City officials recently addressed questions raised about whether Roswell Animal Services (RAS) is shortening the length of time it retains animals before euthanizing them.
“The city of Roswell greatly appreciates all the great work our rescue groups do working to get a new home for our local pets,” Mike Mathews, director of public safety, wrote in a statement to the Daily Record. “The city has not changed any ordinances as it relates to the length of time animals can or will be held at Roswell Animal Services. What we are asking is if a group has an interest in a pet, to please tag that animal as soon as possible …”
The seven-day rule refers to a seven-day period explained in the unclaimed animal section of the current city code. Mathews explained that, according to the seven-day rule, days zero to four would be the ideal timeframe for owners to reclaim their animals. Beginning with day five and ending on day seven, Mathews said the dog is up for adoption by the public. Mathews clarified that from day one through seven, rescue groups can tag an animal for potential rescue — they will be informed if they can rescue the animal, and there is an option to request a two-day extension contingent on space at the shelter. Mathews said it costs $1 for the rescues to collect animals.
“Any dog or cat impounded by the city which is not redeemed or adopted within seven days following the date of its impoundment shall be disposed of in any humane manner as shall be prescribed by the American Veterinary Medical Association,” the city code reads. “The city manager or the manager’s designee shall have the discretion to retain any animal beyond the seven days for such period of time that the city manager or designee deems reasonable, but not to exceed 21 days.”
Mathews said it has become a problem allowing animals to remain in the shelter for 21 days — due to increased risk of animals being exposed to diseases, and the cost for holding them. From now on, Mathews said the city can work with the rescue groups depending on the situation, but Animal Services will not make it standard to hold animals for the rescue groups for the full length of time.
At the Public Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, Captain Fil Gonzales of the Roswell Police Department and Mathews presented information on the Animal Services facility at 705 E. McGaffey St. In the last year, Gonzales said RAS has had 4,690 intakes with 2,947 animals adopted, reclaimed by owners or collected by rescue organizations. Gonzales said 1,122 animals were euthanized, which cost approximately $72,000. Gonzales attributes the low number of animals euthanized to social media efforts since a Facebook page for the shelter was launched in September.
Gonzales said the city pays $65 for a dog and $23 for a cat to be euthanized.
Gonzales said the city’s facility receives animals picked up in the county, and by county officers. Giving an example, Gonzales said when the county brings in feral cats, the city pays for it. The plan is to decrease costs with the county paying for animals collected under such circumstances. Mathews said it made “no sense” for the city to assume the cost and liability of having county animals.
Councilor Jeanine Corn Best agreed that the county needs to “cooperate and play ball” with the city on the matter.
“I’m still working with rescues,” Gonzales said. “I’m getting the word out and getting them rescued out of there. I’m trying to implement the seven-day rule where us keeping these animals for 21 days is — we had one today, been there 14 days. One the 14th day, they finally tagged it and picked it up on the 21st day. We paid for the upkeep of that animal 21 days to have a rescue come get it for $1. That’s just not cost effective. We’re in the negative already and there’s no sense for us to be doing this ever …”
Gonzales said “keeping every animal there for 21 days in hopes that a rescue would take them” is not feasible, or cost-effective, and prevents the RAS from doing proactive law enforcement when the shelter is full.
The city’s legal office is drafting agreements with the Humane Society and another one with Sheriff Mike Herrington, Mathews said. He said these agreements may be ready for the committee’s review next month. In addition, Mathews announced that several amendments to the city’s animal control ordinance will be coming before the committee throughout the year.
When Best asked about current tracking methods, Mathews said “tracking is being done better than it ever has,” because since the first of the year, the RAS staff has been recording details about the locations of the animals when collected, where the owners live, etc.
Foster said the euthanasia numbers have decreased since 2014 and approved of this. He said 1,100 is still “too many,” but added the Animal Control staff is “doing a great job.”
Mathews said a shelter in Santa Fe — which takes some of the animals from the local shelter — agreed with the seven-day rule. Best agreed with imposing the time limits. Councilor Angela Moore commented that animals should not be prejudged since these animals are often family pets who are loved. Moore said she understood the fairness and the costs influencing the seven-day rule.
“The city’s desire is to get these pets out of the environment of the shelter, where they could be exposed to sicknesses and diseases from other animals, and into a good forever home,” Mathews said. “Animal Services will continue to work closely with our rescues and values the work that they do in our community and looks forward to providing the best possible service to its citizens and pets.”
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.