For some people, what start out as cute, fuzzy bundles of joy turn into financial and emotional burdens. All too often those animals are ignored and ultimately abandoned. And on the Navajo Nation there are cultural beliefs that discourage some people from getting their animals spayed or neutered.
Whatever the cause, the populations are burgeoning and it is costing county residents plenty.
County CEO Kim Carpenter says the county alone is spending nearly $800,000 per year on animal control. If you add money spent by Aztec and Farmington, the total rises to about $2 million, he said.
And Carpenter says there is no relief in sight.
In a February Daily Times story, Carpenter said the cost is "climbing rapidly every year." And the number of animals, particularly from the Nation, is also climbing dramatically.
"We are going to try and work with the Navajo Nation to establish an agreement," he said then. "We have a vested interest. The single largest inflationary operation we have is (reservation) animals. I think the taxpayers ought to know."
Carpenter said at the time he had reached out to chapter houses, but was not able to establish any kind of agreement. We found one operation on that is making spay and neuter services available to the Nation's residents with a mobile unit that offers lower prices than any we know of in San Juan County.
Carmaletha Lee, the senior veterinary technician at the Navajo Nation Veterinary and Livestock Clinic in Shiprock, said a growing number of the reservation's residents are willing to spay or neuter their pets.
Lee said the clinic also has started a radio campaign.
We urge county and Nation leaders to come together on this problem.
In San Juan County, the cost of spay and neuter operations could present an obstacle.
It costs an average of $163 at veterinary hospitals in San Juan County, according to a list of prices provided to The Daily Times by the Humane Society of the Four Corners. However, lower cost options are available, including $49 at the Aztec Animal Shelter and a few other locations.
Farmington city officials have talked about creating a low- to no-cost spay and neuter program, but some veterinarians have said they don't want government competing with their operations.
Fine, but they need to offer affordable alternatives or people won't participate. This is a situation where a few individual sacrifices might be necessary to improve the community for everyone.
Officials also have talked about spay and neuter ordinances. We don't support that route.
If you own an animal that is not part of a legitimate breeding operation and you have not had it spayed or neutered -- you are the problem. It will take a change in attitude and a willingness to accept the responsibilities of pet ownership to ultimately improve this situation.
We do, however, support an ordinance requiring that pets be licensed. That sends a message that there are basic responsibilities involved when you bring an animal into your life. It is an avenue for education through brochures or other avenues.
The licensing process also can be used to create incentives. You get a deep discount if you bring in a certificate proving the animal was spayed or neutered. And the money from licensing should be plowed back into the animal control program, offsetting budget impacts.
So, if your animals are running around procreating at will, it's costing you. Unfortunately, it's also costing the rest of us.