Arizona's Maricopa County Animal Care and Control spaying pregnant dogs

Posted at 10:06 PM, Dec 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-23 13:31:32-05

PHOENIX, Az. -- A new policy at the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in Arizona amounts to puppy abortion, according to an employee who decided to blow the whistle.

The employee, who spoke to WCPO sister station KNXV on condition of anonymity due to concerns about retribution for speaking to the media, said pregnant dogs are being spayed. Such a procedure is deadly to the unborn puppies. In some cases, the operation is being done just days away from the puppies being born.

“When [Maricopa County shelter staff] open the mom to spay her, if the gestational sac where the puppies are currently when they take that out of the mom, if they don't see any movement they just automatically throw it all away,” the employee said.

Dog medical records from MCACC, obtained by KNXV, show one pit bull named Liara was pregnant with “14 fetuses – full term (61 Days).”

The employee said this happened at least twice over the past month. In the case of Liara, rescue and foster groups were already offering to help with the soon-to-be-born pups, and there is an increased demand for young dogs as gifts around the Christmas holiday.

“There are people in the shelter every single day this week, every single day, ‘Hey, do you have any puppies, do you have any puppies?’ And we all know in the other room they're being thrown away,” the employee said.

The employee said MCACC used to never spay dogs they knew were pregnant until the new director, Mary Martin, took over less than two months ago.

Martin agrees that the policy is new, but told KNXV that her shelter is complying with standard practice. She said not only is this legal, but it is widely used for animal population control. She said spaying every dog, regardless of pregnancy, is one of the main ways to reduce overpopulation in the kennels.  

“We don't necessarily look at it that way,” said Martin, responding to a question of whether full term puppies are being aborted. “That dog has not taken a conscious breath. We are again, looking at it as a spay.”

According to Martin, pregnant dogs in the kennel also suffer behavioral disorders and can be adopted out quicker if they’re not caring for a litter.

Martin said her goal is to get to a point where MCACC doesn't euthanize any adult dogs, which currently happens often due to overcrowding. However, she said spaying pregnant dogs is a necessary first step toward MCACC becoming a no-kill shelter.

“Because at this point we're focusing on a few babies to the detriment of who knows how many adult dogs,” Martin said.

The employee said it doesn’t feel right and there’s worry among other coworkers that someone is bound to get in trouble.

“You know you're throwing this animal away. I don't want to be charged with animal cruelty,” the employee said.