By Nalani Lopez
Residents and visitors in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community come across a variety of animals, both domestic and wild.
The Animal Control Unit, one of the Salt River Police Department’s specialty units, protects and serves the four-legged creatures that call the Community home.
“We enforce the [SRPMIC Code of Ordinances] regarding dogs and other animals. If it involves an animal, we are going to be there,” said Animal Control technician Shawnston Bekis.
Most of the calls the Animal Control Unit receives are regarding dogs. But they also work with cats, farm animals, desert wildlife and even the occasional otter.
Bekis says the most common ordinance that Animal Control enforces is Section 12-09, which restricts roaming dogs.
“Dogs here in the Community have to stay on the [owner’s] property. If they leave the property, they need to be on a leash. If [we find your dog wandering around], you can receive a citation, but we’ll always leave a warning first,” said Bekis.
The Ordinance states, “Any person who violates this section shall be subject to a fine not to exceed $150.00 per violation, with costs.”
In one of the Community neighborhoods, Bekis responded to a call for a friendly but trespassing dog. After the dog was picked up, the caller asked him what was going to happen to the dog.
Bekis explained that when Animal Control picks up dogs, they transport them from the Community to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control in Phoenix, where they are first checked for a microchip. Microchips make returning lost pets a whole lot easier. Bekis pointed out that owners should register their pets with Maricopa County Animal Care and Control.
Maricopa County can find a lost pet’s owner through their database. However, if the dog is not chipped and registered, the dog is considered a stray and given 72 hours in the shelter. After the 72 hours, the shelter assesses the dog’s potential for adoption.
Bekis says Community members are welcome to give the SRPD a call regarding a lost dog. He says it is better to receive a citation from the SRPD, than picking up their dog from MCACC.
The NAGI Foundation provides animal health services to enrolled Community members. Services include an animal health clinic, spaying and neutering, a K9 youth program and behavior consultations.
“I encourage people to take advantage of NAGI’s free services. They provide vaccination, neutering/spaying and microchip services,” said Bekis.
Bekis and the staff in the Animal Control unit want people in the Community to be responsible pet owners. The basic necessities are food, shelter and water, which can make a world of a difference to pets living in the desert. Vaccinations, spaying/neutering and microchip services will also improve the animal’s safety and lifestyle.
Community members can learn how to access the pet resources from the NAGI Foundation at https://nagifoundation.org. People also may call the SRPD’s non-emergency line for the Animal Control Special Unit at (480) 850-8200.