WEEK FOR THE ANIMALS BEGAN IN ELDORADO AREA
by Mickey Rogers
In the year 2000, Karen Kleeman and Jane Carson decided to spearhead an organization that would focus on animal welfare in New Mexico. They were motivated by the overwhelming numbers of animals being abused, strays wandering the streets, thousands of animals being euthanized each year in over-crowded shelters. There had been scattered attempts by various organizations that wanted to help, but there was no over-all effort to attack what was at the base of this problem: a lack of education.
Carson and Kleeman knew that they couldn't address the problem alone, so they formed a task force to expand their effort. They picked one week to be an annual focal point for issues pertaining to animal welfare. They wrote a proclamation and had Governor Gary Johnson sign it, officially declaring the week of September 30th through October 6th as "New Mexico Week for the Animals".
New Mexico is still one of only two states that dedicate a week to animal welfare. Utah was the first to pave the way. Best Friends, the animal sanctuary near Kanab, Utah, that started the effort there, generously shared information with Carson and Kleeman.
"There are thousands of reasons people don't spay and neuter." Kleeman said. "As a result, thousands of animals are being put to sleep. The Santa Fe shelter alone has to put down (thousands of) animals each year--they have no choice."
"We want to use this week to bring a focus on providing compassionate care for animals and getting over-population under control," Carson said.
The two women began the crusade in New Mexico primarily using their own money. They have since gotten a few grants from private foundations, and NMWFTA has made arrangements with many local vets to do low- or no-cost spaying and neutering during this week as part of the effort.
This year marked the third celebration of the annual, weeklong event. State-wide activities during the week included: adoption fairs, children's art and literary contests, discount spaying and neutering, humane education classes, seminars for teachers and youth leaders, and museum and library displays. In addition, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America participated in educational activities throughout the state.
The week culminated on October 5th, on the Plaza in Santa Fe with live entertainment, and a pet portrait artist. About 20 animal-related organizations set up booths, including The Santa Fe Humane Society Animal Shelter, and various other rescue organizations that sponsor pet adoptions. Groups such as The Wildlife Center gave talks and demonstrations about domestic pets and wildlife.
At 4:00 P.M., the NMWFTA Group handed out its annual Distinguished Service to Animals Awards. They are given to recognize individuals and organizations that have "dedicated their talents, time and resources for the benefit of providing animals a better way of life". The recipients of the 2002 New Mexico's Week for the Animals Distinguished Service Awards are as follows:
Animal Organization of the Year: Fur and Feathers Rescue and Rehabilitation, Inc. Bob & Cathy Anderson of Los Alamos began this nonprofit rescue 13 years ago. Their mission is to provide humane, professional and efficient first aid and rescue to injured and orphaned wildlife. They are also active presenters of educational programs to the public, with an emphasis on teaching children an awareness of and compassion towards all animals. They provide valuable information and insights on how to handle encounters with native creatures.
Individual of the Year: Andrew Jaramillo, Santa Fe County Animal Control. As President of the New Mexico Association of Animal Control Officers, Jaramillo constantly strives to educate himself and his fellow officers in promoting healthy lifestyles for animals and in providing the best possible approaches to servicing their needs and those of the community.
Media Specialist of the Year: Lloyd Thrap of Blue Cat Productions. Thrap, who produces media extravaganzas through his business Blue Cat Productions, has been a tireless volunteer on behalf of animal welfare. He has cheerfully donated hundreds of hours as an advocate for animals. His compassion for animals is apparent in every topic or link he adds to the website he produces: www.animalweek.org
Educator of the Year: Eileen Stapleton, of The Willow School. Stapleton has been described as "the kind of teacher we all wish we had: inspiring, compassionate and wise, with a huge heart". She gathers children in circles and teaches them how we are all related to the earth, its animals, plants and environment. Stapleton was instrumental in developing "The Council of All Beings" project in the Santa Fe public schools.
Corporate Leaders of the Year: Barker Realty, Inc. David and Lisa Barker are long-time contributors to many local animal welfare groups. They generously contribute a percentage of all of their sales to help foster the compassionate care of animals. When The Santa Fe Humane Society and Animal Shelter needed a spay/neuter van, the Barkers were the first to contribute. The van is used to provide spay and neuter services to rural and low-income areas of the state.
Volunteers of the Year: Beverly Antaeus, Robert Hayes and Claire Hudson. Both Antaeus and Hayes have worked at the Española Animal Shelter as well as with the Independent Friends of Rescued Animals. They foster dogs in their homes, helping them to get healthier and teaching them to become more socialized before finding them new homes. Hudson began working with the Española shelter as a volunteer kennel assistant. She expanded her role to adoptions at both the shelter and mobile adoption sites. In addition to assuming the responsibility of organizing mobiles and promoting their adoptions, Hudson walks shelter dogs daily and has transformed the former generic-type kennel cards into colorful biographies of each animal, which has helped raise adoptions.
Co-founder Kleeman said that next year the 2003 awards would be more formal, explaining the main purpose and objectives behind each recipient. Each August, the public is invited to access the website address (below) and nominate people they believe have made a difference in the lives of animals.
NMWFTA wants people to remember that although the week is a focal point, educating people about animal welfare takes year-round effort. "Animals give us constant companionship and unconditional love," said Kleeman. "And all they want in return is love, a warm place to sleep, and some food."
For more information, check out the website at: www.animalweek.org or call Jane Carson or Karen Kleeman at 505-466-0091.
Mickey Rogers is an award-winning writer and artist, and owner of Critter Sitters, a petsitting service that serves the Santa Fe and El Dorado areas. She was named "Journalist of the Year" by New Mexico’s Week for the Animals for two years in a row.
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