FARMINGTON — Farmington City Council passed freshly drafted guidelines for the new regional animal shelter during its meeting Tuesday night.
"Finally having a ray of hope, we may be able to get a handle on the animal population problem in our community," said Mayor Tommy Roberts, adding that the new guidelines may lessen the shelter's burden.
Councilors Mary Fischer and Jason Sandel voted against the measure.
The guidelines will affect the 1,500 to 2,000 animals a year that the city's $4.6 million animal shelter expects to take in. They include low- or no-cost spay-neuter services and hiring an in-house veterinarian.
City Manager Rob Mayes said only building a new shelter and hoping to adopt out more animals will not lower the city's euthanasia rate. Mayes -- as well as San Juan County government officials, local veterinarians and animal welfare activists -- say spay-neuter legislation and community education will quell overpopulation at the city's shelter.
Hiring a veterinarian to manage the animals and providing staff with necessary supplies is expected to cost the city $42,720 annually, according to documents that Cory Styron, director of the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department, presented to council.
San Juan County will eventually split the shelter fees, Styron said.
Farmington's old animal shelter can hold a maximum of 146 animals. On July 13, the shelter had almost 200 animals. In July, the shelter was flooded with 20 to 40 animals per day.
Because of those high numbers, shelter staff has had to euthanize many of the captured animals. In June, staff put down 29 percent of its captured animals. From January to March, the shelter put down 478 cats and dogs.
The animal influx also costs local governments steep fees. San Juan County annually spends $800,000 on animal control services.
The average spay-neuter costs at a veterinary hospital in San Juan County is $163. Low-cost options average $49 through the Aztec Animal Shelter and other locations.
The new shelter, which will open in mid-November, will hold 358 animals. The shelter's new executive director, Stacie Voss, has eight years of experience in animal services and has worked to successfully increase the live release rate at a shelter in Nebraska. Voss is scheduled to start the job in early December, according to a press release the city issued Tuesday.
Sandel said the guidelines council accepted Tuesday evening need more work. Fischer agreed.
But Margie Alvarez, a veterinarian who helped draft the guidelines, is satisfied. So is Fred Brooks, a member of the San Juan Animal League, an organization that also worked with the city to draft the guidelines.
"I think that's why they're called guidelines," Brooks said. "Right now, we need to get our feet on the ground and get rolling."