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BLOOMFIELD — The City of Bloomfield had to pay more than $3,100 this year for 25 cats a single person took to the Aztec Animal Shelter over the course of three months.

The city's total bill for those three months was $23,161 for all of the pets Bloomfield residents took to the shelter, and city officials say those payments are one of the city's largest recurring expenses.

This has prompted the city to look into ways it can reduce the number of animals ending up in shelters, and to open a conversation about mandatory spay and neuter programs and possible limits on the numbers of pets in city limits.

“It really is a burden on the community,” said City Manager George Duncan.

MORE: Animal shelters have housed some unusual guests over the years

Each animal from within Bloomfield's city limits that is taken to the Aztec Animal Shelter costs the city about $127 under its contractual agreement with the shelter. If that animal has puppies or kittens at the shelter, the city is also charged for each of the babies.

Too many unwanted pets

The city has been operating on a tight budget for several years. The money it spends on sheltering animals comes from its general fund. If the city can reduce the amount it pays each year for animal care, it will have more money to spend elsewhere.

The City Council met with residents on Aug. 28 to gather input, and is planning to have more meetings in the future.

“We’re not saying we’re going to change anything or do anything,” said Mayor Cynthia Atencio. “We want to get your input on this. So that’s why we’re having this meeting.”

Atencio said the city did get some negative feedback when it announced it would be considering changes to the animal ordinances.

“It’s not about us trying to run your business,” Atencio said. “It’s about trying to do what’s better for our animals and our citizens.”

Some of the topics addressed included mandatory spay and neuter, microchip or registration, and limits on the numbers of pets.

MORE: Town of Kirtland residents should take animals to Aztec Animal Shelter

Bloomfield is the only San Juan County city that does not limit the number of dogs and cats residents can own, although it does not allow livestock in residential areas.

In Aztec, people can have up to five dogs or cats, or a combination of cats and dogs totaling five. In Farmington, they can own up to four dogs and cats.

Bloomfield does have ordinances prohibiting dogs from running at large and requiring female dogs in heat to be kept confined. It also has ordinances related to aggressive dogs.

There are no laws in place in Bloomfield about cats.

Pet limits and microchips discussed

Many Bloomfield residents at the Aug. 28 meeting expressed support of having limits on the numbers of animals people can own. Several also supported requiring microchips or inexpensive registration.

The city has purchased a microchip scanner. It hopes having the scanner will allow it to return animals directly to their owners rather than transporting them to the shelter in Aztec.

There was more division about mandatory spay and neuter. One resident complained about unaltered dogs resulting in 34 puppies at her neighbor's house over the course of six months. She said some of those dogs did end up at the shelter. Another resident said breeding her dogs helps her pay for some of their care. 

Police Chief David Karst said the city will not send people door to door to check the number of animals they have, or to make sure the dog or cat is spayed and neutered if those ordinances are enacted.

Instead, Karst said the ordinances would allow the police to address dog and cat problems if there are complaints from the community.

“We’re not out there going knocking on doors and being like, ‘Hey, I notice that you have 10 dogs,’” Karst said. “When I’m on call, I’m not going to try to generate something just to be a menace.”

He said the police department, including its animal control officer, has enough work to do without worrying about how many dogs each resident owns.

“We’re not actively going to knock on doors or sit on porches and count dogs,” Karst said.

The City of Bloomfield posts its ordinances online at bloomfieldnm.gov.

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

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