FARMINGTON — The Farmington Regional Animal Shelter's new director knows that reducing the number of dogs and cats euthanized in area shelters will require community support.
And she is optimistic.
"To me, everything I've read and seen (tells me) Farmington has a pretty good group of animal lovers who want to do good things," said Stacie Voss, currently the director of veterinary services at the Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha.
In 2010, while working for the Omaha shelter, Voss helped staff dramatically reduce the animals killed at the shelter. From January to December, 2009, Voss's shelter euthanized 43 percent of its animals, according to data from Asilomar Accords, an organization dedicated to eliminating euthanasia of "healthy and treatable compantion animals." In 2011, during the same months, the shelter euthanized 29 percent of its animals, according to the data.
Voss said the shelter stopped euthanizing healthy cats that it had no room for. Instead, it reduced the price to adopt cats and rigorously advertised on social media, which resulted in more foster parents, she said.
The shelter also changed its approach with dogs. Staff spent more time with dogs that were shy, unruly or jumpy and helped them become friendly, obedient and calm, she said. That helped them find owners, she said.
Each time, she said, the community responded to the effort.
Farmington's animal shelter still kills about half its dogs and cats, said Marcy Eckhardt, consultant for the animal shelter and director of Pro Shelter. From January to September 2013, the shelter euthanized 42 percent of its animals, according to the Animal Advisory Commission's Monthly Report. In 2012, during the same time, the shelter put down 77 percent of its animals, according to the report.
At the new shelter, under Voss's direction, the goal is to kill only 10 percent of its animals, Eckhardt wrote in an email. She said she thinks Voss will be a good director.
Manuel Garcia, a veterinarian for the San Juan Veterinarian Hospital, agrees with Voss's paradigm: the solution rests among Bloomfield, Aztec, the Navajo Nation, San Juan County and Farmington, he said.
"A change of heart in how we look at our pets is first and foremost," he said.
Animal owners who breed their dogs and cats and then abandon them at the shelter door in trash cans or cardboard boxes are the problem, he said. And dogs and cats that wander into Farmington don't understand they have crossed into the city limits, he said, but animal owners do.
That needs to change before the shelter can change, he said. That's the change of heart that he's talking about, he said.
Shelter directors often come to Farmington with solid credentials, he said. Voss has eight years of experience working in shelters. She also has earned a Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University in animal ecology and a Master of Science in Ecology and Evolution from Northern Illinois University.
But the shelter has been overpopulated for a long time, he said. Some directors have asked for help from the community, others haven't, he said. Efforts to improve the building's conditions will have to be collaborative, he said.
"It's going to take a lot of people and a lot of time to get this under control," he said.
Voss will take over the shelter in early December when Eckhardt's contract expires.