ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — They are each beautiful dogs, groomed and scarfed, and earnest-eyed and ready for someone to love them.
Each photo, done so professionally they seem the glamour shots of pooches, is posted on the Facebook page run by a group called the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department Volunteers and Supporters. Some bear impossibly bubbly pleas to adopt, such as “Please come to the shelter and meet this sweet girl” and “Did somebody say: ‘Puppy! We want a puppy!’ I am heeeeeeere!”
Some captions include one word, in upper case, that falls like a sledgehammer: EUTHANIZED.
There’s Brooklyn, a beautiful brown girl with a pink scarf dotted with hearts. She was No. A1737517. She was 2 years, 1 month old, a “shy dog” at the Westside Animal Shelter before time ran out for her on Nov. 7.
There’s Hamul, No. A1771217-W, a burly 2-year-old pit bull terrier described as shy, curious and a “lovable” 64 pounds.
“I’ve been at the shelter so long now and I so want to find my forever home!!!” his caption reads. He didn’t. He was euthanized last Tuesday.
And so it goes, each photo, each caption as gut-wrenching as those Sarah McLachlan commercials for the ASPCA.
“Beautiful dogs that didn’t deserve to go like that,” Demos Maynes wrote in a post. “Very sad that in our city they could not find anybody to give them the life they deserved.”
The photos are an emotional, guilt-inducing, tear-extracting plea to the public to adopt these dogs before they are put down, but it’s a tactic some folks say digs too far into the gut.
And it’s an effort that is not condoned by the city’s Animal Welfare Department.
“We don’t know who’s controlling the Facebook page, but it isn’t us or the city,” said John Soladay, interim director of the Animal Welfare Department.
It’s unclear who does. A phone number listed on the page directs the caller to the Animal Welfare Department. The address listed is the city’s East Side animal shelter.
“Yes, that is the volunteer page,” Logan Kemsley, Animal Welfare Department social media specialist, confirmed. “We have no access to post anything on this page, and we can’t control what the admins (administrators) post, either.”
But Soladay wishes he did. Since the page was brought to his attention, he has received a large number of concerns from shelter staffers, volunteers and others.
“This adds absolutely no value except to stir emotions and perhaps send a wrong message to the public,” read one comment found on the Facebook page. “Whoever is responsible for these posts is doing incredible dis-service to the entire organization. Please stop and find another venue for the good of the organization.”
The tearful tactic has also stirred concerns that the city is euthanizing animals at the shelters at alarming rates. Posts on the page indicate that the reason for resorting to the heartbreaking photos is to sound the alarm that the dogs must be rescued immediately or face the same deadly fate far too soon.
But Soladay said there has been no increase in euthanasia at the city shelters.
“It remains consistent from last year to this year,” he said. “In fact, it’s a little lower.”
The euthanasia rate was 10.58 percent from Dec. 1, 2016, to Feb. 8, 2017, according to city figures. By comparison, the rate was 9.59 percent during that same more recent time period.
Both rates are near the level necessary to be considered a “no-kill” shelter – meaning that the shelter saves more than 90 percent of its animals each year.
Soladay said that he’d love to meet with the people behind the Facebook page to discuss the appropriateness of their efforts and the correctness of their data – if he could only figure out who those people are.
“We have an open-door policy and would welcome the opportunity,” he said.
Whether or not the tactics being used by the mysterious animal activists are an inspiration or a deterrent to adopting shelter animals, what is clear is the need to encourage citizens to spay and neuter their pets, and to find forever homes for these dogs that stare out from shelter kennels groomed and scarfed and earnest-eyed. And who couldn’t use a little more love these days?
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to www.abqjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.