Albuquerque: No Clovis strays

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Animal rescue volunteer Heather Martin works to get a chocolate lab into a pet carrier for transport from the Clovis Animal Shelter Friday. Martin said the lab went to a nonprofit organization who will have him neutered and immunized, then find him a home.

Sharna Johnson

Members of an animal rescue group say they are taking “a small percentage” of stray dogs and cats from the Clovis shelter to shelters in Albuquerque in an effort to save them.

Officials from the state’s biggest city say animals are getting killed either way, and they want the group to stop a process that simply shifts the financial burden 215 miles west.

“We are not willing to take animals from Clovis,” said Jim Ludwick, a policy analyst for the city of Albuquerque. “In the long run, the solution is find adopters in your town. That’s the way to save animals. The intake of these animals (in Albuquerque) will cause animals to die. We’re not in a position here that we can pretend like it’s anything other than what it is.”

Clovis Police Chief Steve Sanders, whose office oversees the Clovis shelter, said he was not aware rescue groups were transferring animals to other shelters without formal agreements in place.

“I understand why they’re probably doing it. (But Albuquerque’s) in the same boat we are. It’s inappropriate. This is obviously something we’re going to have to take a look at and find some resolution for,” Sanders said.

Clovis shelter records show that since January, 240 dogs and cats have been rescued from the facility, an increase of 92 percent over the same period last year.

In 2010, Clovis euthanized 1,825 dogs and cats. From January to April of this year, 394 animals have been euthanized — a 31 percent drop over the same months in 2010.

Heather Martin of Clovis said since January she has worked with a rescue group comprised mostly of spouses and airmen from Cannon Air Force Base, which takes animals from Clovis’ shelter and moves them to other organizations outside the area who will place them in homes.

Animals who do not fit with those facilities are taken to shelters in Albuquerque, where they are dropped off as strays, she said.

“Only a small percentage of the animals go (to Albuquerque shelters), and I don’t know what they do with them,” Martin said. “Most of our dogs go to our other 501-C3 (nonprofit) groups.

“(We do it) because the animals can’t speak for themselves and they only have four days here to find a home (in Clovis before they’re euthanized).”

When an animal task force was set up in Clovis, it included four components. One of those components is a rescue committee, which attempts to transport animals out of Clovis to give them a chance for adoption elsewhere, said Jacque Wuest, who heads the city’s rescue committee.

“My thinking is (the animals) get a second chance,” Wuest said. “These volunteers must all feel that it’s worth a second chance (and) it saves the city the expense of having to put them down.”

Wuest said she doesn’t know what percentage of those animals are taken to Albuquerque shelters. She said animals are also placed through a network of rescue groups in locations like Santa Rosa and Colorado.

Wuest said it’s immaterial which shelter an animal is in, as long as it finds a home.

“I think it’s a very well-organized situation,” Wuest said. “It amazes me that as big as Albuquerque is, that they can even find homes for these guys.”

Ludwick said they’re not finding homes. Last year, 24,119 animals were taken into the city’s three shelters, but only 10,357 were adopted. The remainder are put to sleep.

One of two things happen when a Clovis animal is reported as an Albuquerque stray, Ludwick said, and both cost Albuquerque money.

The most likely scenario is the animal doesn’t get adopted, and Albuquerque pays to euthanize a Clovis animal. In the unlikely circumstance a Clovis animal gets adopted, Ludwick said, the shelter euthanizes an Albuquerque animal that might have otherwise been adopted.

“Bringing animals here (under the premise of saving them) is frankly an illusion,” Ludwick said. “It might make them feel better because they don’t see them killed, but bringing an animal here means (an animal is) going to die every time.”

Wuest said she is responsible for checking to be sure rescue groups have valid nonprofit status and Martin’s group is one of the groups she screened.

Volunteers are required to sign an agreement with the Clovis shelter saying they will take the animals to a recognized animal shelter or organization, Wuest said. They are then responsible for bringing paperwork back from the receiving entity where the animal was taken.

Friday afternoon the group took 26 dogs and cats. Martin said she does not know if any of them were taken to shelters in Albuquerque.

“I just want to make sure that people know that we’re trying to do a good thing for the animals. We’re trying to get better resources and trying to help the community. I’d like to think it’s a second chance and that’s what we’re trying to give them,” she said.

Martin said every Thursday and Friday, her group goes to the shelter to get animals that haven’t been adopted and are facing euthanasia. The animals are then driven to rescue sanctuaries by volunteers, with most going to a ranch in Colorado and a facility in Santa Rosa.

Shelter director Louisa Maestas said she doesn’t have records from Albuquerque shelters because volunteers have told her the shelters won’t give them receipts for animals. She said Monday, 20 receipts were returned for animals taken to a Colorado facility named “Puppy Land.” She said volunteers report the remainder are in foster care awaiting homes.

Maestas said the rescue groups perform a valuable service for the shelter, especially Martin’s group.

“The main ones that are really helping us out right now are the ones from the base,” Maestas said. “They’re doing so good and they’re doing it at their own expense.”