Animal funds

Committee votes for more animal shelter workers |

Members of the Roswell City Council Finance Committee recommended to the entire council that more staff be hired to better run the animal shelter.

It was also announced at the meeting held Thursday that Best Friends Animal Society, a national nonprofit animal welfare organization, will conduct a detailed assessment of the shelter’s operations at no cost to the city.

The city’s goal is to meet state operating standards without reducing the maximum number of animals kept there, Acting City Manager Mike Mathews said.

Several members of area animal rights groups attended the meeting at City Hall.

“(We) are proud of the city for finally trying to fix this problem,” Sammye Leflar, founder of Friends of Roswell Animals, later said.

The employment report’s conclusion is based on the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine’s requirement that each animal receive at least 15 minutes of care per day to ensure adequate health and well-being. This minimum standard is used to determine how many additional workers would be needed for the city to continue to house up to 152 animals.

This report and its proposal stem from a public meeting with animal advocates in August about the shelter.

Members of the Public Safety Committee, which deals with issues related to animal services, recommended to the Finance Committee that the $325,000 suggested in the administrative report be transferred from a cash on hand within the general fund of the city to the Animal Services Shelter fund.

The money would be used to pay for the addition of six full-time employees (FTEs). Five FTEs of staff would be dedicated to the operation of the shelter. The remaining FTE amount would be for an officer to sit at the shelter reception to deal with people entering, as well as work with the shelter’s offsite dispatch.

However, the recommendation of the Finance Committee does not assign any monetary value to the proposal. Some members expressed a preference for the full board to determine how to proceed and then allocate a funding mechanism.

The report also said that without adding staff, the shelter would need to reduce that maximum number to 61 housed animals, or about 40% of current capacity.

Mathews said an ongoing struggle for the city was the constant turnover of employees at the shelter.

Cleaning up animal waste all day isn’t an easy way to make money, and it makes it “hard to find long-term employees,” Mathews noted.

Although the facility is not open to the public every day, the animals housed there require daily care, he also explained.

“Current staff do the work of two to three people,” commented Councilor Juliana Halvorson.

Halvorson went on to point out that adding staff itself could help reduce the high staff turnover rate at shelters.

City staff said staff turnover at the shelter was 33%.

Finance Committee Chairman Robert Corn said the shelter is struggling to determine where in Chaves County a significant number of animals are.

About 75% of those animals are thought to come from the city itself and the rest from other locations in Chaves County, according to the administration’s report.

Because no one in the shelter is available to greet people when the animals are dropped off, the exact locations of the animals are often unknown.

Among other concerns, people searching for their lost pets may have trouble with the shelter’s limited hours of operation or public operations. The reduced hours of operation have made it more difficult for people to retrieve their lost pets, said Support Roswell Animals board member Nicole East.

It has also affected the ability to find homes for these animals, East told committee members.

Other suggestions to help pay more workers included a possible increase in fees for services such as retrieving and holding pets found on the loose, as well as seeking greater financial participation from the county of Chaves and unincorporated communities where approximately 25% of the animals are. derived from.

Councilor Jeanine Best suggested the city consider having the shelter operated by a contractor so the city can focus on “the important things.”

Committee member Ed Heldenbrand said he would be willing to consider contracting out the service, along with other potential solutions, as counselors continue to learn about the shelter and what is needed to make it compliant.

Heldenbrand and other committee members also said they want to see shelter users from outside Roswell pay their fair share of operating costs.

Mathews helped write the report on the situation at the shelter with animal services management and City Manager Joe Neeb, who is currently on unpaid suspension.

Neeb had sent the report to the mayor and councilors to read and presented it to the Public Safety Committee last month.

Reporter Terri Harber can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 308, or [email protected]