Chico wags his tail furiously, then jumps up, balancing his front paws against the door, his white head straining to peek out into the hallway. The 1-year-old old mixed breed came to the Santa Fe Animal Shelter seven months ago as a stray—no collar, no ID tag and papertrail to his back story. Because the shelter is no-kill, Chico will stay there, safe from euthanization, until someone adopts him.
Chico is one of 308 animals the shelter is offering for adoption: dogs, cats, snakes, geckos, mice, rabbits, guinea pigs and more. But it’s dogs who run the place.
“Right now we’re completely overpopulated with dogs, so that’s our main push for this weekend,” says Murad Kirdar, public and business relations officer for the shelter.
The shelter is having a discount on Friday, Saturday and Sunday to encourage Santa Feans who may be on the fence about adopting a dog. For three days, dogs that are five months and older will be only $25 to adopt—a steep cut from the typical price, which is regularly over $100, depending on the dog.
“We’ve been helping shelters all across New Mexico, Murad tells SFR, holding a treat up to tempt Chico. “We’re the only shelter in Santa Fe that helps Santa Fe and Santa Fe County. On top of that we also help shelters in Bernalillo, Albuquerque, Las Cruces Las Vegas and Espanola. We’re helping every shelter whenever they’re full and we bring them here. Because we’ve been doing that all summer, now all of a sudden we’re overpopulated.”
Two causes drive the stray dog issue in Santa Fe and New Mexico: people are not spaying and neutering their animals, and they don’t fit them with a microchip or at the very least, a collar and an ID tag.
Murad tells SFR the shelter receives about a dozen stray animals a week without a microchip or collar and that it’s common for dogs to escape from Albuquerque and end up wandering the streets of Santa Fe.
“It’s a whole chain reaction,” Murad says. “Spay and neuter is our most important message we like to get out there. There is really no reason you shouldn’t spay and neuter because you can get it done pretty much for free. We have low-cost and free services at our Southside clinic. There’s so many programs within Santa Fe, Santa Fe County and New Mexico that offer free- to low-cost spay and neuter.”
Animals can also be spayed and neutered next door to the adoptions building at the Clare Eddy Thaw Animal Hospital, and each adoptable dog comes spayed or neutered with a microchip, 30 days of pet insurance, a bag of dog food, a free consultation with a shelter trainer and 50% off the price of training classes.
New Mexico is notorious for stray animal issues, dogs in particular. During any given year, public and private shelters take in more than 135,000 dogs and cats. Of those, over 65,000 are euthanized because they are not adopted, according to Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM).
In 2018, APNM tried worked with legislators to push priority legislation, including: Senate Bill 51 and House Bill 64. The identical measures would have created a stable funding source for spay and neuter services statewide by taxing the profitable pet food manufacturers $100 per dog and cat food product as a condition of sale in New Mexico.
HB 64 passed the House and the Senate; only to meet the veto pen of then-Gov Susana Martinez.
For now, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter will continue to take in animals like Chico from surrounding rural counties with smaller facilities and the City Different’s own streets.
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Katherine is a Florida native in Santa Fe to cover the texture and life of the city's Southside using writing, photography, videography and audio. She's a grant-funded fellow in the Report for America program and her work is underwritten by the Brindle and McCune foundations, Enterprise Bank and Hutton Broadcasting.