Spring 2011 Magazine

Cover Story

Eastside Shelter Opens to Paws Up

By Nancy Marano

"That's my kitty," Adrian told me excitedly, pointing at the cat lounging in the kitty condo. "He has the wrong name but he's ours. His name's Tiger not Hugh."

"Are you adopting Tiger?" I asked.

"No. He's our cat. He got away," Adrian's mother, Bianca Rodriquez told me. During our Artic blast of cold weather, the Rodriquez's pipes froze and burst. Tiger got out and was picked up by animal control. Animal control contacted the Rodriquez's to let them know Tiger was safe at the Eastside Shelter. The whole family was at the shelter that afternoon to spring him. Tiger was headed home to resume life with his family and the two cocker spaniels who live there, too. But he seemed rather oblivious to all the excitement as he slept, curled up in the cat bed.

Tiger's stay at the shelter was a lot more comfortable than it would have been a year ago. Now he spent his "vacation" in a cat condo just off the main lobby area. He lived in a spacious two level condo with separate areas for food, litter box and lounging, as do all the other cats at the shelter.

The newly renovated lobby area at the Eastside shelter is spacious and airy to make it more pleasant for people waiting to be helped at customer service. While they wait, they can interact with cats and other animals to pass the time. Cat condos line the wall in the lobby and curve around to other display areas just off the lobby.

"Cats in the lobby area are now interacting more with people and each other. They are stretching and enjoying the shelves and cat trees provided in the new group rooms," said Barbara Bruin, Director of Albuquerque Animal Welfare.

Dogs have improvements in their kennel area, too. New flooring was added to the dog kennels to make them easier to clean and baffle the sound so the area is quieter. "We are also looking at adding a large exercise area and agility course for our dogs," Bruin said.

Big display rooms off the lobby not only showcase cats and dogs, but snakes, rabbits, ferrets and others while also providing them with more sun.

With the improvements at the shelter, the adoption numbers are increasing. "We have more adoptions and more customers coming to check out the new space. We are moving away from the days when the shelter was a depressing place to visit," said Bruin.


The changes for the animals are the most noticeable. But those aren't the only changes. "The core of the project is the high-volume spay/neuter clinic which will allow the department to move into a new era in its basic operations," Bruin said. "The development of the spay/neuter clinic has been a dream for years. By 2007, planning began with the help of funds provided by the state legislature. Later that year Albuquerque voters approved $5,000,000 in general obligation bonds for the project. Eventually it cost roughly $7,000,000 in City and state funds."

The new clinic will facilitate more surgeries every year and will be able to provide more free surgeries. Spaying or neutering your animals is the cure for euthanasia at the shelter. If animals are spayed or neutered, pet overpopulation will end. There will be homes for all the animals who need them. Bruin has spoken on this often. "If we aren't more aggressive about spaying and neutering our pets, Albuquerque will never to be able to adopt enough pets to offset the homeless population," Bruin said in the Albuquerque Journal last year.


With all the improvements at the Eastside shelter, you might want to volunteer there. The shelter is always looking for people who are enthusiastic about animals to help out. Volunteers must be able to make a weekly time commitment and be at least 16 years old.

Volunteer duties include:

  • Assist potential adopters through counseling and facilitate customer and animal interaction
  • Walk dogs and cuddle cats
  • Care for animals housed at Lucky Paws
  • Take animals to off-site adoptions
  • Assist staff and public with excellent customer service

It is also possible to save a life by fostering an animal, particularly with kitten and puppy season starts again.

If you are interested, contact Tammy Olson or Paul Caster, volunteer co-coordinators at (505) 271-1105, or check the website at www.cabq.gov/pets

Bruin is proud of the shelter and how it has changed for the better. The first shelter was built in 1949. It was rebuilt and added to several times since then. The shelter is pleasant to visit and is more animal-friendly than it's ever been. The updated, modern design even makes the shelter more fuel efficient.

"This isn't the same old place that generations of people labeled 'the pound.' It's bright, airy and full of wonderful animals just waiting to be re-united with their families or to go home with a new, loving family," Bruin said.

Albuquerque will have a chance to see the renovated Eastside shelter at the Grand Opening to the public on March 26, 2011. Check www.cabq.gov/pets for more information on the time or call the shelter at: (505) -768-2000 or dial 311.

Go to the opening, thank the City for doing such a good job of renovating the shelter and perhaps you'll be tempted to come home with a new forever friend.

(For further information on resources to spay or neuter animals in Albuquerque, go to: www.cabq.gov/pets/spay-neuter.)

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who is owned by a cat named Sammy. She is a member of the Cat Writers' Association and Dog Writers of America. Currently she is waiting to see who the new cat or cats in her life will be.

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