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By Liz Warren-Pederson and Cindi Gilliland

Pima county animal welfare organizations secured $2 million in grant funding, thanks in part to data gathered by Eller College students as part of a project their fall 2013 nonprofit consulting class.

The project initiated through the Pima Alliance for Animal Welfare (PAAW), a coalition of large and small animal rescue and welfare groups. They tasked the students with determining relative rates of animal relinquishment across zip codes in Pima County. Supervised by professor of practice Cindi Gilliland, the student team gathered, standardized, and analyzed data from many animal rescue and welfare groups, including Pima Animal Control Center and Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA), and presented their results to PAAW in December.

For the first time, PAAW member organizations could determine rates of unwanted animal birth and relinquishment rates for individual zip codes within the county. Armed with the students’ data, PAAW members Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) and the Humane Society of Southern Arizona (HSSA) applied for and received two grants totaling more than $2 million.

“I have had the privilege of working with Eller students in the past and every time, the end product has been exceptional”, said Barbara Brown, PAAW Chair and VP/Program Services and Community Initiatives at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. “Who could imagine that bringing groups together, synthesizing data and analyzing it would make such a difference?  Lives are being changed – and saved – as a result of the team’s work. We are so grateful that Dr. Gilliland selected our project from the many requests that she received.”

On August 5, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to accept funding for a $1.5 million program from a partnership between the Best Friends Animal Society and PetSmart charities for the next three years. The Community Cats program, housed at PACC, will trap, sterilize, vaccinate, and return feral and “free-roaming” local cats, reducing the cat population and providing long-term cost savings to government and taxpayers. The program will target nine ZIP codes — 85705, 85706, 85710, 85711, 85712, 85713, 85714, 85716, and 85719.

In addition, HSSA received a $94,000 grant from Petsmart Charities to provide free spray and neuter services to low-income residents of the 85705 ZIP code for a full year, a direct result of the Eller student research, which determined that this ZIP code has the highest birth rate of unwanted animals. 

The student team also created a data entry form so that PAAW member organizations can standardize data collection. Student team member Bianca Maubach, who was already involved in cat rescue and fostering, proved so invaluable to PAAW that she became the first student member of its board of directors.  Under the supervision of Gilliland, Maubach is currently completing her senior Honors thesis, which benchmarks best practices in reducing animal euthanasia rates across the Western United States.

“The PAAW project was one of the best experiences during my time at Eller and the UA,” said Maubach, a business management senior. “Working with a client is always a great challenge, especially since the cause is close to my heart. Seeing that our hard work paid off in this particular way is very rewarding and shows that the projects and clients, chosen by Eller faculty, do indeed have a great impact not only on the client but also the community as a whole.” 

The nonprofit consulting class at the Eller College is supported by fee-for-service from nonprofit clients and by a private donation from Paul Lindsey, a local business owner and active community advocate and volunteer.  The fall 2014 course is currently underway under the leadership of Kim Marchesseault, lecturer of business communication. 

Top photo of two orphan tabby kittens waiting in a cage courtesy Shutterstock.