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Groups hope forum improves animal services

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The city-hosted public forum Tuesday night provides an opportunity for members of rescue groups and other citizens to discuss issues related to the city's Animal Control services and its operation of the shelter on 705 E. McGaffey St. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

How to reduce the number of dogs and cats euthanized at the city shelter, what volunteers can do to help city Animal Control workers and how rescue groups can work better with each other, the public and the city are just a few of the topics that animal care volunteers hope will be discussed at this week’s public forum hosted by the city of Roswell.

“We want to make it better. We want to be part of that positive change,” said From Forgotten to Forever volunteer Felicia Conde. “Those animals are our top priority, and we want to do what we can to help.”
City officials have invited rescue groups and the public in the area to participate in the animal issues forum to discuss the city’s Animal Control services, which includes operation of a shelter on East McGaffey Street.
The forum will occur at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Roswell Museum and Art Center, 100 W. 11th St.
City Manager Joe Neeb said that the forum was called in the attempt to end confusion and address concerns.
“What I have found is that there are some passionate people about how this service operates,” he said in an email. “I have had many discussions with individuals and some of the groups about how the city should manage Animal Control and the shelter. The forum will provide everyone the opportunity to have input on what is happening, and it allows the city to correct many of those misconceptions that rattle around through the groups.”
Neeb added that this forum will not focus on issues related to the city-owned Spring River Park and Zoo. The zoo has received complaints about how animals are treated, and representatives with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals recently offered to pay to transfer two bears from the zoo to a reserve while giving the city $10,000 to use toward the improvement of the mountain lion exhibit. The city declined that offer.
Neeb said the city is working now to hire a consultant to help with zoo planning and that public participation in those efforts probably would occur after the consultant is selected, expected by mid-October.

Conde said that she would like to discuss how her group and other volunteer groups in the area can work with the city to reduce the number of animals killed and to assist in cleaning the shelter, walking dogs or providing donated food, bedding and other supplies. She also said she wants to discuss the policies and procedures for rescues and ways to work with the community to reduce the number of unwanted and unspayed and unneutered animals.
“We want to work alongside (city staff),” she said, “and nothing more.”
She added that she understands that the work of Animal Control can be demanding and that she wants the city staff to understand that volunteers are seeking to cooperate on improvements.
At least one representative of the Roswell Humane Society is expected to attend the forum as well. It is unknown whether other groups will have representatives there.
Neeb echoed Conde about a willingness to collaborate.
“The city relies heavily on the (Roswell) Humane Society and rescue groups to assist with finding homes for these strays, so it is important that we work hand-in-hand,” Neeb said. “When there (are) misunderstandings, it causes confusion and frustration. Our goal is to eliminate any confusion.”
The number of animals euthanized in the region has caused some groups to make harsh criticisms of Roswell and other southeast New Mexico cities on social media sites.
According to an Animal Control report to the Roswell City Council dated June 2016, which gives data for almost a full year of operations, the department had taken in 2,373 animals for the year, with 1,232 adopted, 391 returned to owners and 689 euthanized. In its most recent posted report to the City Council in February 2017, Animal Control indicated that it had taken in 330 animals for the month, adopted 120, returned 64 to owners and euthanized 117.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.