Report looks into Animal Welfare volunteers; director seeks to revamp cat program


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Three volunteers at the City of Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department are under fire following claims they’ve been harassing staff, and two of them are even accused of mistreating some of the animals. A new report from the Office of Inspector General details what happened.

The claims are centered around volunteers for the Fraidy Cat Program at the east side shelter who are apparently butting heads with some staff, and one of them reportedly admitted to pushing a cat’s limits.

“As soon as we became aware that that was happening, we approached her and educated her on the fact that that is not our protocol,” Animal Welfare Department Director Carolyn Ortega explained.

The initial complaint sent from staff to the Office of Inspector General states that one of these volunteers admitted through email and in-person to “pushing a cat’s limits with fast movements, loud noises, etc.” to see if it would react negatively. The city’s HEART ordinance labels that type of behavior as cruelty for teasing or taunting.

In a separate case, another volunteer is accused of using his phone to record a cat in distress after coming off anesthesia, reportedly creating more stress instead of helping a staff member with the animal. He later told the OIG he deleted the video and admitted his actions were in poor taste.

This report comes as Ortega is proposing to create a more organized cat program and get more staff involved.

“I do think there’s an opportunity for us to strengthen and create some structure around the volunteer program and the cat program,” Ortega stated. “There really has not been a whole lot of structure and prior to me coming on there wasn’t a lot of attention paid to cats. The focus was more on dogs.”

Ortega also plans to hire a full-time volunteer coordinator and a cat behavioralist to help with that program.

The three volunteers mentioned in the report are still working at the shelter. The department is still looking for volunteers at the eastside and westside shelters, and at Lucky Paws.

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