If you’re a regular Facebook scroller and a fan of dogs you will have noticed recent posts by the Volunteers of the Valencia County Animal Shelter page have been prefaced with the word “urgent” in all caps.

Space is tight at the county’s animal shelter, and the typical summer spike of intakes is only beginning.

Last week, the page administrators put out a public plea to prevent the euthanasia of 10 to 15 dogs just to make space in the kennels. Rescues and community members rallied and the list wasn’t made, but Patty Mugan, the shelter supervisor and transfer coordinator, said while she’s grateful, there’s still a day-to-day scramble for space.

“Summer is always a rough time anyway,” Mugan said.

In June and July of 2021, the shelter took in 1,202 dogs and cats, compared to 909 the previous two months and 900 in the two months after. The shelter had an average intake of almost 456 animals per month last year.

Mugan said in addition to the strays picked up regularly, people surrender their animals to the shelter for a variety of reasons, ranging from not being able to afford food to not wanting to leave them home alone during work hours.

“We have people who are going on vacation and they don’t want to board their animals, they were thinking about getting rid of the animals so they just do it now,” Mugan said. “We also have people who are going back (to the office) to work still. That’s why I put up that Facebook post. Your dog would rather sit at home for eight hours and have somebody come home than sit in a kennel until who knows when.”

Some owners are having a hard time buying food regularly, she said, an effect of inflation she’s felt herself. With seven dogs to feed, Mugan said the large bags of food she typically buys are 10 pounds smaller and $4 more expensive.

“I know it’s hard for some people. We try to help with dog food here as we can, but we really don’t advertise it because we don’t have an ongoing program,” she said. “Some of the local food pantries collect pet food, but it’s not enough for a whole month or anything.”

With the Fourth of July holiday approaching, a month that is one of the busiest for shelters across the country due to the influx of animals fleeing the noise of fireworks, shelter staff had already planned an event to get free collars and tags to pet owners in Valencia County. That event is now doing double-duty as an adoption opportunity for people looking for a furry friend.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, June 24, pet owners can get a free collar and tag for up to three pets in their household. Pet owners are encouraged not to take their animals.

“Having a collar and tag helps reunite you with our pet faster. Something as simple as a tag with your number on it could save your pet’s life,” she said.

Another way to make sure owners get their pet back safely is to ensure the contact information on the pet’s microchip is up to date. Mugan said someone at the shelter can scan the chip and get the company’s contact information for the owner, who can update information contained on the chip.

That same day, cats and dogs will be available for adoption for $5 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The $5 adoption fee incudes all-required vet care.

Joe’s Hot Dogs cart will be at the event selling hotdogs and lemonade.

In February, the shelter increased its adoption fees from $72 and $92 per intact cat and dog, respectively, to a flat $150 for either and $15 per sterilized animal.

When asked if the higher fee could be causing higher number of animals Mugan pushed back, pointing out that at least 50 percent of the dogs in the shelter were already sterilized.

“They’re already vaccinated, microchipped. They get a free tag and collar, and if you’re in the unincorporated county, you get a free license for a year,” she said. “If you live in a municipality, you have to pay their license fee.”

Even without the special pricing at the upcoming event, intact animals are available for adoption for $65, less than half of the normal fee, until further notice.

To sign up for VC SNAP low cost spay/neuter clinic and/or vaccines plus microchips at the Valencia County Animal Shelter , go to hartnm.com  and click on “low cost spay & neuter” for prices and to schedule.

The shelter is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and is located at 1209 N.M. 314, Los Lunas.

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Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.