Pets get a second chance for a better life in Holbrook

Photo by Toni Gibbons Volunteer Colleen Marsh stands with Holbrook Animal Control Officer Merrill Young next to the newly marked van that was given to the Holbrook Animal Shelter by the Holbrook Police Department who received it as a donation.

By Toni Gibbons

For the lost, abandoned or abused pets of Holbrook, the volunteers of the Friends of the Holbrook Animal Shelter, Holbrook’s Animal Control Officer Merrill Young, Dr. Abbie Reidhead of the Holbrook Veterinary Clinic and the officers of the Holbrook Police Department (HPD) are the unsung heroes of their lives.

In 2017, 335 dogs and 184 cats were brought through the doors of the shelter, of those only 19 were euthanized due to health and aggression issues, for a 3.6 percent mortality rate. According to Young, before the Friends came on the scene in 2014, “Our euthanize rate was 90 percent.”

Friends of Holbrook Animal Shelter started in 2014 led by Rachel Dorsey, who is the founder and president of the all-women non-profit board. In the past two years, the organization has taken the animal adoption world in Holbrook to new levels.

In spite of full-time jobs and life commitments, Dorsey, secretary for the board and volunteer coordinator Colleen Marsh, shelter liason Dani Casto, rescue coordinator and networker Sarah Hancock, junior volunteer coordinator and social media coordinator Kim Jaster, and events coordinator Angela Keene, work hard to socialize the animals for adoption, bring in food and supplies as well as sponsor spay and neuter programs.

Today, with the help of social media and smart phones, rescued animals are quickly assessed and added to the Holbrook AZ Animal Control Facebook page. From there, a whole new world of possibilities open up.  Adoptions happen locally and as far away as Canada, as the Friends work with area shelters to give the animals the best options in new homes. “The Canadians love our animals,” said Young. “Canada only requires a health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination in order to take the animals into their country.”

But the most amazing thing about Holbrook Animal Control is the teamwork between Young, the Friends and the HPD. Whether it is painting walls, putting in a sink, loving on the animals or cleaning cages, everyone is involved. As Casto said, “I am in awe of the HPD officers who come in on the weekends to clean kennels and take care of the animals.”

While the Friends have great hopes of continuing the forward momentum, the upcoming retirement of Young later this year is fueling concerns as to what will happen to the team.

Young has worked for the City of Holbrook for 25 years, most of those working with animals at the shelter. He has rescued countless numbers of dogs and cats as well as a bear, porcupines, skunks, squirrels, owls, hawks, eagles, reptiles, cattle and horses. He carries an innate knowledge of the animal life and times in Holbrook.

As Young shared, “When I see cattle out, I know which rancher to call.” Then there was the day a porcupine climbed a tree in the front yard of a local resident and Young knew what to do. “Kids were pestering it and folks were concerned that I would get hit with the quills,” Young said. He explained that he climbed up a ladder and put a loop around the porcupine’s neck with his 4’ pole. From there he guided the frightened animal out of the tree and into the truck. Young released the porcupine down by the river.

When Young took over the position, it took him two years to complete the three one-week courses needed to become a certified animal control officer with the National Animal Control Association. Obtaining the training has not gotten any easier and Young is concerned that if his replacement is not the right fit, the whole team could dissolve.

It is a concern that Holbrook City Manager Randy Sullivan is very aware as he shared how he felt about the Friends, “Those ladies are like gold to this city. Obviously, whatever we do, we can’t do it without the input of those awesome volunteers.”

Sullivan said it is his plan to begin talking with the Friends about creative ways the program can continue into the future after Young retires.

According to HPD Chief Mark Jackson, last year there were 186 animal related calls that were handled by his officers. Animal Control received an average of five calls per day with an estimated 1,500 calls annually. There were 280 call-outs after hours and on weekends last year as well.

Sullivan also wanted to give kudos to Collin Henderson, a young man who volunteers at the shelter. “He cleans the pens and scrubs off the decks just because he loves the dogs,” said Sullivan.

Volunteers are always needed to walk the dogs, interact with the animals and, of course, clean pens and cages. While it is necessary for volunteers to get fingerprinted and have a background check, the HPD does it at no charge.

People are encouraged to stop by and visit the shelter at 105 Airport Road or check out the Adoptable Pets album on their Facebook page for an up-to-date list of who is available and looking for a forever home.”

There is also a vaccination clinic that will be held at the shelter from 12 noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. Rabies vaccinations will be $10 and a combo vaccination will be $15 for dog or cat.

Photo by Toni Gibbons

Volunteer Dani Casto spends some time with the cats that were recently brought into the shelter and are in need of new homes.