Albuquerque and a growing number of cities are passing tough new
measures aimed at ending euthanasia in animal shelters. Owners are
even being forced to clean up after their dog in their own backyard
Posted Tuesday, Jan. 02, 2007
For the past two years, Martin Chavez, mayor of Albuquerque, has
brought his best friend to work every day. His friend doesn't talk,
but he's often the first to shake visitors' hands. Dukes, Chavez's
two-year-old floppy-eared mutt, is around not just for the company,
but as a way to bring attention to the mayor's commitment to reduce
the city's exploding unwanted animal population.
When he was re-elected to a third term in 2005, Chavez made a promise
to end euthanasia at the city's animal shelters. He had already been
meeting daily with City Councilor Sally Mayer and regularly with
breeders and groomers across the city to come up with an animal
ordinance that would improve the way the city treats its dogs and cats
and increase the number of adoptions. At the time, the city was
euthanizing more than 1,000 pets a month.
The law went into effect in October and it follows a nationwide trend
of get-tough approaches to pet overpopulation. In Albuquerque, all
cats and dogs older than six months must be microchipped and
sterilized, unless owners pay an annual fee of $150 to keep their dogs
able to reproduce � and another $150 for every new litter. ...
It's a grassroots phenomenon, says David Favre, a professor at the
Michigan State University College of Law, who has studied animal
rights laws for 20 years. Feral cats, spaying and neutering, local
shelters � these are all local problems that don't get the ear of
folks at the federal and state levels. "It is not unlike the
environmental movement when I was in law school. Animal welfare is a
growing social interest."
To bring even more attention to the issue in Albuquerque, Mayor Chavez
now brings a selection of shelter pets to news conferences, department
meetings and public appearances. In most cases, the pets find new
homes on the spot. The city's euthanasia rate has been cut in half,
and Albuquerque is now adopting out more pets than it kills. Chavez's
long-term goal: to be able to brag that Albuquerque is a city where
all animals that are suited for adoption find homes. "We can't be a
complete city as long as we euthanize animals," he says.