Animal shelters have housed some unusual guests over the years

Iguanas, pigs and goats have visited the Farmington and Aztec animal shelters

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • Shelters aren't necessarily equipped to take care of exotic and strange animals, shelter directors say.
  • Animal control officer remembers catching an iguana and an emu.

FARMINGTON — Farmington animal control officer Robin Loev still remembers the day he had to climb up a ladder to pull a large iguana out of a tree.

He tucked the big lizard under his arm. The iguana was between four and five feet long, making it too large for the small animal cages at the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter in northwest New Mexico.

Animal shelters are primarily set up to handle cats and dogs as well as an occasional small animal like a rabbit or a guinea pig. That doesn’t stop the staff from stepping up to help the occasional odd guest. These guests have included a one-eared goat, a peacock and pigs with names like Barbecue and Pork chop.

Farmington shelter director Stacie Voss said the iguana is the animal that stands out in her memory when she thinks about unusual guests the shelter has hosted. 

A stray iguana stayed at the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter while looking for its owner.

Aztec shelter director describes wide range of unusual visitors

Aztec Animal Shelter Director Tina Roper echoed Voss’s statement that the animal shelters are not prepared to take in some of animals that get surrendered.

“We’re not necessarily equipped for all these exotic animals,” she said.

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Roper said if people do need to surrender an unusual pet they should bring its supplies, such as cages and lights.

She said the shelter tends to get lots of pot-bellied pigs. She said Aztec has housed llamas, emus and birds ranging from a parakeet to a cockatoo.

“We’ve had hairless rats,” she said. “Those are interesting-looking creatures.”

The Aztec Animal Shelter includes a corral and shelter for farm animals that sometimes visit the shelter, such as chickens, goats, llamas, donkeys and pigs. This provides a luxury the nearby Farmington Regional Animal Shelter does not have. When Farmington receives those animals, many of them are kept in holding pens in the intake area of the shelter.

Aztec Animal Shelter Director Tina Roper said it is not unusual for pot-bellied pigs to enter the shelter.

Animal control officer describes catching emu with a net

When the Farmington shelter does not have a good place to keep the animals, they are housed at other locations, like veterinary clinics.

Loev remembers catching a large emu a few years ago, but that emu was never taken to the animal shelter.

Loev used a giant net to capture the bird after animal control officers herded it away from busy roads.

This emu’s size surprised Loev. He said it was six feet tall and probably 150 pounds.

“Its head was even with mine,” he said.

Shelter Director Tina Roper and shelter employee Rosemary Boucher play with  Jasper, a pit bull mix, and two goats, Monday, June 23, 2014, at the Aztec Animal Shelter.

Unusual animals create challenges for shelters

Most of the time the odd animals come in as strays, however the Farmington shelter had an owner-surrendered uromastyx lizard earlier this year.

“We’re just not set up to handle a lot of strange animals,” she said.

Voss said the shelter tries to encourage owners of the odd animals to rehome them through a different outlet because the shelter was built mainly to accommodate dogs and cats.

“It’s hard to house them and keep them happy,” Voss said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the animal control officer's name.


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