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AHS foster hero Erica with 5-year-old Lily and her dog, Maui

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Protecting Our Furry Friends

Arizona Humane Society Provides Care, Compassion for Vulnerable Pets

The Arizona Humane Society has spent more than 60 years working to provide a good life for pets across the Valley through medical services, foster and adoption services, behavioral programs and disaster relief. 

“The Arizona Humane Society’s role in the Valley is caring for the most vulnerable homeless pets—those who are sick, injured and abused,” AHS spokesperson Bretta Nelson says.

Starting as a small shelter run by a group of volunteers, AHS has grown into the largest welfare and animal protection agency in the state, according to the organization’s website. 

AHS is also Arizona’s designated first responder for animals in distress and danger during natural disasters. Volunteers help set up temporary animal shelters in disaster areas, and trained emergency animal technicians apply their training to save the lives of injured animals.

“[The shelters] give people peace of mind in knowing that when they evacuate, they will have a safe place for their pets until they are able to return home,” Bretta says.

Bretta says a common misconception about the organization is that AHS is affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States and receives funding through them. AHS is an entirely Arizona-based nonprofit organization that can continue to provide programs and services through private funding and community volunteers. Another misconception AHS has faced is that there is a time limit on the services they will provide for a vulnerable pet.

“AHS follows an ethical no-kill philosophy, meaning we never euthanize a pet for space or length of time [spent at AHS],” Bretta explains. 

Not all pets come to AHS already homeless, and for pet owners who are facing hardships, AHS has implemented a program to keep pets in the loving homes they already know.

“Pet owners can call AHS’s Pet Resource Center for one-on-one consultations to hear about options available beyond surrendering their pet to a shelter,” Bretta says. 

The Pet Resource Center, which handles about 200 calls per day, assists pet owners by guiding them through their current situation and offering options that can ease the situation without breaking up the home. Some resources available are pet-friendly housing options, affordable vet care for ill or injured pets, pet food pantries that have food and supplies at discounted prices, and temporary placement programs that will put the pet in a safe environment until the owner can care for them again.

In addition, AHS provides kids and teens with a wide variety of educational and experiential programming. This includes hands-on summer camps; a leadership program for teens; Reading Fur Fun, a program where once a month children can read to dogs at an AHS campus; birthday parties; and more. AHS also often works with scouting organizations or youth looking to do specific service projects.

“All of our animal ed-ventures inspire compassion and empathy toward pets and educates our youth with fun, hands-on activities,” according to AHS. “There is a program for every age.”

According to Bretta, locals wanting to get involved with AHS and help support its mission can do so by opening their homes to a pet in need.

“One of our greatest needs is foster heroes,” Bretta says. “This time of year it’s not uncommon for AHS to have upwards of 150 animals awaiting foster hero homes.”

AHS provides the supplies, support and medical care a pet will need while being fostered, and foster heroes can choose the size, type and breed of the pet they would like to foster. Foster cases can range from two weeks to two months, depending on the case, and AHS assesses the comfort level and availability of the foster hero to decide the placement of any pet. This allows AHS to place a pet in a space where both the pet and foster hero will be comfortable throughout the stay.

Foster heroes are not the only way to volunteer with AHS. The organization is also looking for volunteers willing to support adoptions teams in Scottsdale by providing care and compassion to pets waiting for their forever homes.

“There are so many ways people can make a difference in the life of a homeless animal,” Bretta says. “Without the public’s support, we couldn’t possibly care for the 17,000 animals we take in each year.” 

Bretta shares that the funding for their programs and the volunteers who share their time and training with the organization has allowed AHS to continue to care for a growing number of vulnerable pets in the Valley.

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  • AHS foster hero Erica with 5-year-old Lily and her dog, Maui