Winter 2013 Magazine



PROJECT HUMANE WILL SAVE LIVES:
ANIMAL HUMANE | NEW MEXICO
EXPANDS FACILITY

By Nancy Marano

How will the $5, 000,000 expansion at Animal Humane | New Mexico (AHANM) help animals? The goal is to adopt every healthy and treatable animal that comes through their doors. This goal is the "holy grail" of the sheltering community. Is accomplishing such a goal even possible? Peggy Wiegle, Executive Director of AHANM, believes it is. Does she have solid evidence for her belief or is she just fantasizing?

In January 2010, AHANM decided it would not euthanize any healthy animals. Instead they made a committment to see that all of them would be placed in homes. They succeeded. By December of 2011, they had adopted all of their healthy animals and all but 100 of the treatable animals.

"We took a hard look at what happened to those 100 animals," Wiegle said. "Seventy-four were puppies with ringworm. While ringworm is entirely treatable in the home, in a shelter environment you need a quarantine area to treat it effectively because of how contagious it is. We had no quarantine area. The other 26 animals were euthanized due to behavioral issues."

The board agreed the facilities should be expanded to meet current and future needs including having quarantine areas for dogs and cats. But the current facility had no room to expand. If they wanted to put in a building for a quarantine area, they wouldn't have room to put in the parking spaces the city would require for a new building. This led to a total assessment of what would be needed now and in the future to serve the needs of the animals and community.

"We asked our staff and volunteers to think big. We wanted to know what improvements it would take to make this a better shelter for the animals and the people who work here," Wiegle said.

After receiving the ideas, they hired Animal Arts to design a master plan for the shelter. Animal Arts has designed animal shelters exclusively for the last 30 years including the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and Humane Society and Best Friends.

AHANM bought 2 acres north of its current shelter. This area will be parking to accommodate the new facility. When the renovations are finished, every building in the current facility will have been touched in some way. "It is a lot of change and it will be big but we are doing it as cost effectively as we can," Wiegle said.

Project Humane, as the expansion is called, will take approximately 2 years to complete and cost $5 million dollars. The primary goal is to save lives with a secondary goal being to provide healthy, respectful housing for each animal.

The facility will be in compliance with the "Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters" put out by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians in 2010 and the "2010 Facility Design and Animal Housing Guidelines" recommended by the UC Davis Koret Shelter Medical Program. At the moment the only part of the AHANM facility that meets these standards is the Robbie Jones Memorial Cat House.

The other Project Humane goals are as follows.

The "going home area" must be separate from the "losing my home" area. Currently the admission and adoptions services areas are in the same building. People drop off animals, which usually is a sad experience, right next to the people who are picking up their newly adopted animals which is a happy time. This makes it difficult for staff and clients alike. It is difficult for animals, too, because exuberant dogs and cats cowering in cages are right next to each other.

Next the campus will be reorganized to make it less confusing. Now animals are moved from building to building for various purposes and the set up is inefficient for the veterinary staff. When animals need to be moved frequently is causes stress and makes them more susceptible to disease. The new facility will provide life-enhancing environments for the animals and increase medical efficiency.

Renovation and construction will be done in phases so everything is paid for as it is completed. It will begin with those areas that are most in need while causing as little disruption to the daily functioning of the facility as possible. All of the work will be done while the shelter is open for business.

The Humane Education Outreach Program has continued to grow. Some of the classes are in the schools but much of the program consists of tours of school children through the facility. In a recent week 144 middle school children went through the shelter. With only one large meeting room for staff and volunteer training and for the education programs there just isn't enough space for it all. Another large room will be added for this purpose.

"I would like to see the business community step up to this," said Wiegle. "I hope businesses will help support the humane education room because the link between domestic violence and animal cruelty is well established. Supporting humane education programs is a proven way of changing people's attitude and actions toward animals and people. The plaque a business receives for contributing to this will be perpetual advertising for them for the next 20-30 years."

The veterinary clinic's mission is to provide quality low-cost veterinary services to qualified low-income pet owners. Due to lack of quarantine space, clients need to be turned away. Currently, the clinic cannot take animals with contagious diseases. Expansion of the clinic will allow them to have a parvo ward, a canine ringworm treatment area and a larger feline treatment area. This will save more lives.

The last change will help prevent staff burnout and create new space for the expanding number of volunteers. Due to the expansion of services, some staff members have their offices in converted bathrooms and others have to time-share their office which is not good for morale.

How does AHANM plan to accomplish all of these changes and what must be done first?

The first phase will be the construction of a new Adoption and Administration building and renovation of the current marketing services to accommodate quarantine and treatment facilities for the clinic. The new adoption building will include a spacious adoptions lobby, 25 real-life rooms for showcasing dogs, bonding rooms, the adoption team offices and a large multi-purpose room for education and training.

"The kennels will no longer be open to the public. The theory is that when people see too many of something, they can't make a choice. Now we will have 25 dogs in the real-life rooms in the adoptions building who people can meet," Wiegle said. "If someone finds a dog online and it is in the other section, the dog will be brought to the front or to the park so the person can meet it."

Once the new real-life rooms are available to house dogs, the second phase will begin. Existing kennels will be replaced with new self-contained real-life rooms with their own ventilation and sewage systems. This will cut down on stress and provide a healthier environment.

Phase three will be new construction of an admissions lobby to provide separate intake and processing areas for dogs and cats. It will also create work space for the transport teams.

"Animals are transported to AHANM from all over New Mexico for adoption. Once construction is finished, transport partners will be able to bring the animals into a temperature-controlled garage. We will be able to put them in holding cages there until the veterinarians have examined and vaccinated them. Then they will go to their proper place. The transport manager will be able to put his vehicles here, load up the animals and take to the satellite locations," Wiegle said. Animals won't be moved into the general shelter population unless they are going to be there.

The fourth phase will be the renovation of the current adoption building into the new cattery. This will include large, single cat condos, kitten rooms, and bonding rooms. It also will have cat treatment, cat behavioral modification and ringworm treatment areas. This renovated section will be connected to the Robbie Jones Memorial Cat House by a passageway so all things feline will be in one place. Cats will not need to be moved all over the campus which will reduce stress on the cats and keep them happier and healthier.

The final phase will be the creation of a park that will have shaded, landscaped meet-and-greet areas. "The landscaping will be done by Southwestern Architects. It will showcase xeric, pet-friendly landscaping and demonstrate for visitors what to plant in their own yards," said Wiegle. "There will be a bubbling fountain with boulders. The dogs will be able to get their feet wet but the children can't drown."

This is an ambitious project which has been thought out in every detail before a brick was moved. Wiegle isn't fantasizing on whether AHANM can accomplish these goals. Fundraising began as soon as the commitment to Project Humane was made by the board. Since March, 2012, they have raised 85.6% of the $5,000,000 goal. Other shelters have reached the point of adopting all healthy and treatable animals. The Oregon Humane Society and San Diego Humane are at the top of that select list. But soon AHANM will be joining them.

"Albuquerque is becoming a model city for this," Wiegle stated.

There are still naming opportunities available but contributions in any amount are most welcome. For further information or to donate check http://animalhumanenm.org/ph/index.php.


Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who is owned by two cats, Callie, a tortoiseshell, and Max, a black, panther wannabe. She is a member of the Cat Writers' Association and Dog Writers of America.

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