Shelter says goodbye to four dogs

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While the goal of all animal shelters is to ensure a home for their guests, situations can occur where a furry friend just isn’t able to assimilate into domestic home culture.

Employees and volunteers from Stray Hearts Animal Shelter are saying goodbye to four of their guests who have been deemed as hard-to-place dogs and are sending them to Best Friends Animal Society in Utah. Both organizations have designated themselves as “no-kill” groups that advocate for the adoption of pets rather than euthanasia, and due to this, space in the Taos shelter has become a precious resource.

“As a shelter, we should only have [the animals] for a matter of weeks, maybe months,” said Jane Gerard, a certified professional dog trainer for Stray Hearts. “Taos, like many of these shelters, is functioning on a shoestring budget. We don’t really have enough homes to take all the dogs we have.”

The dogs Lester, Legend, Fred and Winter will be transferred to Utah in a historic move from the Stray Hearts shelter to Best Friends for rehabilitation. This transfer will mark the first time the shelter has had animals approved by Best Friends, which provides better resources for the animals than Taos can currently provide. The dogs have endured experiences in their life and have become estranged from being able to assimilate into a normal pet life right away, something the shelter called a “slow-track pet.” Slow-track pets have a longer road to recovery and being adopted than fast-track pets and must go through more training and rehabilitation before being considered adoptable.

Often, animals go through experiences or medical issues that classify them as either unsafe or in need of assistance and are in need of some form of rehabilitation to be reintroduced into normal situations. Factors like abuse, having little human contact after birth and genetics can contribute to this. Dogs and cats trust can be betrayed by abuse or neglect, which can cause them to see humans as a threat rather than a companion and therefore need to be reassured that not all humans are bad creatures. Shelters like Stray Hearts and groups like Best Friends are working to ensure no animal is left behind or put down because of these issues.

“Animals can’t cope in a shelter environment,” said Jennifer Gfeller, Stray Hearts’ new executive director. “It doesn’t matter how good we are, how great our volunteers are. It’s not a home. It’s too stimulating of an environment to cope.”

Gfeller currently has 81 dogs and more than 40 kittens in the shelter. She says the shelter limit should be less than 65. Due to the fact that the shelter is a no-kill environment, Gfeller says this makes for even more difficult work. Dogs are forced to double up in pens when there is a lack of space and are paired with comparable dogs. Having freed up four spaces to Best Friends is a major relief to the shelter knowing the dogs will be placed in good hands for their future.

Best Friends is a nationally known company based out of Utah that is pushing for that entire state to be a no-kill area by 2019. The organization’s advocacy includes eliminating homelessness of pets and putting every lonely fur friend in the right home.

“If we’re not able to help them at a certain time, we can usually help them down the road,” said Dr. Carly Faughn, an area manager for Best Friends. “As soon as we get some of these dogs adopted, then we are able to take in more.”

Best Friends takes in animals like the four that are parting from Stray Hearts and will work to help them feel comfortable around humans. In addition, they work to try and find pets a home and educate the pet-owning population about the importance and responsibility of owning a new pet.

At Stray Hearts, shelter officials are working to combat the number of animals coming into the shelter by offering pet advice and said they would like to offer training courses in the future. The shelter’s most important advice to new pet owners is to spay and neuter cats and dogs to cut down on the number of stray and feral animals in Taos County.

“If you can’t donate, if you can’t volunteer and you just want to adopt, that still helps us out because it frees up space for us,” said Gfeller.

The shelter offers spay and neuter clinics and is having one Friday (May 19) and Monday (May 22). For more information on clinics and adoption, call the shelter at (575) 758-2981.

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