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Residents concerned over shelter pets; officials say they’re OK

A male poodle-cross lies in a raised bed at the Rio Rancho Animal Control shelter on Northern Boulevard. Photo By: Argen Marie Duncan/Observer

Some Rio Rancho residents have expressed concerns about dogs at the city animal shelter being wet after recent snow and about animals not appearing on the shelter Facebook page, but officials say the animals are being properly cared for and short staffing has hindered social media postings.

Rio Rancho Animal Control Shelter Manager Cheryll Johns said the shelter had 37 dogs and 20 cats Thursday evening, with a capacity for 59 dogs and 40 cats.

The shelter is heated, and both dogs and cats have beds raised off the floor. Johns said they all get clean blankets daily.

Capt. Andrew Rodriguez with Rio Rancho Police Department, which handles animal control, said the snow last week covered the shelter, meaning when dogs went into the outdoor portion of their kennels, they got wet. It took the entire shelter staff working for about two days to get the snow cleared away, on top of handling other animal care, he said.

Rodriguez said posting of animals’ pictures on Facebook had fallen behind because the shelter had been drastically short-staffed, but positions were being filled and employees were trying to post more.

“It’s just finding the resources and the staffing to accomplish all of the tasks out there,” he said.

He said the shelter has two kennel workers on board and two starting this week, with leaders conducting interviews to fill the fifth position. They’re also looking for one more animal-control officer in addition to the five already working, Johns said.

Johns usually has two supervisors working under her, one to oversee the shelter and one to oversee animal-control officers. The shelter supervisor position was open until a few weeks ago.

Rodriguez said shelter staff would post adoptable pets, rather than all intakes, on social media. Animals that come to the shelter with signs of ownership are held for 10 days before they can be adopted to give owners a chance to reclaim them, and animals without signs of ownership are held for three days, as per city ordinance.

Rio Rancho Animal Control Officer Tim Lynch interacts with Perry, a male mixed-breed dog, at the animal shelter on Northern Boulevard. Photo By: Argen Marie Duncan/Observer

Shelter staff members will call owners if the animals have a tag or microchip with correct phone numbers, Rodriguez said. If the animal has no identification, they’ll observe it for at least 24 hours to make sure it doesn’t have problems such as an illness before showing it to the public.

Johns said sick animals at the shelter do receive medical care.

By the numbers

According to counts Johns and Rodriguez provided, the shelter took in 2,254 dogs and cats in 2018. Of these, about 25 percent were adopted; 38 percent reclaimed, 11 percent transferred to rescue groups or other shelters, and 16 percent euthanized.

That euthanasia rate “for a municipal shelter is very, very low,” Johns said.

The percentages don’t quite add up, because the adoptions, reclaims, transfers and euthanasias include animals already in the shelter at the beginning of the year, when the intake count started, Rodriguez said. Also, animals surrendered by owners who specifically request euthanasia are counted in intakes but not in euthanasia numbers.

Rodriguez said shelter staff members will euthanize animals at the owners’ request to keep the people from possibly disposing of the pet in a less humane manner and so the owners can pay the $30 surrender fee rather than a much higher vet bill.

For comparison, in 2017, according to the counts, the shelter took in 2,479 cats and dogs. Of these, about 29 percent were adopted, 40 percent were reclaimed, 7 percent were transferred and 15 percent were euthanized.

Rodriguez said a half-price adoption special in December resulted in 50 adoptions, compared to 39 to 47 adoptions per month from September through November. Then, intakes increased around the holidays as pets strayed and owners were out of town or chose not to pick up the animal immediately, he said.

With the holidays ending, many of those animals have been picked up, he said.