New Mexico State Senator Jacob Candelaria picked up where former state representative Carl Trujillo left his animal food fee for spay and neuter bill.

    Candelaria’s Senate Bill 367 imposes a fee on pet food manufacturers that would be directly earmarked for spay and neuter programs in animal shelters and euthanasia agencies. Trujillo successfully guided a similar bill through both houses last year, but then-governor Susana Martinez vetoed it, leaning on her no tax increase stance.

    This is desperately needed and the management of the fee would put up to 96 percent of the fees directly into a state account that would be disbursed to small animal shelters that are providing this valuable service. The bill also allows up to 5 percent goes to the Bureau of Veterinary Medicine, which would be accounting for spays and neuters and statewide cost reports.

    Currently small shelters are highly dependent on donations from foundations and individuals, fundraisers and some government funding, which is wobbly, at best.

    The fund established by the bill would in its first year (2020) charge a $50 fee to pet food companies for each label they sell in New Mexico. In 2021 the fee would rise to $75 and in 2022 the fee would go to $100.

    The Fiscal Impact Report shows the fee would provide $630,000 in its first year and $1.4 million in its third year, when the full $100 fee would be implemented.  

    Jennifer Rabinowitz is a volunteer with a loosely organized group that supports the bill. She summed up our problem of loose and uncared for animals well.

    “As long as we have a defacto policy of euthanasia, we’ll have dogs and cats euthanized,” she said. “What choice do we have, and it’s an awful choice.”

    Rabinowitz said looking at the issue financially, that as long as there are more dogs (and cats) outside of shelters that are reproductively intact, populations will continue to grow.

    “We can’t euthanize our way out of this problem,” she said.

    Pet food companies have an endless growth trajectory because of our inaction when it comes to handling our pet population problem. They collectively gross $190 million in New Mexico annually so the fee would be less than 1 percent of their income.

    Proponents of the bill have heard anecdotally that pet food companies aren’t anti-spay and neuter, they just don’t want the idea to spread to other states. Maine adopted it in 2009, Maryland in 2013 and West Virginia in 2015. It seems the cat is already out of the bag.

    Karen Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association did not respond to a call and email regarding the Association’s stand on the bill.

    Looking locally, the Española Animal Shelter’s Fiscal 2018 Annual Report states $1.5 million of its $1.9 million budget comes from fundraising. The remaining $400,000 comes from programs and community services (mostly government funds). In short, 75 percent of the shelter’s revenue comes from donors, grants and fundraising projects, which also cost money.

    The Shelter spayed and neutered 5,328 dogs and cats during 2018 and served 4,443 pet owners. They adopted out 2,555 animals and fostered 741 through 58 volunteers.

    There are many more astounding statistics regarding the great work our shelter does, but the bottom line is our animal shelter takes on a Sisyphean task every day with little help from the Valley. Most of our volunteers and almost all of the shelter’s donations come from Santa Fe and Los Alamos. Shelter folks will be upset at that statement because they don’t want to upset the little local support they receive, but it’s true and until the Valley owns it, we won’t see a change.

    A fee on pet food would be passed on to pet food purchasers. Many of these folks are the same people who allow their animals to run loose, fail to provide proper shelter, allow them to reproduce without consequence and don’t provide proper veterinarian care.

    Enacting this fee would be a good way to get into the pockets of the people causing the overpopulation issue. This bill harms no one and the small increase in pet food would pay off in fewer unwanted animals and myriad problems they cause.

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