ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People stepping up and doing the right thing by picking up strays and taking them to Albuquerque’s Animal Welfare Department are being turned away. It’s because of a new policy adopted during the pandemic.

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Right now, there are more than 800 animals being housed in the city’s three shelters. Since they are so crowded, strays are being accepted by appointment only.

“He said oh no we’re at 100% capacity he’s like you’re going to have to call and make an appointment. I said well I’m actually getting a dog out of the facility so that leaves space open and he says I have twelve other appointments lined up for surrenders,” said Ruth Chavez, an Albuquerque resident.

Animal Welfare says the appointment policy is to help monitor how many animals come into each location. It’s also to help with COVID-19 protocols and social distancing.

The department says the first thing someone should do if they find a stray is to bring it to a shelter or veterinarian to see if it is microchipped. If it’s not chipped and they can’t contact the owner they can make an intake appointment which could take a few days.  

However, if there is an emergency like an injured animal or someone cannot look after the animal until the next available appointment, the shelter is supposed to make an exception. 

“If that is the case they can let us know that it’s just an impossible situation for them or if they can’t find a family friend to possibly do that for them and help them with keeping the pet then of course we will gladly take the pet in that situation,” said Desiree Cawley with the Animal Welfare Department. People who find a lost pet are encouraged to report it to the department and post information on social media outlets to help find the owner. 

Cawley is also reminding people to spay and neuter their own animals to help with the overpopulation of cats and dogs in the city. If you’re looking to adopt a pet the Animal Welfare Department is still waiving adoption fees at its shelters.