Labor of (Animal) Love

August 30, 2013 |

Pima Animal Care Center’s 4th of July dog walk event.
photo courtesy Pima Animal Care Center.

Labor Day typically marks the end of summer vacations and the last of the dog days of summer. But for a few furry friends at the Pima Animal Care Center, it is a day of treats, cuddles and most importantly, a good long walk.

Pima Animal Care Center, located at 4000 N. Silverbell Rd., held their first holiday “Dog Walk” last Thanksgiving. Volunteers and community members were asked to trade an hour of time for a leash and a wet nose. Since then, PACC has organized 10 dog walks, each drawing more volunteers and of course, more adoptions.

“To me, the biggest thrust behind all of this is to get more volunteers,” said Jack Neuman, PACC Advisory Board Chairman and Volunteer Representative. “We want people to come and see that ‘Oh this isn’t that bad. I can spend a few hours a month here.’”

The brainchild of Neuman and his wife, these dog walks have successfully increased the ranks of volunteers from a mere 30 to an impressive 400. And they aren’t stopping anytime soon. PACC hopes to host dog walks on all national holidays. They even had one on Valentine’s day, appropriately named Sweetheart Day. According to Jack, the presence of the volunteers in the dog’s lives is crucial.

“We try to give them (the dogs) a walk every day for an hour or so, but that just doesn’t happen,” he said.

Jack explained that a lack of volunteers meant a lack of walking time for the dogs, and a lack of walking time led to higher stress and more fights. Sometimes when dogs fight, it leads to injury, or worse, being euthanized.

“The dogs love it. It really gives them a break,” Neuman said. “That’s the importance of the power of volunteers.”

According to the PACC website, roughly 25,000 animals, regardless of condition, are taken in every year. Many of the animals are abandoned, sick, abused or just old.

“There’s lots of opportunity for people to come to these events,” Jack said. “These are ways to let the community to get involved.”

The felines need love too! In addition to dog walking, PACC needs volunteers to caress the cats.

“The cats don’t go out like the dogs but people go in and cuddle them,” Jack said. “We gotta do stuff for the cats too.”

PACC has already received more than 70 RSVPs to the event. The events typically average around 150 volunteers, according to Jack.

“People love these one-time volunteer opportunities,” said Jose Ocaño, PACC Volunteer Coordinator. “Not everyone has the time like some of our full time volunteers.”

Those who RSVP to the event receive guidelines and an event waiver to sign. They are asked to arrive at 8 a.m. to be registered and trade in a driver’s license or ID for a leash and poop bags. Then they head to the “Walker” board, a whiteboard designed to help match the dogs to their walkers.

“What these walks have done has taken people with preconceived notions, and what ends up happening is that they see what we do and more people know about us and who we are, and the word is spread,” Jose said. It is “absolutely instrumental in changing the public’s perception.”

Of the nearly 400 dogs in the shelter right now, only about 150 can be walked due to illnesses or injuries. Dogs must be adoptable at the time of the dog walk to be eligible to walk.

“The whole goal of what we do is really an adoption and rescue center. Let’s get these animal and get them into great homes and let them have great lives,” Jose said. “And we want people to have a really good time.”

Shelley Shelton read about the event in a local newspaper and decided to RSVP. According to Shelton, past Labor Days were always planned. But with her daughter recently leaving for college, Shelton figured she’d go make some animals happy.

“As soon as I read it, I was like, huh, I could do that,” Shelley said. “I love animals. It’s something dear to my heart.”

She added that one of her two cats came from PACC. “I’m a little bit afraid of coming home with a dog,” Shelley joked. “But my cats know where I sleep.”

After the walks, an open house will start at 10 a.m.  for those interested in more volunteer opportunities. The day will end with adoptions. Community members who didn’t walk a dog can still leave with a new friend.

The Labor Day Dog Walk starts at 8 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 2. at Pima Animal Care Center, 4000 N. Silverbell Rd. Interested volunteers are asked to RSVP by emailing by by Saturday, Aug. 31. Participants must be at least 16 years of age. For more information, visit the PACC website.

Category: Community