Las Cruces city councils reviewed the proposed changes to the ordinance for the Mesilla Valley Animal Service Center during their working session on Monday.
Clint Thacker, Executive Director of the Mesilla Valley Animal Service Center, outlined the proposed changes to the current Animal Control Ordinance, which would include removing pet licensing in favor of the use of microchips. In the past, a license was required to ensure animals received the rabies vaccine, which Thacker says can be regulated differently.
“Now people are starting to ask, ‘What do I get out of my license?’ The answer really is maybe a different form of ID, what we make of it, because the actual rabies [shot] is still required by law, ”said Thacker. “So, we say you can take out and remove the license part that has the microchip, the animal control officers will still be able to force them not to have rabies.” [shot]. ”
The council also focused on how to reduce the number of wild and community cats in the city. According to council member Tessa Abeyta-Stuve, the problem has only grown.
“In my district, I definitely have some neighborhoods where these increased amounts have come back and, frankly, it’s very heartbreaking for owners who face such cat problems,” Abeyta-Stuve said. “We have some powerful stories in our district about the damage cats have done to homes.”
New changes to the Animal Control Ordinance would introduce a Trap Neuter Return program which would sterilize and microchip cats before returning them to the area where they were originally found. City Councilor Abeyta-Stuve emphasized the need for a lasting humane solution.
“If you have a lot of cats in the neighborhood, another cat will only be claiming that area,” Abeyta-Stuve said. “And so we’re not necessarily reducing the problem by taking that one cat away when there are still so many around. So if this is a program that can help reduce the number of cats we see, especially kittens and everything, then I think it could be very successful. “
Last year 971 cats were brought through animal control. The number of cat complaints increased significantly in 2020, which animal control officer Gino Jimenez attributes to the COVID pandemic.
“I can say we have probably seen most of our cat ailments in the past year,” said Jimenez. “And I don’t want to say 100% that, but I think it’s all due to COVID. You know we had to reduce our services because of COVID. We didn’t want to expose ourselves to citizens. We don’t know if we have it. “
Healthcare Professional Athena Huckaby emphasized how changes to the regulation should include collecting data on the total number of wild and community cats in the city.
“For this regulation to work well and lead Las Cruces to proactive, holistic, data-driven solutions, the implementation must contain certain key elements,” said Huckaby. “This includes a data collection where we work with researchers to estimate the number of cats living in the wild in the area and see how that number changes over time.”
The city is currently examining the possibility of accelerating the Trap Neuter Return program through a separate resolution after Councilor Kasandra Gandara called for the urgency.
“I would recommend, and I would love to pull out this TNR, this community cat part, and get it into the books pretty quickly,” said Gandara. “I would like to have the nod and permission to do this so that we can start implementing this program right away because we are very lagging behind. And that would be my recommendation to pull that part and get this going. “