ANIMAL PROTECTION OF NEW MEXICO
By Nancy Marano
No group is more abused and under-represented in society than non-human animals,” said Lisa Jennings, Executive Director of Animal Protection of New Mexico, Inc. (APNM). APNM diligently works to change that reality. Established in 1979 as Sangre de Cristo Animal Protection, it was an all-volunteer organization until 1993 when Jennings was hired as Executive Director. The staff has grown to five full-time people, two part-time people and numerous volunteers throughout the state. Funded through private donations and membership fees from their 3,000-4,000 members, this organization has made a huge impact on the treatment of animals - domestic and wild, in New Mexico.
APNM’s stated mission is to promote the humane treatment of animals and advance the cause of animal rights. This is accomplished through: 1) advocacy and legislation; 2) community services; and 3) humane education and outreach programs.
APNM is best known, perhaps, for its role in the field of advocacy and legislation. “We campaign against abuse that is institutionalized in society. Occasionally we work on random abuse but our main work is to challenge society’s institutionalized abuse,” Jennings said. This is evidenced by campaigns against the use of animals in circuses, rodeos, vivisection labs and factory farming.
APNM runs several community service projects. Lifelong Friends provides free and assisted veterinary care to companion animals of the low-income elderly. Emergency Veterinary Care (EVC) grew from the great need for assisted emergency veterinary care for the animals in low-income families. This program currently operates in the Albuquerque. Santa Fe, and Deming areas. Companion Animal Rescue Effort (CARE) provides temporary foster care and shelter for the companion animals of victims of domestic violence. APNM pays the full cost of boarding and any needed veterinary care for animals that may also have been victims of abuse. Subsidized spay/neuter programs operate in various areas of the state and provide either free or low-cost spaying and neutering. This is an attempt to address the huge pet overpopulation problem in New Mexico.
One of APNM’s most significant efforts in humane education and outreach has been staffing a 17-day booth at the New Mexico State Fair for the last several years. Volunteers educate the public on the horrors of factory farming and the benefits of a vegetarian diet while providing information people need to make changes in their own lives or simply to make them aware of the problem.
Occasionally programs are presented in the schools. “We hope to really expand this program in the next year,” Jennings said. “We want to set up a whole program, which works our message of compassion for animals into existing school programs and curricula such as after-school activities or as part of a classroom experience. We’ll start in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas initially and then expand throughout the state.”
One of APNM’s most successful legislative campaigns resulted in the law banning horse tripping, which was passed in 1995. “We traveled all over the state to educate people about this abuse and managed to get the bill passed within a year. It was a major accomplishment,” Jennings explained. “The reason we were so successful on this issue was because we had such a broad coalition of groups supporting our position. We had the Rodeo Association, the state veterinary association, District Attorneys, the Attorney General’s Office, local sheriffs, horse people and animal protection groups.”
USDA’s permanent license revocation of the King Royal Circus accompanied by a $200,000 fine, the largest in history, for violations of the Animal Welfare Act was another successful issue on which APNM worked. These actions were precipitated by the discovery of one dead elephant and other malnourished elephants and llamas in a crowded, overheated King Royal Circus trailer in Albuquerque. The elephants now reside safely at the Rio Grande Zoo. The horror of these animals’ plights brought into clear focus the larger issue of the use and abuse of animals in circuses and the need for circuses without animals.
Other issues where APNM has played a major role include the cancellation of a planned bison hunt in New Mexico in 1996 and educating the public about the animal abuse involved in factory farming, the fur industry and the cosmetics industry. There are also various ongoing campaigns in the area of wildlife protection.
Currently APNM is devoting time to passage in the state legislature of a bill to make animal cruelty a felony. To accomplish this goal, considerable grassroots support is needed to demonstrate to legislators the relevance of the issue in the larger community, according to Jennings.
Jennings is realistic about the fact that not all campaigns are equally successful. “The campaigns that weren’t successful, we’re probably still working on,” she said. “One of the most challenging problems is pet overpopulation. Also, we’ve made very little progress on the quality of life for companion animals who are forced to live their entire lives outside. We’ve had some success with the circus issue, but there are still circuses using animals. We’ve educated people about factory farming, but there is still the possibility that more factory farms will try to move to New Mexico.”
