Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Small moves in the right direction

City hires vet for shelter

I am hopeful about the new veterinarian the City of Las Cruces hired for our municipal animal shelter. Dr. Laura J. Henckel has worked many years in the animal welfare world, with extensive experience in high-volume spay and neuter as well as having worked for a couple of years at one of the most beloved places for down-and-out animals in the United States: Best Friends Animal Society in Utah.

It is also good to see that Dr. Henckel got her veterinary degree from the university that has been at the forefront of shelter medicine for some years now: the University of California, Davis. As a discipline, shelter medicine is fairly new and wasn't documented very well until a few years ago. The UC Davis Shelter Medicine Portal contains a vast amount of factsheets and advice for shelters struggling with disease management and trying to save more lives. Check them out via the following link:

UC Davis Shelter Health Portal

I sincerely welcome Dr. Henckel to the area and hope the vision she has is to help turn our shelter around in the area of the veterinary care our homeless animals receive as well as lifesaving efforts. This includes a big welcome back to our shelter offering low-cost spay/neuter and vaccinations for those less fortunate but who still love their animals and want to care and provide for them.

Additionally, protocols and procedures that outline proper intake, routing, and assessment of animals is a must for any shelter wishing to improve its save rate. I am already having dreams of vaccinations at intake or shortly thereafter and the end of darker days of the past when mistakes led to unnecessary death to large groups of animals who should not have been introduced to disease in the first place.

111 animals altered in Chaparral

The partnership between the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Department and the Spay Neuter Action Program got the new mobile spay/neuter van on the road for the first time in our county. The last two weekends were spent in Chaparral, and more than 100 cats and dogs were altered. Congratulations to all of those involved.

To help start making a dent in our community's kill rate, the van needs to stay on the road for many months in outlying areas of the county, which contribute about 60% of the animals that end up at our shelter. SNAP is planning to run the van next in Radium Springs and Hatch in January and February, but I urge other non-profits to join their ranks or donate money to SNAP to keep up the good work. I also strongly challenge our County Commission to look into allocating more funds to this important effort, as well as the City of Las Cruces.

The last I heard, the City Council decided to stop its funding of SNAP programs next year because of the new vet that was hired at the shelter--assuming this one person can handle providing spay/neuter services to the entire city. However, that is a big mistake and very short-sighted.

In order to get to the kind of volume we need in spay/neuter in our entire community, we need to attack the issue at all fronts. We need many programs and services and opportunities for everyone in the city and county to do the right thing. That means we need the shelter to provide services to City residents, but we also need SNAP's voucher program to get funded and keep up the volume in the city from that end, and we lastly need the mobile van to run in outlying areas of the county each weekend to target those people who cannot or will not drive to the city to get their pets fixed.

Last but not least: stop the cat killing

It is truly time for our community to open its eyes and see that the way we deal with stray/feral cats is sorely outdated and does nothing to reduce their population nor protect public health nor mitigate issues people complain about regarding loose cats. Our city and county leaders need to look at model ordinances from around the nation that allow for feral cat management programs and change our local laws to emulate these. And, our animal control departments need to do some research, too. They could start by talking to others in the state, such as those working TNR in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, etc. Even our next door neighbor and fellow border community in El Paso supports TNR efforts and has ordinances in place to allow for this.

Until we stop killing up to 300 cats a month at our shelter, our kill rate will not go down. More importantly, these deaths are doing nothing to help people deal with the reality they face every day in their neighborhoods. Most of the calls I get for help are from people who want to continue caring for a group of cats that have moved onto their property. They mostly need help getting them fixed and vaccinated and wish it was not against the law to feed and care for the animals.

Very few people want to see these animals hauled off and killed, which only creates a void that other cats come in to fill anyway. We could even go as far as raising funds to help people put up cat fencing on their properties as well. I'm about to put up a cat fence in my home which I purchased from the Deer Busters company online, but there are other options for cat enclosure systems, including instructions from Alley Cat Allies on buidling a fencing system from scratch and at a much lower cost and from items you can purchase at a home improvement store:

Do-it-yourself cat fence
HSUS: "Fence Me In"

If you have not read the information provided by Alley Cat Allies and others who are working hard to save the lives of homeless cats, please do so. It is the start to dispelling the myths we have operated from for too long.


Tangi Adopt A Rescue said...

Thank you for making this no-kill blog and good luck to you and to your city!

Keep educating the people and no-kill will inch closer and closer!

Anonymous said...

i still have a question about who is responsible for rabies control and these cats in a tnr program. and who will be responsible for the mess they leave behind and other deseases that will follow.
you never seem to answer thses questions, no one can.
especially on the rabies control issue.

Anonymous said...

Michele - It's Melanie Brooks.

With the news today about SNAP is there anyway to get state funding thru the next legislative session? Our reps are very animal friendly. Is it possible?

Anonymous said...

To Anoymous.....I would strongly suggest you educate yourself before running off at the mouth. The rabies threat is much over blown. There is only 5% of all wild animals that get it. They usually just get sick and crawl off and die. They do not come to your house and attack your kids. You clearly have an issue with cats. Or would you have ALL wildlife rounded up by Animal Control??? I mean lets get those bunnies and praire dogs rounded up and killed too!

The biggest threat in the area is not rabies but bubonic plague. We have this here in NM quite a bit and occasionally the news reports on it. If you don't have rodent predators around you will have them multiply unchecked. Would you prefer to have a family of rats move into your property?

Do you remember when Las Cruces used to have lots of birds? Before the recent years city policy of persecuiting feral cats, we used to have lots of birds. What happened? Rodents and snakes eat bird eggs. Not enough predators to keep them in check...No baby birds. When was the last time you saw the state bird running around? Hummm???? People who hate cats have cried that cats ate the birds. Yes they do. But usually only the adults who where either slow or sick. A cat never wiped out local bird populations. And if city laws didn't fine people who feed the ferals, they wouldn't be so hungry as to have to hunt out their own food.

It's comments like this that shows how backwards this area still is.


Have A Heart said...

How about doing a story on changing the laws on this kennel licensing crap. There are people who would have more pets if it wasn't for this. No one wants Animal Control prowling their homes yearly cause you have more than 2 pets. What kind of country is this that tells you what you can have and can't have? This isn't concern for the little furries but PEOPLE CONTROL by government officials. It's not like they even make money on this. It's a nominal fee. But in the end the city is wasting OUR tax dollars having TOO MANY officers implementing this redicu-louse laws in such a rabid manner as they do here. No wonder they can't afford to fund SNAP.

VR said...


Sop being nice about it. Press wise, get them to slant on story how a town would rather kill off small animals than help fund SNAP. I mean after all they can't afford an in house shelter Vet and the SNAP programs too....But they can fund waste of tax dollars on million dollar pool complexes.

Then go to the legislature....