1,830 is the number of pets that owners surrendered to Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society in 2009.

1,596 is the number of pets that owners surrendered to Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society in 2010.

" I’m fearful that the reason we saw [that decrease] is that people are simply moving and leaving animals in their homes. I think last year was really tough for a lot of people"—SFASHS Executive Director Mary Martin

Although the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society had approximately a 13 percent drop in owner surrenders in 2010 compared to the prior year, the shelter isn't ready to celebrate. Last year also brought a 4.3 percent increase in the number of stray pets brought to the shelter—a figure that accompanied a disturbing new trend.

"I guess simply because people weren't willing to bring them down to us [they abandon them]…the neighbor says, 'Oh, someone comes and feeds every once in awhile,' or those kinds of things," SFASHS Executive Director Mary Martin says.

Natalie Owings, the founder and director of Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary in Glorieta, says such animal abandonment is more prevalent than ever.

"I even heard of one out at Shiprock where people left the house and left the dog in it…most of these owners that are leaving have no money and they don't want to be charged by a shelter to leave their dog," Owings says.

Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary, which provides a permanent home for aging animals who aren't likely candidates for adoption, also has received calls from people who notice a neighbor moved and left the dog behind. Founder and Director Ulla Pedersen attributes the trend to the economic climate.

 "I think a lot of people feel desperate, but it's hard to say why somebody would leave an animal behind and not take them to the shelter," she says.

On the bright side, even with the increase in strays, Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society still took in fewer animals in 2010 than 2009. Española Valley Humane Society Manager Lisa Gipe says it took in 3 percent fewer owner surrenders in the same time period but, since that shelter offers free spays and neuters and subsidized pet food, the financial constraints might not be as much of a motivating factor.

The bottom line?

“It’s very cruel to simply abandon any animal,” Owings says. “It’s better to take them to a shelter or to a sanctuary because at least the animal’s going to be kept warm and fed.”