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Bill funding spay and neuter programs gets liftoff

Eternity Archibeque points to a cat she likes at the Eastside city animal shelter in Albuquerque in this August 2019 file photo. A bill that would impose a pet food fee to expand spay and neuter programs is headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

SANTA FE — A renewed attempt to expand New Mexico spay and neuter programs for dogs and cats by levying a fee on pet food is headed to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval.

The bill, Senate Bill 57, passed the House 39-22 on Wednesday and now advances to the governor’s desk.

Backers of the measure say it would reduce the strain on animal shelters by curbing pet overpopulation, especially in rural parts of New Mexico.

“This is our chance to end needless shelter pet euthanasia once and for all, and I’m proud that New Mexico¬†has become the fourth state in the nation to adopt this smart, humane approach,” said Sen.¬†Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, one of the bill’s sponsors.

But critics described the proposal as a “hidden tax” that would be passed along to customers.

The proposal would generate an estimated $1.3 million for spay and neuter programs by 2023, when it would be fully phased in. It would then expire in July 2026 under a sunset clause included in the bill.

Supporters of the legislation say more than 100,000 homeless cats and dogs enter New Mexico animal shelters every year. Of those animals, more than 20,000 are euthanized every year and an additional 23,000 or so or transported out of state.

A similar proposal was vetoed in 2018 by then-Gov. Susana Martinez, who argued that local governments are better positioned than the state to promote the spaying and neutering of pets.

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