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.