New Mexico's Pet Resource SUMMER 2006


COVER STORY

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ALBUQUERQUE HAS HEART
By PETroglyphs Staff
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Congratulations and many paws up to the Albuquerque City Council for taking a positive step toward ending the daily slaughter at the City animal shelters.

Sixteen thousand animals killed every year are far too many. But the only way to lower this horrendous number, and actually achieve the “live exit” city that Mayor Chavez says is Albuquerque’s goal, is to lower the number of animals coming through the front doors of the shelters.

The Humane and Ethical Animal Rules and Treatment (HEART) ordinance authored by Councilor Sally Mayer and passed May 22, 2006 by the Albuquerque City Council aims to do just that and a lot more.

The HEART ordinance reflects thousands of hours of hard work gathering data and receiving input from hundreds of New Mexicans concerned about the treatment of animals. Councilor Mayer began hearing complaints several years ago about the conditions at the City animal shelters. Animal advocates came to her, as an elected official, and asked for her help. Thus began her personal education on the issues surrounding animals in New Mexico and how she could improve their lives. She observed City staff forced to euthanize healthy animals simply because there are not enough homes, cruelty cases too horrible to imagine, hundreds of animals picked up monthly and never reclaimed, and thousands of dogs and cats dumped at the City’s doors each year. It was overwhelming and it was heartbreaking. Her job was to help change the laws to reflect a more humane and enlightened City. She thought her efforts would be welcomed by all those who love animals, an idea that didn’t last too long.

The ordinance, as passed in Albuquerque, underwent numerous drafts and changes before that final vote. During the two years Councilor Mayer crafted the HEART bill, she sought input from professional organizations associated with each section of the bill—groomers, veterinarians, animal behaviorists, animal control staff, attorneys, exotic animal experts, animal trainers, reputable animal breeders, rescue groups and more were sought out to offer suggestions on how to improve animals’ lives. When Councilor Mayer began working on the ordinance, her aim was to improve the lives of animals while they were in the shelter. Soon she realized that was only one aspect of a much larger problem. With that realization, Councilor Mayer began the complete overhaul of the existing City ordinance.

A few of the most basic, and controversial, components of the ordinance include:

·  Increase to ten days, including two weekends, the amount of time an animal stays at a city shelter instead of the four days required by the previous ordinance. This will increase their chances of being adopted or reunited with their owner.

·  Require dogs and cats over the age of six months to be spayed or neutered unless the guardian applies for and receives an intact animal permit. The permit will cost $150. Breeders will also be limited to one litter per animal per year and no more than four litters per year in a household. A litter permit also will cost $150 per year.

·  Ensure that all animals in Albuquerque are permanently identified through microchipping.

·  Restrain pets at all times when they are outdoors, by a fence or enclosure. If outside their yard, they must be on a leash or inside a vehicle.

·  Prohibit a dog from being chained longer than one hour per day.

·  Require a multiple companion animal permit if a household exceeds six pets – with no more than four of them being dogs.

·  Prohibit the sale of animals in parking lots or in places other than the breeder’s home.

·  Prohibit adoption of animals from the City shelters by any person who has been convicted of any type of cruelty, of violating animal ordinances two or more times, has failed to reclaim an animal from the shelter, or has been convicted of child or domestic abuse.

·  Require facilities that house animals to properly care for them.

·  Prohibit the use of poisons outside the home to prevent wildlife from ingesting poisoned rodents.

·  Require all citizens to be responsible for providing basic care for their animals through decent food and water, proper grooming to prevent health problems, providing proper and safe enclosures and keeping housing areas clear of debris and harmful elements.

Animal owners who already take proper care of their animals will not notice any difference under the HEART ordinance. Animal control officers will only respond to a complaint call initiated by a citizen who sees an animal being treated inhumanely. But, the ordinance will give the officers more effective tools to help animals.

The Council chambers were packed for three consecutive meetings with people who supported the HEART ordinance and those who opposed it. The opposition was led by breeders and the Rio Grande Kennel Club. Their opposition to the increased intact animal fees and litter permits caused them to oppose the entire ordinance, even though they had years of no increased fees for their hobby, and each claimed to never have had more litters per year than Councilor Mayer’s ordinance permits. They believed what was actually needed was public education about animal issues rather than legislation delineating required animal care. The fallacy contained within this argument was noticed and remarked upon by City Councilor Craig Loy, a former Albuquerque City police officer. He noted that we have been educating people for years to not drink and drive, but we still need laws against drunk driving.

Education along with effective laws will decrease the number of animals entering the City shelters. This will be accomplished by increasing the number of spay and neuter programs and by having animals permanently identified, which will allow animal control officers to reunite people with their animals. The City budget for the next fiscal year includes a 23% increase for the Animal Care Center to hire staff to implement programs designed to help people keep their animals, and officers to enforce and educate the public on our ordinances and state laws.

Councilor Mayer has often said this is only the beginning. The goal is to have no healthy, adoptable animals euthanized in Albuquerque shelters and to ensure that all animals in Albuquerque, whether in private homes, grooming parlors, boarding kennels, or pet stores, are well taken care of and treated humanely. Thousands of animals died last year in Albuquerque because they simply were born into a society that has no room for them—a tragic indictment of us, and a wakeup call for us to begin treating the other creatures on this planet with simple dignity by allowing them a life without pain or suffering.

Now that the ordinance is passed, it is hoped that all sides can come together and work as a team to see that this law protects the animals we all care so deeply about. The ordinance has something for everyone, and while nobody may be 100% happy with the entire law, it is not about individual situations or cases. Rather, the law is designed to protect the largest number of animals possible.

