Friday, December 11, 2009

Small steps forward for our community

Looking back on the last year of animal-welfare efforts in our community, there have been some small steps in the right direction and more groups and individuals working together to help animals as well as the people who care for them. Last weekend at the Farmer's Market, I was talking to the animal shelter's volunteer coordinator, who reported that on the weekend of Black Friday, more than 50 animals were adopted from the shelter. The successful weekend started at the parking lot of Wal-Mart off Valley, and the shelter was using the Pet's Barn adoption mobile unit at that location that day. Eighteen good adoptions took place that day alone.

It's clear our shelter is making a more concerted effort in the area of comprehensive adoption programs, or at least they are getting out into the community more for off-site adoptions. I'm sure this has helped increase their adoption numbers, and it must have something to do with the kill rate dropping a few percentage points this year. However, that kill rate will not drop dramatically until all of the No Kill Equation's list of programs and services is implemented in our community, and the animal shelter must be at the forefront of those efforts.

Outside of the shelter, independent animal rescuers and advocates are networking and working together more so than has been the cast in the past (from what I understand). I have been in Las Cruces myself for about five years and involved in animal welfare here the last few years.

This year, the SNAP program partnered with the Dona Ana County Animal Control department to run their mobile spay/neuter unit in outlying areas of the county. Because of these efforts, hundreds of animals were altered in Chaparral, Del Cero, Radium Springs, Hatch, and other locations. The van also ran a couple of times at the Community of Hope in Las Cruces to help homeless pet guardians fix their companions.

This year as well, HSSNM has fostered and adopted out more dogs and cats than ever before. They now hold cat adoptions at PetSmart on a regular basis as well as monthly super adoptions where their fostered cats and dogs are featured. They now have a full pet help line and are engaging with the public one call at a time. They help advise those that have lost and found pets or need to re-home their pets for whatever reason.

SHAS continues its work as the sole no-kill sanctuary for dogs and cats. Those dogs and cats that get accepted into SHAS are the lucky ones, and the animals are well-cared for and adopted out to good homes. Those that cannot be adopted out live out the rest of their lives at the sanctuary.

There are many breed rescues that also play big roles in saving lives -- one cat and dog at a time. The feral cat management program at NMSU is showing local detractors that TNR works, and they have the database and numbers to prove it. They also have a legion of volunteers that work tirelessly to feed and care for the cats on the college's campus. The director of that program also helps advise people in the community on what they can do to help the cats in their areas, and she has stood before the city council, county commission, and any other local leaders who would listen to advocate for changing ordinances so that we can stop killing 80+% of the cats that get taken to our animal shelter while never making dent in the homeless numbers.

As the new kid on the block, APA has started a pet food bank that has distributed about 31,000 pounds of food to date to qualified low-income, unemployed, disabled, elderly, and homeless recipients. The group holds information tabling events and food drives regularly outside of Sam's Club and at local festivals and other events. They list animals in need on their website (lost/found/those needing new homes), and they hope their outreach efforts start having an impact as well.

Overall, more people are working harder to save dog and cat lives in Dona Ana County. Those are the small steps we can be proud of, but we have only started movement in a forward direction. We have years and years and hours and hours to go before we turn things around.

Here's to next year hopefully showing even more efforts at lifesaving, including a huge hope that our animal shelter will comprehensively and simultaneously get to the point where they are implementing all the programs and services needed (see list at right) to save most of the lives of the nearly 15,000 animals that still end up at their facility. More than any other entity or group, the shelter has the longest way to go.


Anonymous said...

You mention the partnership between County ACOs and SNAP, please also report the many many numbers of spays and neuters the shelter has performed in partnership with SNAP.

Also, you mention the amount of handouts the APA has been able to make, please mention how much of that comes from the shelter.

Please also mention the vast number of animals transfered out of the shelter to reputable rescue goups, including the monthly transfer to the Dumb Friends Legue in close partnership with the Albuquerque shelter.

Please also mention the "Operation: Alter Dona Ana County One Class Room at A Time" program the shelter has been conducting for the past several months, which includes in-class humane education; and low-cost spay and neuters, including pick-up and transportation of the animals to and from from the schools and the shelter's public sterilization suite.

And please do not assume you know how much or how little the shleter is doing in the community. The information is available, just ask.

Michel Meunier said...

In response to the Anonymous comment above, I do know that the animal shelter is once again providing spay/neuter services to the public. This was a service that had been provided before and was stopped for some time, so it is good to see it back. No one can argue that a higher volume of spay/neuter is what we need the most.

However, looking at all the services and programs that need to be in place to save more lives, I still contend we have a long way to go, starting with our animal shelter. Dabbling in some areas of the No Kill Equation is not enough; the level at which a shelter works on all areas is most important.

As for outreach information reaching the public, everyone has a long way to go there. I try my best to keep this personal no kill advocacy blog separate from my work with APA; however, there is no doubt that the new-guard animal welfare philosophy plays a role in all my work.

APA's tabling materials come from everyone. We get spay/neuter materials from SNAP, general infomation from APNM, and we get ASCMV and SHAS brochures directly from these organizations. We have not gotten any other materials from our animal shelter other than one stack of brochures. That said, we welcome all the materials we can get.

I also forgot to mention in this blog posting that both the ASCMV and SHAS donate food and other items to APA's pet food bank. They are thanked for this support as well.

That's why I say that more than ever before, despite personal and professional differences and/or philosophical differences in the area of animal welfare, it is nice to see that this is being put aside more and more for the good of animals. We need to keep up that good work and progress as a community.

Anonymous said...

The shelter has the largest burden because they, unlike the other organizations in town, do not pick and choose who they help. They have their hands full, and they are doing the best they can with what they have.

I have been to the shelter many times (and adopted from them, and will do so again in the future) and have found the staff to be very helpful, professional, and caring. They are faced with life and death decisions every day because of the community's irresponsibility regarding pet ownership, yet they get berated for having to euthanize. That is something that has got to be exhausting and frustrating. It is not their fault.

I have noticed many brochures when I have visited the shelter, and asked once if I could take some to give to family and friends (mainly the ones regarding microchipping). The staff said I could take whatever I wanted. You say that you would welcome all the materials you can get. I'm sure if you asked them, they would let you take them.

There should be more support for the shelter. Ridiculing doesn't change anything or inspire anyone.

Anonymous said...

why do you hate the shelter so much
you are always so neggative towards it
if you think you can do better, get your own building and start accepting animal control take ins

Alexander said...

I myself, as well as others in the community will never use the pound facilities to spay our pets. Why? Both the quality of work done and the exposure of disease to our pets. Plus, as a govt agency that imposes fees for the ownership of animals, why in the world would I take them so they can further extort money from people. This is why their spay programs have always failed. We The People are not that stupid.

Michel Meunier said...

It must be hard to understand, but I assure you I do not "hate" the shelter or its staff. Love and hate are emotions that have a place in this world, but not when it comes to this subject matter.

To me, being constructively critical is beneficial. Someone has to push our leaders and community toward change. Change does not come easy, and it certainly does not come from resting on our laurels and doing things as we have always done them.

If you study no kill success stories, the mavericks that have paved the way to change have the same challenges our shelter faces, yet they find a way to galvanize the entire community in to action and into implementing ALL the programs and services needed to turn their kill rates around.

That's what we, no kill advocates, are asking for. It has nothing to do with personal hate.