As of Friday, there were about 1,000 animals inside the largest shelter in the state waiting for a home. “Over this past year, mostly during the summer, it has just been beyond full,” Carolyn Ortage, the Director said.
While numbers change daily, they’re averaging about 55 animals coming into the shelter a day but only 35 leaving the shelter. Between too many animals and not enough staff, the shelter is struggling to keep up.
Animal Welfare said the problems are a result of the pandemic. During COVID, many surgeries were put on hold, including Spay and Neuters to save PPE. Now, they’re feeling the aftermath of that.
“We’re seeing longer seasons of puppies and kittens; we’re seeing more puppies and kittens being born, so the population has grown significantly,” Ortega said.
To deal with the overflow, the shelter started a new way of accepting animals. If you want to give your animal to the shelter, you have to make an appointment. Animal Welfare said it doesn’t stop the intake but delays it, so they have time to do an adoption, clean the cage, and then accept the animal.
“In 2020, we really appealed to the community to help us clear out the shelter. Now, we’re just appealing to the community to help us slow down the pace,” Ortega said.
The weight is being felt in the county too. The Bernalillo County Animal Care and Resource Center has gotten to the point where, in some cases, they can’t pick up every stray animal because of capacity and a lack of Animal Control officers.
“It’s really hard to pick up every stray, and a lot of times when an officer would get there the stray was gone,” Larry Gallegos, the Communication Specialist for Bernalillo County said.
They have seen many animals adopted during the pandemic come back to the shelter because people went back to work or had money problems.
“Animal adoption is down because of the economy, some people are trying to surrender their animals because they can’t afford to feed them anymore, or they can’t afford the doctor bills,” Gallegos said. The shelter is also giving out cat and dog food free to families that are in need.
Shelters across New Mexico are working together to combat the issue. They’re holding more adoption events and keeping all adoptions free.