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No room at Albuquerque animal shelters

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The city's animal shelters are so overcrowded that officials are asking people to stop surrendering their pets because of a lack of space.  Shown here is the Eastside Animal Welfare shelter. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The city’s animal shelters are so overcrowded that officials are asking people to stop surrendering their pets because of a lack of space. Shown here is the Eastside Animal Welfare shelter. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque’s animal shelters are so crowded that the city has asked people to stop surrendering their pets until space is available.

Or better yet: Don’t surrender the animal at all – either find a new home for the critter on your own or try again to make the situation work.

Lou Kang, a 3-year-old male stray, hangs out in a chair in a space with three other cats. The city shelters now house about 1,000 animals, or 200 more than capacity. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Lou Kang, a 3-year-old male stray, hangs out in a chair in a space with three other cats. The city shelters now house about 1,000 animals, or 200 more than capacity. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

“We really don’t want to go back to the days of killing adoptable animals for space,” department head Barbara Bruin said in an interview. “We’re asking people not to surrender their own pet unless it’s a last resort.”

The city shelters now house about 1,000 animals, or 200 more than capacity, she said. That means dogs are doubled up in cages, among other temporary measures.

As an emergency move last weekend, the city shelters asked people who showed up to surrender dogs to get on a waiting list until a cage is available, Bruin said. The city will do that in the future, too, to manage the population when needed, she said.

“Most people have been very nice about it,” Bruin said. “A couple have even changed their minds about surrendering their pets.”

The crunch has hit privately run shelters, too, leaving the city with no easy place to transfer animals.

Peggy Weigle, executive director of Animal Humane New Mexico, said that to help, her group added a section to its website allowing people to advertise their unwanted pets. The goal is to find homes for the animals before they end up in the shelter at all, she said.

“We have to provide the best care for the pets that are here,” Weigle said. “If we get overcrowded, we can’t do that.”

Animal Humane still accepts pets in emergencies or if they’re strays, she said.

But the group also wants to help solve problems so that people reconsider the need to give up their pets. Animal Humane offers a free animal-behavior help line at 505-938-7900.

Weigle and Bruin said decreased euthanasia rates have contributed to overcrowding. They don’t want to put down animals who are healthy and adoptable.

Hoss, top, and Chum Lee are two of the many stray dogs at Albuquerque's overcrowded animal shelters. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

Hoss, top, and Chum Lee are two of the many stray dogs at Albuquerque’s overcrowded animal shelters. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

The city has euthanized about 3,200 animals so far this year, or 24 percent fewer than last year at the same point. Animals are euthanized for medical reasons – if they’re sick or suffering – or when behavior problems make them unadoptable, according to the city.

The shaky economy is also a factor in shelter overcrowding, Weigle said.

“People are losing their homes, moving in with family members,” she said.

Bruin said some people surrender their pets for frivolous reasons or think they’re not a lifetime commitment.

People who want to adopt can visit cabq.gov/pets or the city shelters themselves.

“We have a lot of animals on our website,” Bruin said. People “can also come in and see all the sweet little faces. We have wonderful animals who deserve wonderful homes.”

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