Town Council Meeting Focused on Education and Animal Control

a bulldog in a cage in an animal shelter
Midjourney Image by Todd Brogowski/Mountainair Dispatch

My apologies for the delay in posting this piece. I was unavailable last week due to the passing of a family friend in the recent storms that affected California.

La'Sha Chavez, the secretary and librarian at Mountainair Elementary School, started off the discussion regarding the town's inactive Education Resource Center at the February 6, 2024, meeting of the Mountainair Town Council. Chavez explained that in 2017, the town developed a local education resource center (ERC) with the support of members of the community who donated computers, desks, and other furniture, along with time as tutors at the ERC. "During the time that [the ERC] was open, we had a GED program running through the Valencia UNM campus," Chavez said. Chave told the Town Council members that she wanted to reopen the ERC, stating that the center offered a number of potential resources for many of Mountainair's problems. Chavez described the ERC as being able to operate as a small business incubation center to serve local entrepreneurs as well as provide education services to the community.

Mayor Peter Nieto commented that the ERC had been restored and was "ready to go."

"If you said, 'let's open it tomorrow and be ready to go,' then yeah, everything's good. All the computers are in there. I mean, I'm sure there's a few small things that need to be hooked up, maybe the printer and stuff, but other than that, it's ready to go."

Nieto suggested Chavez work with the Mountainair Public School system to see if funding was available to support the ERC.

Following Chavez's presentation to the town council, Anne Green and Karen Bernauer, volunteers with the Friends of Mountainair Animal Shelter (FOMAS), made a presentation to the town council intended to update it on the status of the Mountainair Animal Shelter. Green stated that the Mountainair Animal Shelter was adopting an average of roughly 60 to 75 dogs per year to members of the public. Green said that the volunteers with FOMAS were providing dogs with two walks per day, along with enrichment and socialization activities. Green said these activities helped make dogs happier and more attractive for adoption.

Green stated that since the start of the pandemic, many animals were not spayed or neutered. As a result, there was an explosion in the population of domestic animals. This, Green said, has led to a 23% euthanasia rate for dogs and cats in shelters in New Mexico.

"So we have taken in seven litters of puppies in the last year, our numbers at the shelter, where [there] used to be five or six [dogs] are now anywhere from 10 to 24 [dogs], including the litters of puppies. And we provide, you know, as everything that we can do, we're all senior citizens, so we're all getting a little bit tired, but we can't keep up with the numbers. So people are overwhelmed."

Green said that FOMAS had been working to spay and neuter dogs and cats in Mountainair, with grant funding covering the costs of the procedure for approximately 100 cats and 75 dogs. With grant funding, Green said, the organization hoped to be able to cover the costs of all spaying and neutering that Mountainair residents would need for their pets, even if the residents cannot afford the cost of the procedure. Green said she wanted the town to consider imposing an ordinance where, if an animal is impounded at the shelter, it will be sterilized.

"It's when animals come through the shelter that we provide options for the owners, or when they register at shot clinics, because we get a lot of animals registered at shot clinics, that we - that we can really talk to the owner. If people want to keep their animals intact, then we'll they'll have the option to pay for a license to do that. But it's - it's, I would say, wherever you are, locally and nationally, it's no longer somebody's just their right to do whatever they want with their dog. Everybody's paying the price for that."

Mayor Nieto responded to Green's request for an ordinance in detail.

"I just want to clarify that we would not force people to - to get it. The way that it would work with the impound dogs - and we've talked about this as a possibility - if we impound [an animal once], you will be warned that the next time [it will be sterilized]. And if they get that warning, hopefully, they keep their dogs in their yard...."

Nieto asked that members of the public with suggestions regarding the ordinance contact Town Clerk Dennis Fulfer with their messages. Nieto said that the town was looking at multiple ordinances across New Mexico for inspiration for the Mountainair ordinance.

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