Torrance County Animal Shelter is a labor of love

The Torrance County Animal Shelter has come a long way in the past 12 years, with euthanasia rates a fraction of what they once were, and a modern facility.

And new partnerships with animal rescue organizations and volunteers means that there are fewer animals in the shelter overall. Those partnerships include a pet food drive held by a Santa Fe woman who liked what she saw in Torrance County so much she wanted to pitch in and help.

Left to right: Judi Kahl, Maria Medina, Cindi Sullivan, Danette Huckins, Mike Seager and Sarah Risacher. Medina donated some 700 pounds of dog and cat food to the Torrance County Animal Shelter from a pet food drive she organized at her work. Photo by Helga Carter.

Left to right: Judi Kahl, Maria Medina, Cindi Sullivan, Danette Huckins, Mike Seager and Sarah Risacher. Medina donated some 700 pounds of dog and cat food to the Torrance County Animal Shelter from a pet food drive she organized at her work. Photo by Helga Carter.

Maria Medina visited the shelter this past weekend, bringing about 650 pounds of pet food in honor of her own “baby,” Sammy, who passed away last year. “I wanted to start the Sammy Foundation, and I thought this would be a good way to start it,” Medina said. “It’s in my baby’s name. It’s because of her I decided to do it.”

Medina said she will do the food drive every year.

The Torrance County Animal Shelter maintains a pet food pantry, funded by donations from the community. Until recently that included large amounts of food from Walmart, but those donations can’t continue because of internal rules at the retailer.

Started in 2003, director Cindi Sullivan has been there from the beginning. At that time, the shelter took in more than 1,000 animals a year, with more than half of them having to be euthanized.

Sullivan’s last report to the county commission showed a total of 429 animals who passed through the shelter this year. Of those, 55 were strays who had to be euthanized because their behavior or health problems meant they were not adoptable.

More than half, or 274 of the animals, were adopted, rescued, sent to another shelter, or claimed by their owners this year.

Another 96 were owner-surrendered euthanasias, a service the animal shelter offers for $25 for those people who can’t afford to pay a veterinarian or that, Sullivan said.

By comparison, in 2007, those numbers were 1,102 animals total, with 611 euthanized, and 244 adopted or rescued. In the intervening years, those numbers have dropped steadily.

Sullivan said she attributes the improved outcomes to education in the community and higher spay and neuter rates, along with partnerships with organizations like Animal Humane, which will take adoptable animals that are current on shots and meet other criteria.

“If you have the ability to get a dog out to a good home or a good rescue, why would you not?” said shelter supervisor, Danette Huckins. “Even if we have to work on the weekends. … If that’s what it takes to get them out and get them a new good home, that’s what we’ll do.”

As for Medina, “I just love animals,” she said when asked why she had organized a pet food drive.

“It’s about them, that’s what we do this for,” Huckins said. “Out here, some people that’s all they have is their animals. I can’t see people giving them up, because that’s not fair.”

Those in need of pet food can call the animal shelter at 505-384-5117.

Pet food will be given to those in need a maximum of four times a year, Huckins said.

“We’ll talk to them about their situation and see if we can help what’s going on,” Huckins said. “Typically they’ll be on disability, or Social Security, or lost their job. … We usually will not turn anybody away. If it’s a choice between turning their animals over to the shelter or helping them feed, we definitely don’t turn them away.”

That interaction with the public also gives the shelter personnel an opportunity to educate the public about spay and neuter options, and the county’s animal control ordinance, which requires things like registration of animals and vaccinations, as well as setting limits on the number of dogs and cats a person can own. To learn more, visit the county’s website at tcnm.org.