work because they are not supposed to. They are nothing more than a means of stifling criticism or raising money by creating the impression that plans are underway that will someday bring the killing to an end. Meanwhile, the action necessary to actually make No Kill happen—reforming the shelter—is never taken. People are asked to spay/neuter more, to adopt more, not to surrender their animals, and here’s the rub—to donate a lot more—but the shelter is let off the hook. In fact, as part of the five year collaboration, you can’t even criticize or ask for policy, program, or personnel changes at the shelter, because even though this is very place where the needless killing occurs, we are now told they are a “partner” in the five year No Kill plan. And so the five years come and go and the killing continues, while those involved keep their fingers crossed that everyone has forgotten the empty promises that made them very rich in the process, so at the end of five years, they can start the whole process over again.

The truth is it doesn’t take five years to implement alternatives to killing. It doesn’t take five years to set up a foster program, to recruit volunteers, or to set up offsite adoption venues. All of these things can be done in a matter of days, weeks, months, whatever needs dictate to prevent killing. No Kill requires action, not endless planning and five years of fundraising. In fact, the communities across the country that have ended the killing of healthy and treatable animals, saving well in excess of 90% of all intakes, did so virtually overnight; as new leadership took over the shelter and did what the former refused to do: comprehensively implement alternatives to killing.

To learn more about 5 being a magic number, click here


The Pet Overpopulation Myth

Current estimates from a wide range of groups indicate approximately 8 million animals enter shelters every year. Of those, 4 million are killed every year. Successful open admission shelters are saving over 90% of the animals coming through their doors.

Not all animals entering shelters need to be adopted. Some will be lost pets reunited with their families. Some will be hopelessly ill or irremediably suffering and will be killed. Some will be truly vicious with a poor prognosis for rehabilitation (~1%) and will also be killed. Overall, roughly 3.6 million of those animals killed in shelters could be saved.

According to the same demographics, 23 million Americans are looking to adopt an animal every year. Of those, 17 million (5.5% US population) are undecided where to adopt from and could be persuaded to adopt from a shelter.

Even if the vast majority of those 17 million adopted elsewhere, U.S. shelters could zero out the kill rate. 

What does this mean for Maricopa County?

The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Demographic Sourcebook dispels the belief that there are not enough homes. In Maricopa County, the AVMA calculates that at least 280,000  homes take in a pet each year, and studies by the ASPCA has reported that only 20 – 25% come from shelters.

Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) kills around 20,000 shelter animals annually, yet there are over 220,000 homes in Maricopa County that are open each year for incoming pets.

There is not a pet overpopulation problem at MCACC. It is a shelter market share problem at MCACC.


What about Funding?

A 2009 multi-state study found no correlation between per capita funding and the save rate of shelters. Some shelters had a 90% save rate, others had a 40% save rate. Some communities kill rates increased to over 30%, and others death rates dropped by 50%.  Funding ranged from $1.50 to $6.30 per capita. Save rates ranged from 35% ($2.00 per capita) to 90% ($1.50 per capita).

However, there was no predictable pattern to spending and the save rate – that is not the independent variable. Some shelters saved 87% of their animals at $2.80 per capita, and others saved only 42% at a large spending rate, over double, at $5.60 per capita.

What does this mean?

There is no correlation between the size of the shelters budget and saving lives. The bottom line is programmatic efforts of leadership and their commitment to saving lives by rigorously implementing the No Kill Equation and rejecting kill-oriented ways.