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Animal care centers are busy in summer months

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 12:30 pm | Updated: 7:12 pm, Tue May 28, 2013.

When the temperature rises in Pima County, animal-affiliated programs stay on their paws.

All over Tucson, animal organizations are giving advice about proper guidelines for pet owners dealing with the rise in heat. Despite these helpful guidelines, the number of animals suffering from heat stress is increasing at Pima Animal Care Center (PACC).

“We get more calls during this time of the year. Most of them consist of stray animals,” said Jayne Cundy, representative of PACC. “We had 423 calls last month (May) that consisted of welfare calls.”

Welfare calls report animals without water, wandering the streets and being injured. So far this year, 3,399 calls have come into the PACC regarding animal welfare.

The longer the time that animals spend outside in the sun, the greater their stress level. As the weather hits record highs, animals need to keep cool.

“All animals can get stressed in the heat – people, dogs, cats, etc.,” said Dr. Nobel Jackson, a lecturer in veterinary science and microbiology at the University of Arizona. “Pets need shade just as [much as] humans [do] to get cool. Heat strokes are certainly a risk when anyone is out in the sun for a long amount of time.”

However, with 100-degree weather hitting the area earlier in the year, local pet owners have their own ideas of beating the heat.

“I carry a gallon of water with me when I’m walking my pet just in case there’s no water around,” said Catlin Swartz, a UA student and owner of a 15-month-old pug named Nibbler. “Pugs and other different breeds of dogs have to live in weather that’s under 90 degrees, so part of carrying a gallon of water is to pour some on my pet so he won’t overheat.”

However, the average rate of pets falling victim to heat strokes and other weather-related health issues are low, according to the PACC.

“The rate of animals getting severely affected by heat is low,” said Edward Taczanowsky, business officer of the PACC. “Usually when an animal’s tongue is purple, that’s a sign that the animal is dehydrated. Give them water as soon as possible.”

The PACC has 28 officers on staff for calls usually pertaining to stray animals in need of water or injured. The officers are required to give them water, as well as make contact with the owner.

“During warm weather like this, take precautions. Walk your pet at night, give them cool water through the whole day,” Taczanowsky said.

A criminal report can be filed for leaving a pet in an area with little air, such as inside a car with closed windows.

“In one case we had to break the windows of a car to get a pet out,” said Bethany Wilson, a crime prevention officer at the UA Police Department.

The Arizona Revised Statute 13-2910 A7 allows police and animal control officers to use reasonable means to remove an animal from a vehicle, including breaking windows, if necessary.

“On the UA campus, animal abuse has only been reported three times in the last ten years,” Wilson said.

Records are not available regarding the number of animal abuse cases in the City of Tucson.

Pets that are reported for animal abuse are often taken away from their owner, but because of the high number of pets at the PACC, owners are sometimes given the opportunity to keep them.

To beat the heat, owners must be aware of their pets’ needs.

“Just giving pets water and walking them in the shade is a good way to ease the stress on the pet. On the really hot days it’s just best to stay inside,” said Leigh Moyer, a UA graduate and owner of Dot Com, a 9-year-old Dalmatian. “He’s mostly a couch dog, and whenever we go walking, he always tries to go in the shade. So Dot Com is finding his own ways to stay cool.”

(Jose Rivera is a journalism student at the University of Arizona.)

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