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Animal Welfare Efforts Work To Bring Down Local Euthanasia Rates

ACTion Programs for Animals adoptee Woody

By the time ACTion Programs for Animals received the call about Angel the dog, the animal in question had already lost use of his hind legs.

“He basically came to us not able to really walk with his hind legs. He was skin and bones,” Insurriaga said.

That’s Nora Insurriaga, the operations manager of the animal welfare organization ACTion Programs for Animals in Las Cruces. She says Angel came to APA in a coordinated effort with the Animal Services Center of the Mesilla Valley.

“We got the call for the help, I went out there and he came out and he could not walk. But he was so happy to get in that car,” Insurriaga said. “Now he's able to walk. He's one of the strongest dogs we have now.”

Now over three years old, Angel has been at the APA shelter for over a year—waiting for his forever home.

Angel is just one example of the numerous animals taken in by APA. Since 2012, the program has rescued over 5,400 cats and dogs. Of those animals, approximately 90% arrive from the ASCMV.

In 2021, the ASCMV’s euthanasia rate was around 20%. Insurriaga says APA is working to bring down the number of animals euthanized in the community each year, by focusing on animals who are sick, injured or simply overlooked by those seeking to adopt at the ASCMV.

“They’re mainly where we get the majority of our animals,” Insurriaga said. “We want to help them get to that no-kill status. We mainly pull the ones that have been there for a long time, especially with the larger dogs. And then the cats, we mainly concentrate on getting the ones that need to get out.”

On the national level, approximately 1.5 million animals are euthanized annually. That’s according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which also reports that cats are euthanized in shelters at a 7% higher rate than dogs.

Insurriaga notes local trends indicate a higher number of cats without homes in the community when compared with other animals, exemplified by the 971 cats within city limits brought into the ASCMV by animal control in 2020.

“All these cats are probably the ones that are taken to the shelter the most because there's so many of them just roaming around. People are not spaying and neutering them,” Insurriaga said. “So obviously, they go out, they're not spayed or neutered. You have a cat that ends up having a litter of six to twelve. Then you have those kittens running roaming around, so it's never-ending.”

The high number of cats within the community is one reason the city of Las Cruces adopted a trap-neuter-return policy last year. Amanda López Askin, the chair of APA’s board of directors, says that an increased community emphasis on spaying and neutering is needed to combat not only the high number of community cats but also the no-kill rate for all animals.

“There's not enough homes for all the animals that we have, there just isn't. If you have 400-500 animals at our shelter on any given day, you cannot then expect for there to be 400-500 homes in our community to adopt them.” López Askin said. “So really spay and neuter is the key to controlling the pet population and is really key to having successful adoptions and people not just taking animals because they feel obligated, but really making them a member of your family.”

Madison Staten was a Multimedia Reporter for KRWG Public Media from 2020-2022.
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