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Feb 9, 2013 12:48 AM by Danielle Lerner

Pima County's animal cops struggle to keep up with growing case load

TUCSON- The fight to protect and care for Tucson's animals is a year-round effort. Just this past month three dogs were rescued from trash cans across the city. At Pima Animal Care Center, just finding space is a constant struggle for the county's animal cops.

Jeff Carver is one of just 23 officers, covering more than 9,000 square miles.

"I've seen as many as 400 calls in traffic waiting for officer response," Carver said.

There are welfare checks, dog bites, neighbor disputes and emergency assists.

"A lot of people just need to be more cognizant of their surroundings, keeping their pets safe, keeping their neighbors safe," said Carver.

News 4 Tucson's Danielle Lerner rode along with Carver for two of his shifts.

On one call a wandering pit bull attacked and killed two livestock animals, and severely injured a third. The property owner claimed the dog lived nearby but the neighbors insisted she did not belong to them. With no microchip or identification the dog was loaded up and taken to the shelter, while deputies continued to investigate.

The shelter does euthanize animals for medical or behavioral reasons but says it does not put animals down simply for space. That is not always easy since at any given time there are about 350 animals there. Each day about 75 more are brought through the door.

"Everyone has their own ideas but there is a minimum standard that we hold people to in the law," said Carver.

The law only mandates basic care. Things like daily food, potable water, adequate shelter, grooming and medical treatment when needed. Tie outs are prohibited and leash laws must be followed.

As for the seemingly-docile dog picked up during the emergency assist, no one ever claimed her. She was euthanized because of unpredictable behavior and aggression toward other animals. For Carver it is a rough reality of the job.

"I would love to say that I have the ability to work myself out of a job, but I don't think that's going to happen," he said.

PACC says pet adoption, education and spaying or neutering can help cut down their numbers. Click here for more information on those topics. You can also click here to see the county's animal codes and ordinances.

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