Thursday, August 9, 2007

Down at the Dog Jail

"People think this is a Humane Society shelter. It isn't. It's a dog jail. That's what it is, a dog jail." The kind-faced man in the uniform at the Clovis Animal Shelter was telling me about their facility when I visited yesterday. I had just seen a photo of the Pet of the Week, a little blond chihuahua mix, and had talked a new acquaintance into accompanying me on a visit. To tell the truth, I dreaded going there, because the Clovis facility is a self-described "kill shelter" where dogs and cats are housed for only a few days before being gassed. There just isn't enough money to keep animals for longer than three days for owners to claim lost animals and another three days to get adopted. After that, time has run out for another life. Local animal welfare groups are working toward death by needle, at the very least.

In the meantime, there is a loosely organized bunch of local people who are doing everything they can to save these animal lives. From fostering dogs and cats temporarily, to putting information on the Internet daily in both and in the local paper, to volunteering at free weekend spay/neuter clinics, to adopting even more dogs and cats themselves, they work tirelessly to make a bad situation better. New Mexico has a lot of poverty and I can understand that a family concerned with putting food on the table for their kids is probably unable to even consider paying for rabies shots and spaying or neutering of their pets, so the pet overpopulation problem continues. It is rumored that some well-intentioned people who have decided they can no longer care for their pet might just let him loose somewhere, rather than taking him to the shelter and a pretty good chance of being killed. Of course, a dog or cat suddenly dropped off somewhere probably has an equal chance of being run over, of being eaten by a predator, or simply starving to death.

Is it like this everywhere? I can tell you from personal experience that it is not. In New Hampshire, there is actually a shortage of adoptable dogs and cats due to an extremely successful spay/neuter movement statewide, so dogs are even brought in from kill shelters in other states. The shelters in New Hampshire are humane societies that are well funded by volunteer donations and staffed by both paid and volunteer animal friends. Take a look at the website for the New Hampshire SPCA in Stratham, NH at This is not a kill shelter. Animals are housed in comfortable surroundings until they are adopted; animals with behavior problems that might make them unadoptable are retrained. Volunteers come in to walk dogs and to play with them. There is a large cat socialization area. I have visited this shelter many times without the awful pressure of having to save lives right now. The dogs and cats here are the lucky ones; they are assured of the chance at a good home. Prospective adopters are interviewed, and other pets in the family are brought in to be sure that they are compatible with the new animal. A fairly large adoption fee is charged, with puppies ($235) costing more than adult dogs ($160) to encourage adoption of often-overlooked older animals. There is a low cost program for senior citizens to adopt senior animals. All dogs and cats are spayed or neutered before leaving the facility. Here is a photo of my dog Leny (short for Magdalena, New Mexico), a loveable lab/Sharpei cross who was brought to New Hampshire from a kill shelter in Ohio, and adopted from the Stratham shelter in 2006. She has added so much to our lives.
Could such a shelter program exist in New Mexico? Certainly the wealthier communities are moving in that direction. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society ( has a two building, 100 acre facility that includes two five-acre dog parks, hiking trails, and lots of room for walking dogs. It's a place that encourages dog owners and prospective adopters to visit again and again. They take animals from crowded rural shelters and run a mobile spay/neuter clinic that visits smaller and poorer communities.

What can you do to change the situation here in New Mexico? To help out with the shelters, such as the one in Clovis (, I would encourage you to visit and to talk to the good people who do the hard jobs there. Donate the materials that they need. Clovis is looking for "blankets, towels, dryer sheets (such as Bounce), raised/waterproof beds, liquid laundry detergent, bleach, pet shampoos, etc." They are unable to take cash donations. Campaign for a dog licensing program to raise money for shelters. Tell everyone you know to consider adopting a shelter animal, rather than paying for a pedigreed one.

When you take a look at your local shelter, visit the animals. It's not an easy thing to do. When you know that so many lives are at risk, it's hard to look into their eyes. Ask what you can do to help. Take an animal home and give it a good life.

Back to my visit to the Clovis "Dog Jail." My friend and I took the tour, although I was hoping that a nice staff member might bring out just one dog for us to see so we didn't have to face all those doomed eyes. I ended up paying "bail" for two little dogs, one for me and one for my friend. There were plenty more left, waiting and hoping.

Here's our new little Weetzie:

1 comment:

Towanda said...

I already knew from your blog and your posts at the NM forum that I like you a lot .... but to find out you are interested in pet rescue makes me feel like I have found a kindred spirit for a friend! Thanks for what you are doing to adopt pets and for spreading the word about pet rescue.