My Turn

Opinion: Support bill creating statewide income-qualified spay, neuter program

By Harvey Yokum, Ranchos de Taos
Posted 3/7/19

 For four years, several dedicated animal advocates and organizations have been working to develop a funding mechanism for an income-qualified statewide spay/neuter program. We have met with …

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My Turn

Opinion: Support bill creating statewide income-qualified spay, neuter program

Posted

 For four years, several dedicated animal advocates and organizations have been working to develop a funding mechanism for an income-qualified statewide spay/neuter program. We have met with other organizations from around the country who have successfully implemented similar legislation with tremendous success. Euthanasia rates dropped substantially in every case. We have garnered support from legislators, organizations and individuals statewide. During the 2018 Legislative session, the bill was passed in both the House and the Senate only to be vetoed by Governor Martinez. Senate Bill 367, a bipartisan effort to fund a statewide income-qualified low-cost spay/neuter program, is now before the 2019 Legislature and has gained momentum with additional senators and representatives signing on. The bill is supported by the New Mexico Association of Counties, Animal Protection Voters of New Mexico, the New Mexico Veterinary Medical Association, the New Mexico Sheriff’s Association, Las Vegas Independent Business Alliance and pet shop owners and animal shelters from all over the state.

Unwanted companion animals are a statewide epidemic that impacts not only unwanted dogs and cats, who are born into a state of homelessness, but our families and counties. Rural counties bear the fiscal brunt of this statewide problem. For example, self-reported data by New Mexico counties and municipalities in a 2012 study on animal overpopulation showed that $27 million was budgeted by counties and municipalities collectively to fund animal shelters in 2011, representing an increase of $2.1 million from 2008. And while nearly two-thirds of New Mexico counties have either zero or only one low-cost spay/neuter resource (with impoverished communities having least), rural counties euthanize 60 percent to over 80 percent of animals in their shelters, contributing to the over 55,000 shelter animals euthanized each year in New Mexico.

SB 367 places New Mexico at a crossroads: we can embrace the opportunity to develop affordable spay/neuter resources across our state through a modest $100/year surcharge on pet food companies’ registration of dog/cat food and treat product lines or we can resume the grisly mill of euthanizing healthy, adoptable dogs and cats to make space for the endless stream of homeless animals entering our shelters – an approach that is inhumane, costly and ultimately ineffective as long as there are more animals outside our shelter doors than inside who are not spayed or neutered.

The funds generated by this mechanism will help provide additional funding to our local organizations working tirelessly to provide low/no-cost spay and neuter. If you want to help Stray Hearts Animal Shelter and other shelters and organizations, help us get these bills to a vote. Stopping the flow of unwanted puppies and kittens is the only way to insure the survival and the mission of Stray Hearts.

The billion-dollar companies on the board of directors of the Pet Food Institute hope to sway New Mexicans against these bipartisan companion bills through misinformation and hand-wringing. The industry, which solely is the subject of the surcharge, has inaccurately characterized it as a “tax” to be paid by all New Mexicans. It is trying to stoke our fears by threatening us with an increase in pet food prices – this, even though many companies are likely to absorb the estimated 6/10th of 1 percent the surcharge represents of pet food sales from New Mexico’s $190 million market. If the industry did decide to pass along the surcharge, it would amount to no more the $1.54 per year per pet owner. In short, the industry will adapt, as it has in the three other states that have passed similar surcharge legislation. Let’s support New Mexico becoming the fourth.

Please contact your local and state representatives and express your support for this much needed and proven program. Let’s finally put New Mexico on the right track and bring an end to the needless euthanasia of companion animals.

Harvey Yokum lives in Ranchos de Taos. 

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