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City plans higher standards for Animal Control

Alison Penn Photo City Councilor Barry Foster, Councilor Jeanine Corn Best and Mike Mathews, public safety director, listen to Megen Telles, the new kennel manager of Roswell Animal Services, introduces herself at the Public Safety Committee meeting. Devin Graham, the Roswell Fire Department chief, sits next to Telles.

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Megen Telles, the new kennel manager for Roswell Animal Services, shared her intentions to raise standards for the animal shelter and animal control services at the city of Roswell’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday.

At this meeting, the committee also voted unanimously to approve new standards of operation for the city’s Animal Control shelter. According to the Public Safety Committee’s agenda, no operational standards were in place prior to the drafting of the document and the new standards can be used in conjunction with current city policies and codes.

Committee Chair Jeanine Corn Best and Councilors Barry Foster and Andrea Moore shared their support and said they reviewed the standards around three months ago. Councilor Steve Henderson, another committee member, was absent from this meeting.

Mike Mathews, director of public safety, said these standards are minimum standards for the structure, enclosures, sanitation, care and handling, disease control, recordkeeping, personnel, adoption standards and more. He said the standards provided by the state’s animal sheltering board and that the city’s shelter has exceeded the standards at this time. He said he was “extremely happy” about the new direction of animal services.

Mathews introduced the Telles and said the department is in the process of hiring three additional kennel workers. Mathews said there is one kennel worker currently, one will start today, and another one is being interviewed.

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Telles is a local to Roswell and said she has experience as a vet tech and an educational background in animal science. She has worked as an officer for the past five months and has been the manager for about one month. Prior to this, she said she worked in Las Cruces as an animal control officer for six years.

“We’re definitely all animal lovers over there,” Telles said. “We all have our own pets. My pets live in refrigerated air, they have a dog door — my standard for animal welfare is really, really high.”

“Megen is fantastic for us,” City Manager Joe Neeb said. “We’ve just moved this service miles ahead of where it was at (from) everything that everybody has done with working on it with the standards of service … our goal is always to get every animal adopted out of there. That’s our goal.”

Mathews and Telles showed the committee the new Facebook business page titled Roswell Animal Services that launched last Friday. As of Wednesday, the page has 443 likes and 445 follows. Telles said she has been receiving positive feedback on the page so far.

Telles said the hours are listed and the staff will be posting animal photos in real time, if possible, of the intakes and update the inventory daily. Telles said the kennel number and dates of intake and potentially adoptions will be shared with the photos and videos.

Telles said the animal services department will be taking over posting photos and videos of the animals instead of the rescue organizations, who she updated on the matter two weeks ago. However, she said she will allow some videos created by the rescues in a controlled and observed visitor room between 11 and 1 p.m. during the week. She said this change will take time to get used to, but it will benefit the shelter and the rescues in the long term.

Neeb said he hopes the “rescues will see the shelter as a resource” rather than the previous reputation animal control held in the past.

Mathews said having multiple organizations posting the animals was causing confusion and the new will allow the public to see the animals quicker by allowing staff to take charge. Chief Phil Smith of the Roswell Police Department said Telles is skilled, tactful and correct with interacting with the locals “overly concerned with what is happening with Animal Control.”

Telles said some of the issues with outdated city ordinances are regarding animals and is trying to catch the city’s animal services up to speed with other municipalities, such as Las Cruces. She said implementing microchipping and spay and neuter programs in collaboration with local veterinarians are within the future plans.

For microchipping, she said this will help reduce the number of animals coming to the shelter and allow animals to be returned to their owners in the field. Mathews said in the meantime, animals should have tags so they can be returned.

In a follow-up interview, Councilor Foster said he was happy about already exceeding the standards and said there is a negative perception about the shelter when “overly concerned citizens” were spreading false claims about a previous veterinarian. Councilor Best said people from all over the country have complained about the shelter. Councilor Moore said the standards were written well and said she was also pleased with exceeding the standards since the city should not “be behind the ball on anything.”

According to previous Daily Record coverage in Aug. 2016, Dr. Leandro Gutierrez Jr., the previously contracted animal services veterinarian, testified against 44 complaints against him and there was a Facebook battle from rescue groups alleging a high euthanasia rate and lack of cleanliness at the shelter. The Oct. 24, 2016, article stated that Dr. Guiterrez was sentenced to pay a $1,500 fine and with probation for one year, by the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine, in regard to his management of the city shelter.

Telles said, “Some people are not going to love us because we’re there for a reason, but we can try to turn that around so the general public understands why we are here.”

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.


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