Skip to Main

March 19, 2020

Maricopa County animal shelters worried amid coronavirus

As the number of new coronavirus cases continues to increase across the state, so do fears of overcrowding at animal shelters in the Valley where adoption numbers appear to be low amid concerns over the disease. 

“All the shelters, we’re all on edge,” said Maricopa County Animal Care and Control Director Mary Martin. “We’re all very nervous about what this could mean for our shelter pets.”

Fewer adoptions may lead to overcrowding

Martin said the county’s shelters were starting to feel the effects of the public’s reaction to the new coronavirus, specifically a reduction in adoptions, she said. The county operates two shelters in Phoenix and Mesa bringing in nearly 30,000 dogs and cats every year, according to its Facebook page. 

She explained that over the past weekend about 60 animals were adopted during a fee-waived adoption event that typically sees more than 100 adoptions.

“We can’t help but to draw the conclusion that the fear of the virus and infection may be part of that,” Martin said. “What we’re concerned about and what’s a danger for us is that adoptions drop around the nation … and so we’ve become fearful that we’re gonna get overcrowded.” 

Larger dogs were more at risk because they’re usually not adopted at the same rate as smaller dogs, even before concerns arose over the new coronavirus, according to Martin. 

She said the county shelters were not at capacity on Tuesday afternoon mostly because they had limited field services to mandated and emergency calls amid coronavirus concerns. The shelters also were not accepting owner surrenders, although the shelters are connecting people with other organizations that can help, she said. 

“If we were actually meeting the demand of our community, we’d probably be at max capacity or over it, but we’ve limited our calls to emergencies to try to keep kennels open for fear that people are going to stop adopting,” she said. The county shelters were accepting unused toy and food donations for the animals but were most in need of financial donations so it could pay to board animals elsewhere in the event of overcrowding, she said. 

“That’s (euthanization) what nobody wants and we are committed to not going down that road in a wholesale manner,” said Martin. “In other words, we are not using it as a way to control space, we still euthanize animals but mostly for significant behavior and significant health issues.”

Rep. Greg Stanton, Rep. David Schweikert and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego in a joint press release Tuesday also urged residents to adopt pets as the Maricopa County shelters were at max capacity, the press release said.

Animal shelters were experiencing impacts of the new global coronavirus pandemic and seeking pet adopters “to avoid large-scale euthanizing,” the press release said.

The officials remarked in the press release about how animals can be comforting to people practicing social distancing or isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak.


The Arizona Humane Society may be experiencing a similar trend; however, it’s too early to know for sure, said society spokesperson Bretta Nelson. The society operates shelters out of two campuses in Phoenix, as well as two PetSmart locations in Mesa and Scottsdale, according to its website. 

Back to News