Sunny Ares is a longtime and outspoken animal advocate and one of two who founded Animal Village New Mexico in 2010. AVNM is a no-kill shelter, one of the largest in New Mexico. It was created to help pets, both dogs and cats, who are on death row, those scheduled to be euthanized.
“Many people don’t understand what we mean when we say we are a no-kill shelter. People will call up to see if we will take an unwanted pet, and when we say we only take animals that are on death row, they say: ‘Then you aren’t really a no-kill shelter,’” Ares said.
She cited some of the dogs that have been with them for two years while they look for the right fit and the right home. Each potential pet companion is vetted. The home and background is checked. AVNM has a park where people who already have dogs can introduce future roommates to make sure the animals get along.
All animals get their shots. They are neutered, and if the dogs or cats are too young, NMAV arranges for the procedure, pays for any vaccinations or provides medications or reimburses the individual. The adoptive parents have responsibilities in their care for the animal. The NMAV pays for the medical costs of any pre-existing conditions. Training classes are supplied. The pets’ new humans are expected to maintain the shots schedule and to attend the classes.
Ares founded the facility, along with a friend, Nancy Berg, “who made AVNM possible,” said Ares. “She has been both the source of obtaining our property, helping keep our doors open, and supports Animal Village NM in every way.”
According to Ares, the two women wanted to start a no-kill shelter all their lives, even though they came from different areas of the country. Ares has been fostering pets for more than 40 years and produced a radio program called “Critter Connections.” Berg considers AVNM her legacy. They started the PAW spay-neuter program for dogs and cats in Lincoln County before coming to Alamogordo. PAW has helped to fund more than 5,000 surgeries since 2007.
The night they got the property in Alamogordo, the final realization of their dream, 80 airmen from Holloman Air Force Base began building the kennels while other people went to rescue a mastiff-blend female with 14 pups from Artesia. Ares already had two sister dogs, with 20 pups. Each animal rescued was scheduled to die.
The facility has grown and refined from there, with the park, trees for shade and a wall made of recycled tires to provide a windbreak. Some parent “adoptors” created the pond for the pleasure of dogs and people alike.
The other contributions are the labor of love from the 9th Attack Squadron and the 49th Force Support Squadron. Members of the German Air Force volunteer their time to walk the dogs daily and provides the training classes to both dogs and their humans. The military might be viewed as the corps of AVNM volunteers.
The cat room that currently houses 40 feline residents would be every cat’s fantasy, with cat trees to climb, bridges to cross, and house and beds for each. They have indoor and outdoor pens for dogs and separate building for quarantine.
Ares has collected animals in the past from owners who have not maintained their animals’ medical and training program. She said the price of adoption varies – depending on sponsorship or if the potential parents are previous and trusted adopters from AVNM. She also transported former Animal Village occupants from out of state when the owner could no longer keep them. She knows she can’t save all the animals, but she is devoted to those she has taken into her care.