I've been thinking about my trip to Albuquerque last month. What stays in my mind isn't the sight of the Sandia Mountains, or the endless shopping centers, or Old Town, or the (relatively) cheap gas prices. What remains in my mind is how much progress has been made in their Shelter System. They have gone from a very bad shelter to a far more modern, clean facility. Two facilities, in fact. Their adoption rate has increased. Well animals aren't becoming sick because they have been thrown together with sick ones, a veterinarian is on board and brought in as the Animal Care Director is Jeanine Patterson. She didn't need the job. She already had a great one. A Registered Nurse, she was responsible for opening health clinics around the world for a major corporation. She took a pay cut for this job. When you love animals and care about their welfare, some things are more important than money.
This improvement is happening because the Mayor of Albuquerque, Martin Chavez, wants his city's shelters to be no-kill shelters. That doesn't mean that no animal ever dies. Obviously there will always be animals who are too sick or dangerous to be adopted out and the choice is difficult but necessary. But the number of dogs and cats put down has decreased dramatically.
I was fortunate enough to have a private meeting with Mayor Chavez while I was in Albuquerque. His shelter rescue dog, Dukes (Albuquerque is the Duke City), was in the Mayor's office. Dukes goes everywhere the Mayor goes. They're a team, a perfect vision of the human/animal bond. While I was there I presented him with a signed copy of my behavior book, "Rover, Get Off Her Leg!" I had presented one to Jeanine Patterson six days earlier when I visited the Shelter and met with her.
I keep thinking about the extra effort they've expended, bringing in a veterinarian from U.C. Davis who is an expert in Shelter Medicine to make suggestions and then having her return to look at the shelters again. She was pleased that they had incorporated all of her suggestions and approved of their changes.
The only thing missing at the moment is the right trainer or certified animal behavior consultant who can evaluate both the dogs and cats and train those suitable for adoption. I would love to see Karen Pryor's Clicker Training for Shelter Dogs and Cats programs put to use in Albuquerque. I'd like to see a group of volunteers trained to implement these programs and help with evaluations.
Speaking of volunteers, Kennel Kompadres is a volunteer group that raises funds for the shelters and implements humane education programs for children and adults. All donations made to Kennel Kompadres go to the shelters, not some slush fund that funnels the money to another project.
Albuquerque is an inspiration. I'm so grateful that I had the opportunity to see what they're doing, what is possible, and know that so much more lies ahead as they keep growing. It does my heart good.
Causes Darlene Arden Supports
The Marcia Polimer Abrams Fund for Canine Behavior Studies at the AKC Canine Health Foundation