MAKING CHANGES ONE PAW AT A TIME:
The Dona Ana County Humane Society
By Laura Bosh & Alan Davis
The hustle and bustle of shelter life hits you when you walk through the doors of the Dona Ana County Humane Society (DACHS). The noise of curious puppies and anxious dogs fills the air as kennel staff prepare their quarters for another busy day. Volunteers take eager dogs out for exercise on the walking path and share some love with the cats. Families form lines waiting to come inside to find their forever friend. This is all in a day’s work for the staff of the Dona Ana County Humane Society.
There are several ways of considering the day to day functions of a humane society. One way is to say how wonderful it would be to work with cute little doggies and kitties all day. The other way realizes how difficult it must be to see all these animals come into the humane society every day. Most come for reasons beyond their control and they just need a home. Home is the ultimate prize for all the animals, but too often potential pets never get that chance.
The problems a humane society faces are multifaceted. Recently, the Dona Ana County Humane Society has been criticized in regard to their policies and practices. At the request of DACHS an investigation was conducted by the Humane Society of the United Stated (HSUS). Their report indicated that DACHS had some shortcomings in the areas of cleaning kennels, personnel, and euthanasia practices (the report can be downloaded via the website at www.thedachumane.org). In addition, DACHS faced a large staff turnover. All of this led to a lack of support for the shelter itself.
Most of the criticism DACHS received concerned euthanasia. In 2006, over 17,000 animals came in the door at DACHS. Of those, 5,000 were returned to their owners or adopted. Unfortunately, this means the remaining animals were euthanized. Euthanasia is never a subject anyone with compassion for animals likes to discuss. However, we need to discuss it if we are to change these devastating numbers. Most people are in favor of “No Kill” options in shelters, but when the demographics are considered, “No Kill” isn’t always an option. In Dona Ana County, there are over 2000 square miles of land, a population of 189,444 and only one humane society and/or shelter to provide services.
Dona Ana County Humane Society’s goals continue to be reduction of euthanasia, increased adoptions, and reuniting owners with their pets. The shelter animals are society’s castoffs. People profess love for family pets but discard them when problems arise. These animals represent a symptom of a national disaster - pet overpopulation. The majority of these animals are humanely euthanized, because we lack adoptive homes.
Over the last several years, there have been studies to help the general public understand the scope of pet overpopulation. With 1,250 of the 4,200 animal shelters nationwide reporting, it appears 65% of all discarded animals who enter shelters are euthanized because of behavioral problems or a lack of adoptive homes. Dogs with no behavior training and cats who do not relate to humans because of little or no social skills can rarely be retrained without fear of compromising public safety.
Consider the fact that in six short years one female dog and her offspring can be the source of 67,000 puppies. In seven years one cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens. Given these high reproductive rates, it stands to reason that carefully planned and implemented sterilization programs could produce a dramatic reduction in the number of unwanted companion animals born in only a few years. Our focus then continues to approach overpopulation from many angles. We seek:
- More adoptions
- More spay/neuter of companion animals
- Fewer owner relinquishments of pets
- Animal shelters which are accessible to all, and never turn an animal away
- Emphasis on “quality of life” for each animal in our care
In addition the Dona Ana community should be aware that there are currently three wonderful low cost spay neuter programs in our area that offer great services to increase the spaying or neutering of our companion animals,. (See: http://www.petroglyphsnm.org/insertinfo/spayneuter.html). However these services are under utilized by the public. DACHS is assisting in a major education campaign in cooperation with the three low cost spay/neuter agencies to promote spay/neuter services in all areas of the County.
Still change must occur if we are to make it better for animals. Legislation can have a direct impact on reducing pet overpopulation by requiring animals be sterilized if they are impounded more than once. One type of legislation is differential-licensing laws - laws that substantially increase license fees for pets who have not been spayed or neutered — which give owners an incentive to sterilize their pets. Education also plays an essential role in solving this problem. Unless people know the facts about pet overpopulation and sterilization, they are virtually helpless to do anything about the problem. Additionally, the reduction of spay/neuter fees plays an important role in solving the problem as well. In areas where veterinarians have agreed to reduce their spay/neuter fees, there are reports of a significant decline in the number of animals euthanized. We are hoping for the same in our community.
The DACHS Message
- Spay & Neuter Your Pets. Spaying or neutering your pets moves us one step closer to a solution to pet overpopulation.
- Humane Animal Care. We advocate, teach, and perform humane care for all animals every day. We focus on quality of life - for every animal - every day.
- Adopt from a shelter. Adopt a companion from an animal shelter because providing a lifetime home saves lives.
- Be Responsible. When you bring an animal into your life you accept responsibility for providing veterinary care, appropriate vaccinations, and being a good neighbor by following state and local animal laws for the life of the animal.
- Eliminate animal cruelty through educating the public about human and companion animal bonding. We believe in reverence for all life.
Laura Bosh is the Volunteer and Marketing Coordinator at DACHS. She hopes to have 130 volunteers to serve the shelter in various capacities. She believes volunteers are instrumental in improving the quality of life for the animals and for making the job a little easier for the staff.
Alan Davis is the Director of DACHS. Alan took the position in March 2007 following 20 years of experience in animal shelters, most recently as the Director of The Humane Society of Broward County. Alan is working towards developing and improving the shelter programs.