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Santa Fe Animal Shelter Responds with Compassion and Hope For a Lower Homeless Population

By Kelly Church

For the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, finding taking care of animals and placing them in proper homes is priority. The nonprofit organization took in more than 5,000 animals in need in 2015 alone. They spayed or neutered more than 8,000 animals. According to Public Information Officer Ben Swan, this process is key to keeping the homeless animal population low. With multiple programs and their dedication to adopting into the right family, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter is out to aide the community and its homeless animals.

"The most important thing society. our community, can do is to make sure that all animals are spayed or neutered," Swan says. "Animal overpopulation is the number one cause of animal abuse and neglect. If there are fewer homeless animals, it stands to reason that there will be fewer problems. But along with the need to reduce unwanted animals, is to make sure all animals are happy and healthy."

Swan says the animal shelter's mission is to support the animals, save lives and spread compassion by finding loving homes for every animal. In the long term, the shelter's goal is to reduce animal suffering through spay and neuter programs, ensuring that animals are in safe and healthy homes and stay that way. The shelter offers spay and neuter services through free and low-cost clinics in the area, free behavior help for animals that need some extra support, a pet food bank and a sliding fee scale for veterinary services.

The organization also adapts their programs to fit the needs of the dogs in the shelter. The shelter quickly created Afuera Program to respond to the influx of animals that don't thrive in indoor environments. The animals in this program live in safe outdoor environments and work closely with the behavioral staff until permanent homes are found.

To help serve the greater community in addition to the animal population, programs like Community Pet Outreach were established. This program allows staff members to go door-to-door in more run down areas and offer animal services. Staff and volunteers will repair fences, offer spay and neuter services and help with stray cats. Twice each year, free vaccination clinics are held in these areas.

"As a nonprofit that receives no public funding, all of this takes the support of our community," Swan says.

Of course, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter is an adoption facility as well. Swan says the shelter staff believes it is hugely important to help each person realize appropriate expectations for their future pet and what is right for each unique family.

The shelter's 50 First Dates program follows the same idea for pet adoption as dating: you don't marry someone on the first date, so you may not be ready to adopt on day one either. The shelter allows pets to go on a house visit for a few days or a week to get to know the pet and see how they interact with the members of a family. This program has two beneficial pieces: it allows the families to report back to the shelter with important information about each animal, and it allows the families to have confidence in their decision. Swan says there is a 95% success rate with this program.

"At the shelter, we believe that companion animals are family; that means animals are treated with respect and dignity through all stages of their lives," Swan says. "We encourage people to be part of what we like to call a cultural change on how people view animals. That means making a commitment to the health and well-being of companion animals through either supporting the work of animal-welfare groups like us, or volunteering to help homeless animals find new, loving homes."

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