You Can Make a Difference in a Shelter Animal’s Life

(Photo by Robert Koblewski)

Jan Pede

SaddleBrooke is definitely a community of animal lovers. You see it everywhere, from your neighbors out walking their pups daily, to the support the community gives to local shelters and rescue groups. Since 2005, a small group of animal lovers (Wags & Walkers) has been going to Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) every Tuesday to take dogs out on their daily walks. This small, dedicated group of dog walkers has contributed thousands of hours to the wellbeing of shelter pets for many years. In addition, we hold an annual fundraiser for the benefit of the animals at PACC and have donated thousands of dollars to their clinic and dog training programs over the years.

PACC is a large, open-admission county shelter, which sees over 19,000 animals go through its facility annually. They have been committed to the no-kill model for several years now, and currently have a 92% live-release rate. This is due to a huge commitment from residents, who have provided financial support, as well as to progressive leadership, an expanded foster program, and an amazing team of veterinarians on staff, dedicated to the animals’ well-being. They also have a behavior team to assess and evaluate the dogs, as well as a volunteer team of trainers to assist with training and behavior issues. The shelter is in a new facility with a state-of-the-art medical clinic.

With the COVID pandemic, volunteer recruiting had to be suspended, and many of our dog walkers needed to step away for personal reasons. PACC is open and recruiting volunteers again. We would love to grow back our SaddleBrooke group and welcome anyone interested in joining us. Safety precautions are a priority.

Dog walking is a vigorous activity that requires good balance and some stamina. All dogs we interact with are temperament tested with both people and other dogs and graded on a color-coded system, so you are aware of the experience needed to work with them. Training provided by PACC is required, and a time commitment of six hours a month is requested.

It is fair to say that the shelter can be an emotional place to volunteer. We choose to look at the joy we can bring, rather than focus on an animal’s past experiences. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to see the transformation of a dog from anxious to relaxed, from fearful to seeking contact and reassurance. Volunteers are giving them the opportunity to move forward and providing them with the chance to live in the loving homes they deserve.

There are many volunteer opportunities, some which do not require animal handling, such as our regular outreach and microchip clinics. They are always looking for volunteers to assist in the cat room. There is something for everyone. If interested in learning more about volunteering at PACC, you can learn more, as well as apply, on their website at If you would like more information on the PACC volunteer program, you may contact PACC’s volunteer coordinator at [email protected] If you have any questions about training or Wags & Walkers, contact Jan Pede at [email protected]