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OUR VIEW: City makes reasonable case for proposed pet ordinance changes

We’d be hard-pressed to support any measure that would increase the number of dogs and cats euthanized at the city’s animal control shelter because homes can’t be found for them.

In fact, some of the community’s animal advocates argue that’s exactly what would happen if the Rio Rancho Governing Body adopts proposed amendments to the pet ordinance bumping the adoption fee from $89 to $100 and reducing the time the shelter would be required to keep unclaimed animals that have no signs of ownership.

But, in our view, the city makes a reasonable case for the amendments and, with its pledge to introduce new ways for increasing the number of reclaims of owned animals, as well as adoptions, we believe the governing body should proceed to approve the changes.

Public opinion about the amendments hasn’t been overwhelming, but some fear the number of people willing to take in an animal would shrink correspondingly if the fee is raised, exposing more dogs and cats to possibly being put down — particularly given that their stays at the shelter would also be reduced.

We can appreciate those concerns.

But the city says it’s losing between $40,000 and $50,000 a year because the current fee is not covering costs, including sterilization, rabies and other vaccinations, microchip and a city license. The changes could save it $40,000 a year, it says.

The proposed $100 fee — and the current fee, for that matter — exceeds what is charged in Albuquerque, which furnishes most of the same procedures for animals at its shelters. The adoption fee in Albuquerque is $80 for puppies under 6 months and $50 for kittens under 6 months. The fees drop for older animals.

However, few would put the City of Rio Rancho and Albuquerque in the same boat when it comes to financial wherewithal. A savings of $40,000 a year in our city is not a drop in the bucket.

There’s also this consolation for prospective pet owners: Rio Rancho’s proposed fee is still considerably less than what they would pay for an animal at a pet store or at even many of the local nonprofit shelters.

For efficiency’s sake, the amendments would reduce from seven to three the number of days the animal control shelter would have to hold a stray with no collar, microchip or other sign that someone owned it, after which it could be adopted or transferred to another organization.

In addition, the shelter would be allowed to have cats and dogs sterilized and vaccinated before adoption to lessen the time they spend in the shelter.

We like the idea that animal control officers would have the choice of returning strays that can be identified to their owner instead of impounding them as the ordinance now requires.

The amendments also would give the police chief, who oversees animal control, discretion to implement special programs to encourage pet adoptions, i.e., offering older pets to senior citizens at reduced prices. Those types of ideas should be encouraged.

Putting an animal down, in our view, must be an absolute last resort by the shelter, and it was encouraging the governing body apparently feels similarly. On Wednesday, it adopted Councilor Shelby Smith’s proposal to require the shelter to keep an animal a minimum of seven days before it can be euthanized if necessary.

The governing body should adopt the amendments, but it should also be prepared to step back and take another look at the ordinance if euthanizations do, in fact, begin to rise.

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