Taking in around 10,000 animals a year, not to mention the more than 40,000 people who visit the building annually, the Animal Service Center of the Mesilla Valley is an endlessly busy place.
Located at 3551 Bataan Memorial West near the intersection of Rinconada Boulevard, the center’s shelter and adoption service is housed inside a one-story structure built in 1982.
It is a building that has long been showing its age with cracks in the walls, plumbing issues, a lack of adequate ventilation, and the simple wear and tear that comes from being one of the most used public facilities in the city.
It is also a structure that in recent years has been housing roughly twice as many animals as it was originally designed to hold.
But now, center officials are making preparations for new facility improvements in the wake of an election last month that saw some 67 percent of Las Cruces voters approving a general obligation bond providing $9.8 million in funding to put up a new shelter.
The bond measure was one of four successful referendums totaling $35 million that will pay for parks and recreation improvements, a new fire station, and the building of new multi-use trails throughout Las Cruces.
For Clint Thacker, the election results couldn’t be better news.
“We’ve been very excited about it,” says Thacker, the executive director of the center, noting with some wonder how quickly it all came about.
Talk of including a new animal shelter as one of the city’s general obligation bonds only became general this spring, with the Las Cruces City Council in early June unanimously agreeing to send the question to voters.
“I was very surprised by how quickly everything came together, how organized things became, the advertising that went out for it,” says Thacker, who became the new head of the Animal Services Center last November.
“It only goes to show how many people realized there was a real need here and wanted to do something about it,” continues Thacker.
A key supporter of the move to build a new animal shelter has been Las Cruces Assistant Manager David Dollahon.
During a May meeting of the Dona Ana County Commission, Dollahon noted the somewhat depleted condition of facilities at the center’s site, remarking: “We have an old modular building that is to the west of the shelter and actually needs to be destroyed. It is not in good condition. “
Uniquely, the center is jointly funded by both the City of Las Cruces and Dona Ana County, with Las Cruces currently giving the facility $1.2 million a year for operating expenses and the county kicking in around $900,000.
In a unanimous vote during that May meeting, the commissioners agreed to up their contribution in next year’s budget to $1.2 million.
For Animal Service Center supporters, such funding is needed just to keep pace with the facility’s 24-hour demands. According to records kept by the shelter, any day can see up to two dozen or more new animals brought in, many of which are given up by their owners.
In just June alone the shelter received 502 dogs and 382 cats.
And that’s not taking into account the surprise event, such as the more than 100 cats that were brought in last spring, the result of a hoarding case.
Thacker notes that the center is now actively engaged in the process of “trying to decide who we are going to go with as far as a firm to help design” the new shelter building.
“The plan right now, and it could change because we have not done any of the designs yet, is to build the new building on site, as close as possible to the current shelter,” says Thacker.
That structure, meanwhile, is to remain intact, but after the new building is completed, will be used primarily as a spay and neuter clinic.
“And it will be a large scale spay and neuter clinic,” says Thacker. “We’re talking about thousands and thousands of animals per year who will be sterilized there.”
The bond-funded project, which will also allow for the construction of a small dog park on site, will additionally see a building with expanded kennel space for dogs and room for cats, as well as a modern treatment area for all of the animals.
As currently configured, adds Thacker, the new structure will be built on the west side of the site, facing Rinconada Boulevard.
By Garry Boulard
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