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Reaching “No Kill” shelter goal still a struggle

It’s been 14 years since El Paso city said it would work to transform into a “no kill” shelter.But last year alone, Animal Services put down a recording breaking number of animals.

The issue came up at Wednesday night’s Animal Services Advisory Committee meeting.

Animal activists in attendance said El Paso is behind the times. Compared to cities like San Antonio and Dallas, El Paso has one of the highest euthanasia rates in the state. And Austin, which had a goal of becoming “no kill” in 2010, did it in less than two years. It’s taking El Paso 14 years.

“Here we proposed this, we wrote the resolution in 1999,” said animal activist Charlie Moreno. “It’s taking us 14 years, and we haven’t been able to do anything. Yet we have the baseball stadium issue that they were pressed for time, they had to make a decision in six weeks, and they passed that. You know if Cortney Niland wants to say, “We can save animals or have parks and police,” why didn’t you think about that when we were working on all these other issues that we were so pressed for time for?”

Moreno’s point was echoed by many on Wednesday night, especially when the committee table the item again.

But both sides agree that in order to become a “no kill” city, people have to do more than just not kill animals, people have to educate people on spay and neutering their animals, micro-chipping them, educate them on not dumping unwanted animals onto the city, and taking them to “no kill” rescues instead.

The committee also talked about outreach to Fort Bliss, whose moving soldiers are in-part responsible for dropping off animals.

But even after education, the issue is money. Animal services has about $5.5 million to work with and this is the most money they’ve every had.

But the need to build more, bigger shelters, costing millions of dollars each, requires even more money.

“As a budget for the city and the county, the biggest budgets are for the police and the sheriff, 50 percent of their whole budget,” said Environmental Services Director Ellen Smyth. “Well we don’t have anywhere near that type of budget for this program. And so you can only do as much as you can with the funding.”

The city is opening it’s first spay and neuter clinic this fall, that will allow people to fix their pets for a low-cost. And the city is looking to secure a contractor to help with a five year plan with “no-kill” elements.

The Animal Services Center of Mesilla Valley had the lowest euthanasia rate in its history last year. The shelter put down 52-percent of its animals, a 26 percent decrease from five years ago.

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