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Farmington tackles animal surgery backlog with new funding

Pandemic led to halted spay, neuter procedures
The Farmington Regional Animal Shelter is tackling an animal surgery backlog, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help of about $15,000 in donations.

The Farmington Regional Animal Shelter is tackling an animal surgery backlog, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the help of about $15,000 in donations.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck New Mexico, the city-operated animal shelter had to stop its public spay and neuter program, creating a backlog of about 200 surgeries. It’s a vital program for an area where the animal population can seem out of control. After months of delay, the shelter started conducting surgeries again Tuesday.

“We still have a very large animal overpopulation problem,” said Stacie Voss, Farmington animal welfare director. “Spay and neuter is pretty much the only way we’re going to get out of that problem. It’s just a way to help people.”

The Farmington animal shelter ranks third-highest for animal intakes compared to other animal shelters in New Mexico, according to Animal Protection of New Mexico.

“The proportion of animals coming in, compared to our actual people population, is a little bit out of control,” Voss said. “It’s way higher than it should be.”

In a typical year, the shelter performs about 1,500 spay and neuter surgeries for the public and schedules them one or two months in advance.

Its spay and neuter program is so popular, in part, because it is one of the only programs in the county that offers customers no- or low-cost surgeries through a sliding-scale payment system.

But the program shut down during the early days of the coronavirus crisis. Staff members had to remain physically distant to help prevent viral spread. And personal protective equipment, drugs and medical equipment were reserved for human use, Voss said.

The city of Farmington, facing dire and unpredictable financial projections, temporarily cut funding from the spay and neuter program because of the pandemic.

The Farmington shelter’s fresh wave of funding will address the backlog of surgeries.

The Regional Animal Shelter Foundation, a nonprofit that helps support the shelter, will donate about $15,000 for surgery costs, Voss said.

“We are always so appreciative of the support the foundation offers our shelter and this community,” said Shana Reeves, director of Farmington Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, which manages the shelter. “The public spay and neuter program is a crucial element in our shelter operations.”

The city of Farmington also reallocated funding for the spay and neuter program.

The final funding amounts will be determined based on the number and type of surgeries performed, and the city and the nonprofit will likely offer equal amounts, Voss said.

The shelter expects to conduct 20 surgeries each week and to fully address the backlog by early 2021. The shelter is not yet accepting new applications for spay and neuter surgeries. The city encouraged residents to contact local veterinary clinics for more immediate surgical services.

“We wouldn’t be able to do this completely without the help of the foundation at this point,” she said. “We felt horrible when we had to call and cancel those surgeries. To call them and offer the surgery again ... it’s exciting.”

smullane@durangoherald.com

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