Her advice to people who want to get involved with these issues is to brace themselves for the long haul. The last two decades have seen a tremendous advance in animal rights issues but there is still much to be done. Jennings believes the most important ongoing animal protection issues for APNM, now and in the foreseeable future, are making animal cruelty a felony, humane education, wildlife protection issues, factory farming and public scrutiny of the use of animals in circuses and in the entertainment industry.
While APNM is based in Albuquerque, they have chapters and representatives throughout the state. There are representatives in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Clovis, Jemez Springs, Los Alamos and Las Cruces. Each group is made up of volunteers and deals primarily with local issues, but APNM’s resources are available to help them deal with those issues. Deming has a very active chapter, which does local fundraising and some grant writing. One successful effort is an extensive spay/neuter program that gives a 40% discount on spay/neuter costs for anyone in Hidalgo or Luna County. They provide an emergency veterinary program and pay for boarding and rehabilitation of injured, homeless animals. Humane education programs are also presented.
“The animal rights movement is one of the fastest growing movements in the 20th century,” Jennings said. “It is a natural outgrowth of the civil rights movement, the women’s movement and the children’s rights movement. People who are compassionate toward the oppression of other human beings generally can expand it to non-human animals.”
APNM has raised the public awareness of animal rights issues in this state. Volunteers have found a tremendous amount of support for these issues in New Mexico. Jennings believes people can change and, when given the choice between being cruel or being kind, most people would rather think of themselves as being kind, which presents an opportunity for APNM to educate and recruit volunteers.
“I don’t think New Mexico is any worse than any other place. In fact because of the diverse cultural traditions here, people are more willing to listen to different opinions. There is more consciousness of the issues here. If we can make the choices easier for people, I think we will see change. Many people who seem callous are simply too busy to pay attention. If we ask people not to go to animal circuses, we have to provide non-animal circuses that are enjoyable,” Jennings explained.
When people learn about the issues, they want to help but most don’t know how. “It’s our job to set up opportunities for people to make a difference. They can help in ways that are convenient or meaningful to them,” according to Jennings.
APNM has several programs for people who want to become actively involved. One is an internship program. Interns work for the organization and receive a small stipend. This is an excellent way to get first hand training in how to mount animal rights campaigns. Another is by being a volunteer in any of the community service, humane education and outreach or advocacy programs. A person can also volunteer a special expertise. If you are an accountant, for instance, it might be more helpful to volunteer those skills. You might not deal directly with animal rights campaigns but will be helping the animals by aiding the organization.
Jennings thinks those who want to become more actively involved need to remember two things. “First, the best way to deal with the overwhelming pain involved in finding out whatts happening to animals is to get involved. Being involved and making a difference, even a small difference, has a healing quality to it. People need to challenge themselves to be involved.
Second, people can make a difference. People don’t realize how powerful they are and many people don’t do anything with that power on a societal level. Most people are shocked when they learn what kind of power they have to effect change in society.”
Jennings’ goal for APNM is to “demarginalize” the idea of animal rights and involve a broader spectrum of the public in the issue. Why is asking for compassion for non-human animals thought to be odd in this society? When a person considers that question, he realizes it isn’t odd at all. Once that connection is made, involvement and support for animal rights issues becomes an obvious choice.
As Jennings so eloquently puts the issue, “We need to help people understand that it isn’t just about helping animals but about helping ourselves, too. By expanding compassion we improve our communities. Each of us must challenge ourselves as creative human beings to find ways to do things that don’t involve the direct suffering of another living being.”
Faced with the enormity of the job APNM is trying to accomplish, Albert Schweitzer’s words come to mind. “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man himself will not find peace.”
Note: The Felony Animal Cruelty Law was passed by the New Mexico legislature
in the spring of 1999.
Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who lives in Albuquerque and is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.
This article first appeared in the Spring/Summer 1999 issue.
HOME NM Resources Archives Links Top