Rio Salado Shelter: A Brief History

About the East Valley, Rio Salado Animal Shelter

Maricopa County’s foray into animal care services in the East Valley started when the county acquired a piece of vacant land from the city of Mesa in 1977.  But the building constructed on the site wouldn’t be around for long.  In 1986, the Arizona Department of Transportation acquired the original building and razed it to make way for the Loop 101.

So, in 1988, the county bought a new piece of land about ½ mile east on Rio Salado, and a few years later, the current building was constructed.  It has been in use, by Animal Care and Control, ever since.

The 29,000 square foot facility was initially conceived as a rabies vaccination facility (one of the county’s mandated missions), but has, in recent years, been used for animal sheltering. 

Current Issues

In 2014, the Board of Supervisors created a task force to look into improving quality of service at Animal Care and Control.  That task force found the Rio Salado shelter to be “inadequate and substandard” and identified several issues, including:

  • Difficult to sanitize
  • HVAC system not efficient or effective
  • Kennels are too small
  • Watering and feeding systems need to be improved


The shelter has a capacity of 250 animals, but has been averaging 300-350 in recent months.  It is often very loud, as you'll hear in the task force video below.