BernCo Animal Care Center struggles with overcrowding

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Capacity issues have been brewing at the Bernalillo County Animal Care Center for years. 

Now, a combination of COVID-era challenges, and the hoarding case of more than 50 pit bulls in Albuquerque last week– have brought the issue to a head.

KOB 4 talked with leaders about how helpless dogs are now paying for years of irresponsible behavior.

“We’re at 288 animals today. 288 in a building that was built for about 180,” said Misha Goodman, a director at the Bernalillo County Animal Care Services. 

That is the reality of the overcrowded, understaffed, Bernalillo County Animal Care Center.

“It was built too small to begin with, and so pretty much directly after we opened, we were overcrowded,” said Goodman. 

Then the pandemic hit and made a bad situation worse.

Goodman says veterinarians were either shutting down all together, or stopped performing routine surgeries to help save protective equipment – they weren’t spaying or neutering.

“In addition to people who were at home for hours on end, and they were lonely, so they adopted animals, or they received animals from friends,” Goodman said. 

So when they’re faced with a local hoarding case the challenges only got harder.

“All of a sudden, you have three cages available, and you have 50, or more animals coming in. Where do you put them? How do you take care of them?” said Goodman.

The shelter has an Animal Management Committee made up of a veterinarian, shelter manager, and other specialists who help care for the animals. They have to decide which dogs can move to fosterS or rescues, and which ones will have to be euthanized. 

“When we have to make decisions because an animal is highly aggressive, very, very different than having to make a decision just because we don’t have space, and there’s no one to take it. That’s heart-wrenching,” Goodman said. 

When the 50 pit bulls moved in, they had to euthanize fifteen others.

“We have employees, you know, crying in the hallways, and we have employees that need to speak to, you know, a peer support person. Because it’s really very difficult to deal with, and a lot of people don’t, you know, they think, well you work at a shelter, so you’re used to it. There is no getting used to it,” said Goodman. 

Goodman says it will take time to bounce back from the COVID-era boom in new and unvaccinated dogs, but it starts with the public being more responsible.

“We just want to make sure that the more we do to help people, the more they look for resources, and are responsible for the animals that they have,” Goodman said. “A shelter isn’t a hotel, it’s not a wonderful environment. We try and make it as good as we can, but it’s not a great environment for animals. They want to be out of here.”

If your animal needs to be spayed or neutered or vaccinated call your local vet or shelter. They can and will find you a low cost, accessible option.

Shelter leaders are only asking for monetary donations at this point for the dozens of pit bulls from last week’s hoarding case. They say all donations will go to the Quality of Life Community Fund to support programming. 

People can check out the Bernalillo County Animal Care and Resource Center Facebook page to follow updates on the pit bulls, and see pets of the week.