Shelters struggle after new ordinance passes

May 14, 2013 • Local News

Roswell’s new pet policy that puts several costly restrictions on dog and cat owners has flooded one local shelter, forcing it to seek out help from partnering groups from Albuquerque to Colorado Springs.

The Roswell Humane Society continues to overpopulate its space with surrendered puppies, dogs and cats. The shelter held 76 dogs and 23 cats Tuesday afternoon. The maximum it can shelter is 75 dogs and 24 cats.

“It’s very overwhelming,” said kennel worker Krystle Smith.

The [auth] “no kill” shelter was created to take in homeless and unwanted pets, and to assist with animal control by keeping adoptable pets for a longer time, Smith said.

But when residents show up with as many as 15 puppies at a time, the system is overrun.

“We just don’t have room to take in that amount on a daily basis,” Smith said.

The new ordinance that places fees, fines or limits on most everything, including fixing, breeding and pet limits, has prompted several owners to surrender animals instead of paying to have them spayed or neutered.

The Animal Humane Society of New Mexico in Albuquerque has taken 130 of Roswell’s sheltered dogs since February, said marketing director Dawn Glass.

“We like collaborating with Roswell Humane Society,” Glass said.

The Albuquerque facility is also a “no kill” shelter with the state’s highest adoption rate at 90 percent. A program called “Project Fetch” allows the shelter to transfer pets from across New Mexico to Albuquerque where it adopts pets out to the larger population, Glass said.

“Hopefully people will be comforted by the fact that we have transferred in many of those pets,” Glass said.

Interestingly, Roswell’s shelter is unusual because many of the pets it receives and later transfers to Albuquerque are “designer” small breeds that are attractive to new owners.

“It’s interesting when we are transferring from other shelters, we typically get mixed breeds, but from Roswell we get an abundance of smaller, highly adoptable dogs.”

Glass expects many owners may have surrendered puppies from puppy mills in the region or have purchased the designer dogs and did not have them spayed or neutered.

The private, nonprofit shelter typically takes in 1,000 animals from around the state each year. For more information, visit

At the Roswell Humane Society at 703 E. McGaffey St., an adoption can cost $50 for a dog, plus the price to spay or neuter the animal at a local veterinarian, though the shelter does provide $100 coupons to qualifying low-income owners, Smith said.

The new ordinance calls for no more than five dogs or cats per household over the age of three months without a valid breeder permit, or a multiple dog or cat permit, for instance. Pet owners applying for a breeder permit first must get a business license.

Also each household must get a litter permit and each female dog or cat can only have one litter per year, with no more than two litters in each house per year.

Owners face fines if found in violation of these new rules.

Smith said owners may face issues with the price of complying with the new ordinance, but it may be other issues owners face.

“Sometimes it is price, or it’s just pure laziness,” Smith said. “I don’t think the ordinance is the problem. At first, a lot of owners surrender and release. It will be better in the future. We just have to take the first step to make things better. It’s going to be hard at first.”

Joseph Pacheco, supervisor at the Roswell Animal Shelter, said the city-owned facility hasn’t seen a big difference since the ordinance took affect April 27.

No animals were surrendered and no citations have been issued, but many warnings were drafted in the past few weeks, he said.

“It’s so fresh, it’s so new, we’re still getting calls from people (who) don’t know of the changes,” Pacheco said. “We’re giving them a chance to correct their problems.”

The city shelter, also on East McGaffey near the Humane Society, has seen its usual upswing in activity for the spring season.

“With early spring and summer, we get swamped at this time anyway,” Pacheco said.

The city shelter does use euthanasia if an animal isn’t adopted after seven days.

It does get some two boxes a day of puppies or kittens some days, Pacheco said, but that’s typical for the time of year.

The shelter is not full at this time, with 70 dogs in general population kennels, 18 in the puppy room, 34 in the cat room and 26 in the feral cat room, Pacheco estimated.

“We’ve already given out a few multiple-animal permits, but not like a really dramatic change,” he said. “Probably in the next one to two years we will see an increase in putting dogs down. Right now, people don’t even know there’s been changes.”

At the city shelter, adoptions cost $40 for pets 6 months old or older, and owners must prepay their veterinarian to adopt, or the city will file paperwork in municipal court.

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