ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – “They’re full, understaffed and the animals keep coming in droves.” Almost all kennels on the East Side animal welfare center in Albuquerque is filled. Today, there are about 1,000 animals inside the state’s largest shelter waiting for a home. “Over the past year, mostly over the summer, it’s just been beyond full,” said Carolyn Ortage, the manager. Although the numbers change daily, there are on average around 55 animals entering the shelter per day, but only 35 leaving the shelter. Between too many animals and not enough staff, the shelter is struggling to keep up.
Animal welfare says the problems are a result of the pandemic. During COVID, many surgeries have been put on hold, including Spay and Neuters to save PPE. Now they are feeling the consequences of that. “We’re seeing longer puppy and kitten seasons, we’re seeing more puppies and kittens being born, so the population has increased dramatically,” Ortega said.
To cope with the overflow, the shelter has launched a new way of welcoming animals. If you wish to entrust your animal to the shelter, you must make an appointment. Animal Welfare says this does not stop admission but delays it so they have time to do an adoption, clean the cage, and then accept the animal. Now we’re just asking the community to help slow us down,” Ortega said.
The weight is also felt in the county. The Bernalillo County Animal Care and Resource Center got to the point where in some cases they can’t pick up all the strays due to capacity and lack of animal control officers. “It’s really hard to pick up all the pests, and often times when an officer would arrive, the pest was gone,” Bernalillo County communications specialist Larry Gallegos said. They have seen many animals adopted during the pandemic return to the shelter because people have returned to work or are struggling with money. “Pet adoption is down because of the economy, some people are trying to give up their pets because they can’t afford to feed them or can’t pay the doctor’s bills “, said Gallegos. The shelter also distributes free cat and dog food to families in need.
Shelters across New Mexico are working together to combat the problem. They are hosting more adoption events and keeping all adoptions free.