Animal Humane-New Mexico has become a leader in the sheltering field in New Mexico and the region. Recent important initiatives include Meet Your Match adoption approaches to ensure animals and their guardians are well suited for one another, humane dog training, impressive upgrades to the physical shelter, agility training for high-energy dogs, an ambitious "street cat" program, a desperately needed veterinary care program for the animals of indigent individuals, an off-site adoption facility, and increased foster capacity. AH-NM, its talented staff and ambitious programs that are making a difference for New Mexico's animals should serve as a model for other shelters throughout the state.
The culture of Animal Humane New Mexico fosters collaboration for the betterment of the pets it serves. I have found an openness to the sharing of research-based behavior management. This is critically important not only to the lives of pets and those who love them but in keeping adopted pets with their families. I have been delighted with my experience with the staff at all levels of Animal Humane. Jeff Nichol, DVM
From Peggy Weigle, Executive Director, Animal Humane | New Mexico
There are too many erroneous statements regarding our operations to let the post below stand without a response. Since 2007, under my leadership as Executive Director of Animal Humane | New Mexico, we have demonstrated a consistent progression towards reducing euthanasia, so I take strong exception to the claims made in this posting. I invite all readers to review these numbers and our progress in saving companion animals lives and let you decide for yourself how we are conducting our services for homeless animals.
In 2006, Animal Humane euthanized 1,424, or 27% of the animals sheltered that year. This included many healthy animals, euthanized for age, color, or length of stay. This was the state of affairs when I arrived as Executive Director in September 2006. Starting in 2007, we began setting goals to both increase adoptions while at the same time reducing euthanasia. In just one year, euthanasia was down to 935 animals or 17% of intakes, a reduction of 34%. We invested in a mobile adoption vehicle to further increase adoptions, thereby saving more lives. By the end of 2009, euthanasias were down by 55% to 644 or 13% of intakes. Of those 644, only 72 were healthy pets, so we realized the goal of adopting 100% of healthy pets was within reach.
To achieve this goal, Animal Humane’s Board of Directors authorized more investments to save lives. We opened a new adoption center at 9032 Montgomery Blvd. NE and later that year, opened a third adoption center in Corrales. These two centers accounted for an additional 1,300 adoptions in 2010. Thanks to those investments, and other programs which I will describe shortly, as of this writing, we have achieved 100% adoption of healthy pets and have maintained that achievement for 22 consecutive months. In fact, so far this year, our euthanasia rate is running 45% below 2010 numbers and is at only 10% of total intakes. We feel this is quite an accomplishment from our 27% rate in 2007. With that said, we will not be satisfied until 100% of all healthy and behaviorally/medically treatable pets are adopted at our facility.
While it is true that sometimes dogs are euthanized for kennel cough and cats for upper respiratory infections (URI), it is because the animal is not responding to treatment. Often these pets have been in treatment more than once, twice, even three times before we make the painful decision to euthanize. It is never done for “space.” These are the animals whose immune systems are compromised. We continue to improve our sanitation and handling protocols to reduce the spread of disease. A case in point; at the beginning of 2011, we began a concerted effort to reduce stress in our cat population, stress being the major contributing factor to cats becoming ill with URI. The incidence of URI in our cat population is down from 50% to only 10% of total cat intakes. The even better news is only 6% of those with URI have had to be euthanized this year compared to 34% the previous year. So I challenge the notion we are euthanizing cats and dogs with URI and kennel cough for space.
The post also cites our May 2011 intake numbers being greater than our adoption numbers as proof we are euthanizing for space. Yes, we took in 482 animals and adopted only 355 in May. However, our animal holding capacity far exceeds the intake number. At any given time, we have the capacity to house at least 400 animals. We have 195 cages/kennels at our Main campus, plus 40 additional spaces at our two adoption centers totaling 235. In many cases, kennels had litters of puppies so the capacity was closer to 255. In addition, last May we had 146 animals in foster care for a total capacity on a given day of 400. With that much capacity and our goal to save every healthy pet, why would we euthanize for space? Further, since the creation of our behavior department on my watch, we have rehabilitated countless behaviorally challenged dogs and cats that have gone to successful new lives. And, thanks to our free Behavior Helpline and Meet-Your-Match programs, our return rate in contrast to the number stated in the post is a mere 6%, well below the national average of 10%. We have been tracking all these numbers in detail since 2007 and will happily make them available to anyone who wishes to review them.
Our policy and practice regarding surgeries is that animals must remain on campus at least 24 hours after their surgery. From time to time, incisions can open up if an animal licks the surgery site or becomes too active. With over 8,500 surgeries performed each year, some animals will suffer post surgical complications. We track fatalities and our results are comparable to the best private veterinary practices. That said, we strive to have no post-surgical complications and routinely examine and modify our protocols to achieve that goal.
And finally, yes we are planning to renovate the campus. Why? To improve the housing for the homeless pets we serve. The goal of this project is to create housing that is equally excellent for every dog and cat on campus, regardless of whether they are available for adoption , in treatment, quarantine, or in stray holding. The reality is our current facility, which includes buildings that are 30 years old, does not provide a supportive, stress-free environment for every pet. That is why we plan to upgrade our facilities. Our model is to provide housing that is equal to the quality of our Robbie Jones Memorial Cat House. Better housing means happier, healthier animals and a more welcoming campus for the adopting public. This investment is indeed an investment in animal care.
I thank anyone who has read this far and invite you to come visit our campus, unannounced, to see the care and quality of our work and our commitment to saving animals.
In my four years of work with Animal Humane of New Mexico, I have seen a perfect combination of a driven and compassionate team of professionals who have made themselves, their expertise and their facility available for caring for cruelty cases in New Mexico. They have treated, trained and housed animals from all over the state from hoarding cases and animal fighting cases. They have an excellent director who has taken this organization to new levels as soon as she came on board. She has elevated their work with the media, fundraising events and work with other local rescues and advocacy groups. When I worked with local law enforcement to coordinate a raid on a New Mexico property that was posing as a "rescue" and was housing over 93 sick, starving and injured dogs, AHNM was the first to immediately offer to take in as many dogs as they could. Their veterinary staff is top notch and triaged every dog that we brought in. One of those dogs is one of the best success stories we have had from a cruelty case. Lilly came in severely malnourished and likely wouldn't have survived without their immediate care and is now thriving in her foster home. Animal Protection of New Mexico and all others involved with Lilly's case are so grateful for AHNM's quick ability to act and assist in cruelty cases as well as the tremendous work they do every day for the animals that they take in. Thank you AHNM!