Animal Protection of New Mexico began as Sangre de Cristo Animal Protection in 1979 and has been run by Executive Director Lisa Jennings since 1993. APNM is responsible for everything from 2007's cockfighting ban to training New Mexico's animal-control officers to more effectively fight animal cruelty. APNM celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special event at the Chalk Farm Gallery (2-6 pm Sunday, Oct. 18. $50. 729 Canyon Road, 983-7125).

SFR: Why were you drawn to this work?
LJ: I've always had the sense that those who are vulnerable deserve our protection. I have a very soft spot in my heart for children and for anyone that's being picked on; I never could stand that, and I think the most vulnerable among us, by far, are animals. Animals are chained up, eaten, tortured in labs—all the things that you can imagine. I think it was natural for me to gravitate to animal protection issues because you can't find a group of individuals that are more in need of our protection.

What sort of changes in animal protection have you seen over the 23 years you've been involved?
I recently looked at the long list of what was allowed 30 years ago. Dogfighting and cockfighting were legal. The animal shelter in Albuquerque sold 600 dogs a year for medical research to [the University of New Mexico]. That's inconceivable today. There would be a riot if someone even suggested that, but even back in the late '80s, when we tried to get that stopped at the Legislature, we were handily squashed.

APNM's cruelty hotline (877-5-HUMANE) seems to be one of the organization's biggest tasks.
A lot of what we do is dictated by the hotline. That is where the rubber meets the road. One person, our cruelty case manager, handles all that. You can imagine how difficult that is—taking cruelty calls all day long. We handle 2,000 cases a year.

Is there a particular part of the state from which you get a lot of cruelty calls?
Valencia County—Los Lunas, Belen—is, by far, the area we get the most calls from. But there's a
flip side to looking at that—that also means there are a lot of people down there who care about animals. So which is it—that there's more cruelty down there or there are more people paying
attention? We don't know.

If the cruelty hotline helps incubate issues that are important to the public, what programs have been born of those calls?
One in four calls is a livestock, horse-related issue, so last year we started researching the horse issues, and we decided to launch an Equine Protection Fund. We did a capacity analysis of the state—what's the capacity of all the horse shelters? And it's 250 horses. And 16,000 horses a year go through our border to Mexico to be slaughtered. We have become a funnel for all the surrounding states for their horses to be slaughtered in Mexico. What we want to do is create a vast system of services—just like we have for dogs and cats—with low-cost gelding for horses; we need more accessible farrier and veterinary care. I'd like to see us set up this whole suite of services, then push it upstream to other states—all the states that are sending their horses through New Mexico.

Do you get discouraged often?
Not really. I'm a ridiculous optimist. But I think it's easy to be encouraged when you succeed, and we succeed because we have so much help. Having a grateful heart is a big part of being successful.

If a bunch of money fell out of the sky today, what would APNM do with it?
We could employ 20 more people [in addition to Jennings, APNM has an 11-person staff]. If someone gave us enough money for 20 more people, we would know what to do with them right now. Easily. There's a whole docket of things that people care about that we would love to tackle, but we just don't have the resources. We play to win. When we take on something, we intend to put it in place. We don't just want to dabble in it. When we decide to do something, we put it on our list and we don't take it off until it's done.