With Mayor Chavez calling for a live exit City, and Councilor Mayer spearheading legislation to see this dream come to fruition, Albuquerque and New Mexico are on their way to seeing an end to unnecessary euthanization, and a beginning to great homes for all animals in our City—both companion and wild. The HEART ordinance may even serve as a model for other cities in New Mexico and possibly beyond.


To download the full text of the 68-page ordinance, visit:
City of Albuquerque Legislative File ID 0-05-135 and click the links under "Attachments": Legislative File Text (pdf) or 0-135fsfin.doc (document file).

Or go to: Albuquerque City Council and under "Recent News" click on the link 0-05-135 to download the pdf.

HEART - Humane & Ethical Animal Rules & Treatment FAQ

It is a re-write of the Albuquerque Animal Law. It sets humane standards of treatment in order to promote responsible animal ownership. HEART is designed to be easily understood by the public and more easily enforced by Animal Service Officers (ASOs). It was passed by the City Council, signed by the Mayor and will become effective on Aug. 22.

Q: What are some of the major changes from the old law?

A. The biggest change is that dogs and cats must be spayed or neutered and microchipped. Most everything else is a clarification of the existing law and there are some provisions copied from other jurisdictions dealing with the same animal problems that we are facing.

Q: Are there any exceptions to the spay/neuter/microchip law?

A: Yes, a person may buy up to 4 Intact Companion Animal Permits (ICAP) for $150 each instead of having their animals spayed or neutered. If your animal is too old or not in good enough health, a doctor may sign a waiver to allow you to get an ICAP annually for free. As for microchipping, there is an option to have a tattoo or a doctor's waiver.

Q. Can I chain my dog for longer than one hour?

A. No, but that has been the law for almost two years. If you are unable to restrain your animal any other way you can contact AACC for a temporary Trolley permit. AACC has a group of volunteers able to help with fencing problems.

Q. Does HEART prohibit or disallow dog shows, obedience trials or dog parks?

A. No, City dog parks are still off-leash play areas. Dog shows etc, depending on where they are being held, require a permit from the Mayor. There is no policy change from the old law.

Q. Does HEART take away an animal owner's rights?

A. No, however, owners have never had the right to abuse or treat their animals cruelly.

Q. Does HEART make breeding animals illegal?

A. No, breeding is still allowed but limited until there are fewer dogs and cats being euthanized. Last year we killed over 16,000 animals. People can obtain up to 4 Litter Permits a year (no more than 1 per female, per year) at $150 per permit. Breeding of local animals without both animals having an Intact Companion Animal Permit is against the law. Litter Permits may be obtained any time from conception until one week after the birth of the litter.

Q. Do ASOs have the right to demand entrance into my house at any time without notice?

A. No, ASOs have a right to perform inspections, with notice, for all permit holders. In order to investigate complaints, in all but exigent circumstances, ASOs will require permission or warrants to enter your home. HEART has actually strengthened an animal owner's 4th amendment rights compared to the old ordinance. In the old law "notice" wasn't required.

Q. What if I can't afford to have my animals spayed or neutered?

A. Anyone making less than 80% of median income is eligible for free spay and neuter. HEART has created a free spay/neuter and microchip fund. 60% net of all fees collected under the HEART ordinance will go into this fund in addition to the regular budget line item.

Q. Do the City shelters have the same humane requirements as the public?

A. Yes, they have the same or in some cases higher standards. For example, shelters are prohibited from using plastic bowls because they have a potential to spread disease. Private citizens are allowed to use plastic bowls.

Q. What is "Cruelty"?

A. A simple answer is "cruelty" is abusing, hurting or killing any animal inside the city limits of Albuquerque without lawful justification. Non-domesticated rats and mice are not included.

Q. My neighbor's dogs are always running loose. Does HEART help solve that problem?

A. Yes, HEART makes it very clear that dogs and cats can never be running loose. Companion animals (dogs and cats) must be within a secure fence - like a yard or a dog park, within a secure facility - like your home or a boarding kennel, within a well ventilated car, in the back of a pick-up truck secured in a humane manner, or restrained by a leash held by a person able to control the animal. Animal Services Officers will no longer be frustrated by the roaming dog that runs home to its own yard when the ASOs come down the street.

Q. What will HEART do to address the euthanasia of so many, many innocent animals?

A. HEART has a multifaceted approach to pet over-population and excessive euthanasia at our shelters. Eventually, microchipping will allow more animals to be reunited with their owners. In the meantime, AACC will be improving its Lost and Found program. Mandatory spay/neuter with free and low cost spay/neuter will cut down on the number of dogs and cats born. A new program called Safe-Haven will give dogs and cats a better chance of getting adopted by allowing them at least 10 days including 2 weekends to get adopted before they can be euthanized. Extremely sick or aggressive animals won't be included in Safe-Haven. Outreach and Education programs and more adoption centers will also help in solving this problem. Albuquerque has a goal of becoming a "Live Exit City".

Q. I keep hearing about an 8 foot leash. What's that about?

A. The animal ordinance before HEART had a provision prohibiting the use of a leash longer than 8 feet. HEART carried over that provision as it is a public safety issue. When dogs come into contact with the general public the public has a right to know how close that animal can come to them or their children or their own dogs.

To locate HEART on line, go to cabq.gov - select the "A-Z" button at the top of the web page - then you'll go to an alphabet, choose "c" then go to "City Council". On the Council page you will see a photo of all the Councillors, under that photo is a link to HEART, click on O-05-135.

If merit is to be earned, be good and kind to dogs. Bhutanese aphorism

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