Some desolate areas of Valencia County have become dumping grounds for the county’s unwanted dogs.
Valencia County is no stranger to being on the list of the worst counties for animal cruelty. The county has made headlines due to their issues with dog fighting in the past.
Now in the remote area of El Cerro Mission, dog owners are leaving their sick, old, pregnant and unwanted dogs for dead.
The location of the dog feeding station is located at North Rio Del Oro Loop and
Bonita Vista BLVD. The property is owned by PNM.
In 2016, retired teacher Robyn Albani, discovered there was a pattern of dog abandonment in the county after getting a call about a German Shepherd who was seen lying in the area for weeks.
“I decided to feed this dog,” Albani said. “After that, we started seeing how many dogs were being dumped in this area.”
Over the last three years, Albani and other members of the community have gone to the area daily to feed and give water to the dogs.
“Often where dogs are dumped, that’s where they stay because they think their owner is going to come back for them,” Albani said.
Albani attributes the problem of dog dumping to how the locals undervalue their dogs.
“It all about people not viewing their dogs as family members,” she said.
Albani buys dogs traps and leaves them in the area in order to attempt to capture the dogs. Often times her traps become mangled from the elements. However, she says she has successfully saved 26 animals so far.
“We get them well and send them out of Valencia County to different rescues,” Albani said.
For the dogs she can’t capture, Albani has a set of dog houses with food and water in the area.
Over the winter that included a New Year’s Eve blizzard, Albani set up multiple dog houses with tarps to keep the dogs warm. But she was asked to cut down on the number of houses in the area due to the county’s code enforcement.
Valencia County’s list of county ordinances regarding animal welfare and control allows providing “minimum care” to an animal beyond the control of the owner.
According to the Valencia County Assessor’s office, the property where the feeding station is located belongs to Public Service Company of New Mexico.
PNM said in a statement given to the News Port
“PNM has recently become aware of the feeding station at the Manzano Solar Site. Unfortunately, due to safety and health concerns, we are going to have to remove the station from the property. PNM has been a long-time supporter of organizations that take in rescues and would encourage anyone who cannot care for their own pet to visit a local shelter. PNM and its employees have given over $44,000 last year to animal care groups such as Animal Humane, Hawks Aloft, Paws and Stripes, Animal Shelters, Puppy Dog Ranch, June’s Senior Cat Rescue, NM State 4-H Dog School and Lap Dog Rescue just to name a few. PNM is proud of our commitment to our four-legged friends. In the past five years, PNM and employee matching grants have totaled $305,405.00 to animal care groups.”
The Valencia County Sheriff’s Office spoke to the News Port about the problem. They said they rarely get calls regarding the issue.
“Currently the Sheriff’s Office does not have any reports of people releasing dogs in the El Cerro Mission area or anywhere in the county,” said Valencia County Sheriff’s Spokesman, Joseph Rowland. “We are not aware of any recent reports.”
Rowland says that the problem is hard to monitor because of lack of witnesses or surveillance cameras in the area, but says there are other solutions to monitoring the issue.
“A possible solution could be microchipping animals so we can locate the owner, so when we do find an animal we can scan and find out who the animal belongs to and contact those owners to find out what happened and keep a record of this animal being out in the wild,” he said.
The Valencia County Animal Control said that they have had a difficult time monitoring the issue as well due to the area being so remote, according to Jess Weston, director of Animal Control in Valencia County.
“It’s an unmonitored area, so we risk our traps being damaged or stolen,” Weston said.
Weston also said he puts the blame on people in the county not spaying or neutering their pets.
“They say it’s easier to dump their pets than to pay for spay,” Weston said.
Weston said the county can only operate during business hours, making it difficult to leave traps and monitor the dogs being dumped. Besides, Valencia County Animal Control has a challenge just dealing with the high number of dogs it has in its shelter due to lack of spay and neutering services.
Animal rescue groups like Homeless Animal Rescue Team of New Mexico, have been trying to prevent the issue by putting Valencia County’s unwanted dogs into forever homes.
Carolyn Taylor of HART, says she works on making sure every dog they take in has somewhere to go other than the shelter.
“The can’t turn away dogs and if they’re full they have the right to euthanize it immediately,” Taylor said.
HART has received calls about dogs being dumped in Valencia County. Right now they can only help if someone reports it.
“We recently got a call from someone who witnessed a dog being thrown out of a car,” Taylor said. “We worked on finding it a foster home.”
HART and Albani both agree that the only way to solve the problem is to make it known to the public.
“People in Albuquerque don’t even know this is happening out here,” Albani said. “It’s not going to change until people acknowledge it.”
Vanessa Martinez is a reporter for the New Mexico News Port, she can be contacted on Twitter @vanessarmartin.