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Saving Lives One Paw at a Time

Understanding the Work of the Coconino Humane Association

One night in 2007 Michelle Ryan called her father and said: “You know all those years that you told me to keep my hands off of strange animals? Well now I get paid to do that and I am picking up strange animals every day!” Since she was a little girl, Michelle Ryan struggled between the love of animals and the unpredictable interactions people have with them. But even after suffering a few dog bites and almost losing an eye, Michelle never lost her passion for animals and is now the Executive Director for the Coconino Humane Association.

“I’ve been with the Coconino Humane Association since 2003. I started as the Book Keeper, moved to become Office Manager, followed by Director of Operations and now I am the Executive Director. I love my job.” While Michelle enjoyed the brain work involved with being the book keeper, she always saw herself developing beyond that role and has been proud to be part of such a positive organization.

The Coconino Humane Association was founded in 1955 by a group of concerned citizens that were concerned with animal population and animal control since there wasn’t any at the time. “We predate the city and county animal control and at the time, we were basically just the pound. Animals were held for the state mandated period, if they weren’t picked up by the owners, we had to euthanize. Back in the 1970’s people weren’t really adopting. As animal welfare evolved, and the community itself evolved, adoption has become more popular. It used to be animals were just in the backyard but now they are members of the family. The pet industry is now a multi-billion dollar industry that goes beyond the basic food, shelter, water. People spend a lot of money on their pets and we have evolved in the way we view animals.”

forever home just found me

While you have probably heard of large rescue organizations, like the Arizona Humane Society and the Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, the work they do is both critical and impressive. Despite their smaller size, “We are the largest shelter in Northern Arizona. We only have 8-10 staff members caring for 5,000-6,000 animals a year…We also partner with other organizations and agencies that do not have the manpower to take care of animals in their area. For example, Apache County does not have county officers at all and there are only three additional officers in the outskirts, and recently there was a hoarding case with over 250 animals. Not one of those agencies could do with it so we were able to come together as a team with different agencies and shelters to lend a helping hand. It is neat that we get to help out communities that aren’t as well off as we are. It is good to have those relationships going with those communities in the North.”

The work the Coconino Humane Association does is overwhelming. They are contracted with the City of Williams, the City of Flagstaff and Coconino County to do animal services and they are using grant funding to bring more services to the people of Northern Arizona. “We are trying to increase services that we provide. Yes, we are a shelter for stray and abandoned animals, but we also do spay & neutering for low income families on a sliding scale. Families never pay more than $80 for the surgery; it is usually $25 by owner and we pay the rest thanks to grant funding. We also have a pet food bank that people can come in and apply to be given food for a week or month or so. It isn’t meant to feed your dog forever but it helps you get over bumps in the road. We also do microchipping to help dogs find their home again, when they are lost.”

The Coconino Humane Association is out in the community, making a difference and bringing animals into new families. “There were only between 800-1,000 adoptions during the years of 1970-2003 and we didn’t really see that number going up. But since 2003, the number of adoptions is going way up. Now we average 2,400 adoptions a year. We are able to find more and more homes and the number of euthanasia cases are dropping. We try to do off site events once a week, 52 a year, to give people opportunities to adopt outside of the shelter.”

On Saturday May 9, 2015 the Coconino Humane Association will be joining The Place at Forest Ridge in Flagstaff, Arizona for a pet adoption event that will bring the whole community together.  This is the fifth annual Pet Adoption event the MC Companies property has put on and the Coconino Humane Association has been part of it every year since it began. The Place at Forest Ridge will give discounts on pet fees to residents who adopt that day since they are saving a life. We give 1/2 off their nonrefundable pet fee which is a $150 discount on the day of the event. We encourage all of our residents to adopt a new pet and want you to enjoy the best life possible with your four legged friends. We have an open pet policy that does not have breed or size restrictions which means any and all pets are welcome!

Partnering with organizations like the Coconino Humane Association, is part of our goal in sharing the good life. We want to support organizations that are having a positive impact on the community they live in.  “The first thing that any animal shelter does is that it is in the community to provide public health and safety for both people and animals. We are here to make sure the animals are safe and taken care of and not running in the streets,” Michelle explained to me. “We provide safe haven for animals that are involved with car accidents with owners; so if owners are in the hospital, we care for the animals while mom and dad are in the hospital. It’s the same for people that go under arrest, and we take their animals. We are just providing safe haven for animals in general in your community. Without an animal shelter, the city would have a lot of problems.”

Through thick and thin the Coconino Humane Association has been providing care and support for animals and people alike in Northern Arizona. “This is our 60th year and we are going to be putting together an anniversary party in the fall. We’ve been here 60 years through some very bad times on a very limited budget, even when people were making maybe $2 an hour to work here. We can’t always pay all of our employees what they’re worth. You don’t work at an animal shelter because you want to make money; you work here because you want to make a difference and save lives.”

Please join us in supporting the Coconino Humane Association at the Pet Adoption Event at The Place at Forest Ridge next Saturday May 9, 2015. Together we can make a positive impact, save lives and show our support for a local organization that truly makes a difference. If you have questions about the pet adoption event you can call: 928-774-1431 or email:

Images Via: Coconino Humane Association, Dog Banner

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