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Rio Rancho pet adoption fee hike gets initial approval

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The Rio Rancho City Council on Wednesday gave initial approval to amend the city’s animal ordinance to increase the pet adoption fee and reduce the time the animal shelter must hold animals before putting them up for adoption.

City staff say Rio Rancho is losing between $40,000 and $50,000 a year with the charge at its current level, and the changes will help cover the cost of housing animals and preparing those that have no signs of ownership for adoption.

One amendment would raise the adoption fee to $100. The current fee of $89 includes sterilization, vaccination and microchipping. The fee for an animal that is already sterilized is $44.

Another amendment would reduce the time the Rio Rancho shelter is required to keep an unclaimed animal that has no signs of ownership from seven days to three days, beginning on the day after the animal is brought in.

The mayor and councilors said they’d heard from people who claimed that reducing the number of days would increase the number of animals the shelter euthanizes. Mayor Gregg Hull adamantly denied this, saying euthanization is the very last option.

“Euthanization of animals as quickly as possible is not the practice of the city,” Hull said. “The intent of the changes was to get strays available for adoption sooner by several days or released to other animal shelters or rescue organizations.”

Councilors unanimously approved an amendment proposed by Councilor Shelby Smith that requires the shelter to keep an animal a minimum of seven days before it can be euthanized if that is deemed a necessary option.

The ordinance must be passed at a second reading before it can take effect and will be heard again at the next council meeting on Sept. 10

Lynda Hayes, the only city resident to comment about the issue at the Wednesday council meeting, said the city shouldn’t expect the shelter to be self-supporting. She said Albuquerque subsidizes its animal shelter and claimed that increasing the adoption fee to $100 would encourage Rio Rancho residents to go there to adopt animals.

The Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department shelters charge $80 for puppies under 6 months old, $50 for dogs aged six months to 3 years and $40 for dogs over 3 years, according to the website cabq.gov/pets/adoption.

Animal Humane of New Mexico charges $150 for puppies and pure bred dogs, and $35 for dogs older than 5 years old.

“$100 to adopt an animal that already been spayed and neutered is a screaming deal,” Animal Humane Executive Director Peggy Weigle said in an interview on Thursday.

She said a private veterinarian typically charges $300 to $400 to sterilize a dog. Costs to house and prepare an animal for adoption run around $400 a week.

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