Bobbi Heller, Felines and Friends NM, and Murad Kirdar, Santa Fe Animal Shelter

Air Dates: October 16-18, 2021

This week's guests on REPORT FROM SANTA FE are Bobbi Heller, Felines and Friends NM, and Murad Kirdar, Santa Fe Animal Shelter, discussing the impending crisis for families and pets when the COVID Eviction Moratorium is lifted, as well as the issue of NM's homeless animals.

New Mexico is currently experiencing an unprecedented situation at all animal shelters and rescue operations. Every one of them is at capacity and has an excess of animals. This is due in part to the pandemic. Spay and neuter surgeries were not deemed as essential and so overpopulation quickly hit local animal shelters. These shelters are promoting free adoptions and volunteer fostering of these animals that are overwhelming the system.

Bobbi Heller, the executive director of Felines and Friends New Mexico, and Murad Kirdar, who is the public relations and business relations officer for the Santa Fe New Mexico Animal shelter, serve as "rescue partners" for the many New Mexico homeless and injured or sick animals.

Although both groups are based in Santa Fe, they partner with community shelters all over the state. The Santa Fe Shelter has a program, “Driving Change to Save Lives,” where they bring in at-risk animals from 40 community shelters to the Santa Fe Shelter, freeing up limited resources so that smaller shelters can continue to help animals in their own community. Kirdar notes that over the last ten years, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter has partnered with over 40 of New Mexico’s shelters and rescues to transfer over 3,500 animals.

Heller and Kirdar point out that when the COVID Eviction Moratorium is lifted, many landlords will probably be eager to evict some tenants, while raising the rent on others. Many tenants will be faced with finding new homes and may experience difficulty finding new living arrangements that will allow them to keep their family pets. Many of those pets will then be surrendered to shelters already operating at maximum capacity.

To try to get pet owners to stop and look for alternatives, the Animal Shelter has changed the vocabulary for pet surrenders by getting rid of the term "owner" and using the term "guardian" because when one owns something, it is much easier to get rid of it, but when one is a guardian of a cat or a dog, they think twice.