By Wyatt Goolsby
HOBBS, NEW MEXICO - Officials are taking action to stop an overpopulation of dogs and cats in town. Construction will soon be finished on a nearly three million dollar animal shelter.
"We don't have the capacity to properly, in our opinion, to house animals for a certain length of time that is necessary to get them adopted," Assistant Fire Chief Ernie Wheeler, who oversees Animal Control, said on Wednesday.
Every week, Hobbs animal officials take in dozens more dogs than they can handle. Most of the three thousand animals that come in year after year are put down.
"Right now, we have a high euthanasia rate and a low adoption rate, what we want to see is adoption go way up and euthanasia go way down," Wheeler explained.
Both city officials and members of the Lea County Humane Society say stray dogs and cats are the problem.
"What we mainly need is to stop unnecessary breeding, so the spay and neutering of any animal that you don't intend to breed, would alleviate this problem," Justin Dreyer, Board President of the Humane Society, said.
Dreyer said their facility is focused on adoption, but there are so many animals, they've been forced to euthanize and turn people away at the door.
"Space. Space. Space," Dreyer added. "I mean that's just pure and simple. We want every animal to at least get a snapshot and time to get some publicity to have that chance to be adopted. If we keep an animal for 2, 3, 4 years, they develop social issues, and they also prevent hundreds of animals getting that spot at their chance of adoption."
Officials said a solution is on the way. A brand new animal facility is scheduled to be completed in May. After a brief tour on Wednesday, NewsWest 9 learned the facility will include medical and adoption wings.
"This is a completely different operation than what we currently have," Wheeler said.
The bottom line officials said: get the word out to pet owners to spay and neuter their dogs and cats.
"We're going to fight euthanasia, but we need to lower that number," Wheeler explained. "It's definitely achievable. It's just going to take some time with some participation from the public."