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City, rescues discuss animal control challenges

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Representatives of two animal rescue groups and the city of Roswell talked Monday evening about ways they can help each other — and what help they need from others — to work together to reduce the number of animals in the city’s shelter.

City Manager Joe Neeb, Deputy City Manager Mike Mathews, Director of Special Services Jim Burress, new Animal Services Supervisor Nicole Rogers and Kennel Manager Megan Telles met at City Hall with Sammye Leflar, president of Friends of Roswell Animals, and Candience Runquist and Dan Krystafik, Roswell residents who foster cats for Peace of Mind rescue in Santa Fe.

They discussed some of the challenges they have in working together and plan to meet on a quarterly basis. Neeb said he hoped more rescue groups would be represented at future discussions.

Monday’s talk encompassed a variety of issues including how to decrease the amount of time an animal is in the city shelter but still allow the rescue groups to claim them before they are euthanized.

The city’s goal is to keep an animal in the shelter for no more than five days. Animals are currently being kept for at least 20 to 30 days.

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“We rely upon the rescues in order to remove the critters from the facility so we don’t have to put them down. There’s not an individual here that wants to put them down. The challenge is that some of the struggles that the rescues are having are in conflict with our sense of urgency of trying to keep enough room for any new ones that come in,” Neeb said.

The city has 70 enclosures for keeping dogs. Another 11, at least, are used for quarantining dogs when they are initially brought in so diseases aren’t spread through the whole shelter.

Part of the problem, Neeb said, is that the city animal shelter takes in animals from outside Roswell as well.

“My understanding is that we’re getting strays from Dexter, Hagerman, Lake Arthur,” Neeb said.

“I have not been able to find a very easy way to figure out how big of a shelter Chaves County should have. We could double the size of it and I think we’d still have space problems,” he said.

It also raises the issue of how much support the city receives from the county, he said.

Chaves County does allocate about $15,000 each year for animal services, but Neeb said the city will try to work with the county to increase its contribution.

“I don’t think it’s right that the Roswell animal shelter is covered by the city taxpayers to the level it is when we’re bringing critters from all over the county,” he said. “Chaves County has a larger population base, so they should be able to find more resources to help take some of those challenges off.”

Runquist said people who foster for the rescues face the same space problems.

“We have cats and kittens coming out of our ears,” she said. “We are beyond capacity in our homes out in the country.”

In addition, the groups are working with fewer foster homes for animals because people are just becoming burned out and not taking new animals, she said.

Leflar said FORA is facing similar issues. The group has a bus that transports animals each Saturday from Roswell to rescues in Colorado who adopt them out, and has recently begun working with rescues in Washington state that fly dogs from Roswell. Until they can be transported, the dogs have to be kept somewhere, however.

“We pull them and we board them until our transport. So we constantly have a $2,000-a-week boarding bill,” she said.

The space issues are compounded because people who adopted animals during the pandemic while they were at home more are now dumping them as they go back to work, Leflar said.

“We can’t rescue our way out of it. There’s no way,” Leflar said.

Neither can the city regulate its way out of it, Neeb said.

“I guess my frustration for the city is that we are the ones that are left with the dirty deed if it has to be done,” he said of euthanizing animals.

“You’re our safety net,” he said to the rescue group representatives. “You’re the ones that are trying to help us make sure that we don’t have to go through that.” 

“The thing we need to look at is spay and neuter,” Leflar said.

A successful spay and neuter program will likely take some education of the public, they said. That is one area where the city can help, Neeb and Mathews said.

“I’m happy to put a push on to find more rescues, to get an educational process going,” Neeb said.

With Rogers now on board to supervise Animal Control, Telles — who served as interim supervisor for more than a year — has been able to spend more time posting photos and even videos of animals in the shelter to the Roswell Animal Services Facebook page.

The Animal Services staff will also be going through some new training, and that could include taking similar approaches as the Roswell Police Department, Neeb said. That could include an additional staff member who searches online for illegal pet sales for animal control officers to follow up on, and also using welfare checks as an opportunity to educate pet owners on proper pet care.

Mathews said the city could use its videographer and video studio as part of an education push.

“We should be able to kick that into high gear with the resources that we now have,” he said.

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

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