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FARMINGTON — The Farmington Regional Animal Shelter reduced its euthanasia rate from 52 percent to less than 28 percent in two years, according to the shelter's first full-year report.

"We're euthanizing thousands of animals less than the shelter had done previously," Director Stacie Voss said.

According to the shelter's fiscal year 2015 report, its staff took in 7,474 cats and dogs and euthanized 1,983 of them. About half of all the animals the shelter received were strays, and owners surrendered another approximately 40 percent, according to the report.

The shelter put down about half of the dogs because they were too aggressive or had severe medical problems, such as broken hips or contagious diseases, according to the report. It put down the most cats — 340 — because they were too young when they came to the shelter to feed or drink without help, according to the report. It also euthanized 236 cats because they were unsocial, the report states.

The city opened the $4.6 million shelter in early December 2013, and it is nearly twice the size of the old shelter. Mayor Tommy Roberts and other officials said with its opening, the city was switching from animal control to animal welfare.

Cory Styron, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs director, says animal welfare is significantly more expensive than animal control.

Voss said the shelter's fiscal year 2016 budget is about $1.2 million. When the old, much smaller shelter used to cover animal control expenses, its budget was still about $1 million, she said. The police department, which has nine animal control officers, spent nearly $345,000 on the service in fiscal year 2015, spokeswoman Georgette Allen said.

But animal welfare is worthwhile, Styron said.

"From where we were when I walked in (which was March 2013) this is great," he said. "We're very happy with the direction we're going."

But he said he is alarmed at how many animals the shelter took in. Almost 7,500 animals a year is a lot for a county that the U.S. Census estimates contains only 123,785 people, he said. Past years' intake rates have been similar, according to shelter data.

"It's very, very important that we do everything possible to reduce the unwanted population by — please — spaying and neutering pets," he said.

That is the best way to reduce cat and dog overpopulation, he said.

Voss said it's the only way.

According to the fiscal year 2015 report, the shelter fixed 1,136 animals, 55 percent of which were dogs, the rest cats. Almost 55 percent of the animals that were fixed came from San Juan County, about 40 percent from the city and 5 percent from the Navajo Nation, according to the report.

The shelter's public spay and neuter program opened in April 2014, and it offers low-cost operations. At the old shelter, staff performed the operations only on adopted animals.

Voss said an animal shelter is a reflection of its community — it can show that a community cares about its animals.

"The animals don't have a choice," she said. "They're depending on us."

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.

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