Sally was found as a stray in Maricopa and put into foster care when no owner was found. (Beyond the Mask Photography)

The City of Maricopa plans to fund a city-designated animal control officer starting in July.

The officer is currently shared between Pinal County and the City of Maricopa. The budget change is in response to the growing community and animal population, according to City Manager, Rick Horst.

“We are a growing city, we’re approaching 55,000-plus people,” Horst said. “The cost is going to be a minimal difference … but more importantly, we will have a person that is dedicated to the city of Maricopa, and they won’t get called out for rotation and back-up calls to Pinal County.”

The City is expected to save over $10,000 by funding the full-time officer during business hours. The officer already uses city-owned equipment, including an animal control vehicle, paid for by the City, according to Horst.

While the animal control officer is set to be funded by the City next fiscal year, there is still some question about after-hour and emergency calls.

Pinal County Animal Control Director Audra Michael, said there are currently a handful of officers who cover different areas of Pinal County, each “covering” a city while also taking calls around the county.

“During the day, he can stay in the city of Maricopa, that’s completely fine, but after-hours, it’s different,” Michael said. “Any officer who is on call can take care of Maricopa, and we have emergency after-hours calls such as bites that someone is going to need to take care of.”

Horst said the officer spent about 80% of his time within city limits during business hours, and 20% was dedicated to handling calls around the county, outside of the city.

“He predominately was assigned to the city of Maricopa, but he was called out to handle things within the county, and when he’s in rotation for being on call they could go anywhere in the county, taking him farther away from the city,” Horst said.

Michael mentioned a significant number of stray animals in the Maricopa area, prompting a need for coverage in the city. Found strays will continue to be sheltered in Casa Grande as Maricopa does not have an animal shelter.

“I would say that the city of Maricopa does have a lot of strays, they do. We work with a couple of people that have rescues in the city of Maricopa, and usually, they’re pretty on top of it,” Michael said.

Kimberly Diedrich, owner of Home is Where the Hound Is, an affiliate with Pet Social Worker Rescue, works with the community to reunite lost pets with their owners.

“Having to go to the shelter every day to bring the strays, and then deal with bite calls and barking complaints, I’m sure we have more work for more than just one full-time officer,” she said.

The animal control officer currently takes calls from Maricopa and the rest of Pinal County, depending on officer availability.

“I don’t see any alarming trends,” Horst said. “The only numbers I do have are our impound numbers, but on average we are about 25 dogs a month and about six or seven cats a month, and those aren’t alarming by any means.”

Numbers do not include animals brought in by owners to have euthanized.

The following shelter statistics are from Pinal County Animal Care and Control and include animals all around Pinal County, including Maricopa:

  • Shelter intake from the public at the beginning of April 2020: 82 dogs, 34 cats
  • Adoptions (from total shelter count): 95 dogs, 1 cat
  • Returned to owner (from total shelter count): 13 dogs, 0 cats
  • Shelter count by the end of April 2020 (includes population from previous month): 126 dogs, 7 cats

Diedrich encourages residents who find stray pets, or who lose their pets, to post on, a website that reposts to Maricopa’s Pet Lost and Found Facebook page and Pinal County Animal Care and Control.

“As the city continues to grow, I’m sure we will have other needs that will come up,” she said. “This is a change that is in response to the current growth needs of the community. One day we will probably have our own shelter in our community … time will tell.”