Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Albuquerque Animal Services Revisited

Thirteen months have passed since I visited Albuquerque, met with the Shelter people and toured. What I saw and heard impressed me. Why? Well, for one thing, Albuquerque is smart enough to put a Registered Nurse in charge of the shelters. This is someone who understands the need for sanitation. She upgraded the shelters, as I said last year, with the goal of keeping animals healthy and preventing disease. She brought in the shelter medicine specialist from U.C. Davis. After learning what had been implemented, here is what Dr Sandra Newbury wrote on Dec 30, 2007, following the Dec 23, 2007 ABQ Journal article entitled, City’s Toasting Animal Welfare Revamp This Year:

“Thanks for doing such a great job and setting such a great example for other shelters to follow. You all are clearly one of the best two day long investments I have ever made. Thanks for including me. You really are a great team. Congratulations!”

There is no doubt that this is one of the few shelter systems where the animals are less likely to break with illnesses after leaving the shelter.

I’ve done some investigation. This past fiscal year the city of Albuquerque’s Animal Welfare Department had the greatest number of Live Exits in the history of that city. Read that sentence again. It’s meaningful. Albuquerque is up 17% for the last two years under the direction of Jeanine Patterson, MS RN and they are up 24% overall for the past four years.

There are always euthanasias at shelters. That’s a fact of life. Every animal cannot be saved despite the best of intentions. In Albuquerque, they are at an all-time low in euthanasias with a 20% decrease over the last two years and 26% over the past 4 years. This is a wonderful record. Patterson’s determination and dedication will only serve to move this forward and improve the already impressive record.

Can more be done? More can always be done but this is a rousing start in only two short years. I expect an outreach project involving the dog and cat community as well as more of an outreach to volunteers whose work is very much appreciated by Patterson.

What would I wish for Albuquerque? I wish that someone would have sense enough to rid the City of the Draconian spay/neuter laws that were instituted before Patterson arrived on the scene. There are always well-meaning but horribly misinformed politicians who want to force this Animal Rights issue on citizens. (http://www.petconnection.com/blog/2009/06/15/case-study-in-failure-los-angeles-mandatory-spayneuter-program-under-fire/) Not only have these laws been proven not to work in other cities but all they serve to do is punish responsible breeders. Lawbreakers will simply continue to break the law. These spay/neuter laws are the result of the animal rights agenda that is determined to see that no one will ever own a dog or cat. (Ingrid Newkirk – PETA – quotes: http://www.activistcash.com/biography_quotes.cfm/bid/456) That means not only an end to responsible breeding but, ultimately, an end to service dogs, therapy dogs and cats, police dogs, drug and bomb sniffing dogs, therapeutic riding programs and more. This is no exaggeration. This is what has been stated but those who put forth these laws don’t do their homework. They simply have a knee-jerk reaction to overpopulation.
It’s important to note that despite budget cuts of $1.5 million, Patterson has achieved so much yet has received no attention for it. It’s about time someone stood up and applauded her work to date.
Patterson doesn’t work in a vacuum. The head of Shelter Medicine, Dr. John Romero is a wonderfully dedicated veterinarian with a background that includes time spent at Boston’s world-renowned Angell Memorial Animal Hospital. In-house surgeries and outstanding medical care are his purview.
Getting the word out and getting so much organized is more than capably handled by Rick DeReyes. This is a formidable team and Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez should be applauded for his ability to bring the best people into these positions. His trust in them is obviously paying off in solid numbers. The attention has been placed where it should be in animal welfare: on health and adoption while impressively decreasing the number of euthanasias.
I’m looking forward to more advances from this forward-thinking group of hard working people. The rest of the country should be taking a good look at what Albuquerque has accomplished in such a short span of time and what they will no doubt continue to do to improve the lives of animals in Albuquerque. Mayor Martin Chavez, Jeanine Patterson and Dr. John Romero can stand up and take a bow.
And, yes, I will continue to report on what they are doing.