Furry Friends: Pet Project

April 2, 2017 raguirre

People Left to Right:
Charissa Paskowski, John Connell, Jen Woods, Andie Fierro, Wayne Sinclair, Phyllis Wright, Michelle Sullivan, Vic Villalobos (Mayor)

Dogs Left to Right:
Nacho, Penny, Summer

Dog’Cruces and Animal Control
have partnered up to ensure more
lost pets get home safely

Written by Cheryl Fallstead | All photos courtesy Dog’Cruces
Social media is helping save pets’ lives, thanks to an idea hatched by Dog‘Cruces managing editor, Vic Villalobos, after riding along with animal control officers, and implemented with the cooperation of city and county Animal Control.

Envision this: someone inadvertently leaves your gate open and your suddenly free dog starts wandering the neighborhood, having the time of his life. Unfortunately, Fido doesn’t find his way home and is reported to Animal Control (which Vic would like to rename Animal Protection). The dedicated officers safely lure Fido to them with treats, but he doesn’t have a tag on his collar or a microchip they can scan in the field. So, once safely in their truck, they take his photo and share it on the Dog‘Cruces Facebook page, complete with a description and where they found him. Thousands share the post, Fido becomes a social media star and makes it home without ever visiting the shelter.

Not only is the beloved pooch safe and sound, he is also less traumatized and did not have to displace another pet at the always-crowded shelter. (When things get tight at the shelter, staff must make tough decisions about space, possibly euthanizing a less healthy or adoptable animal to make room for those that have just come in the door). Vic’s — and Animal Control’s — goal is to help owners reunite with their missing pets before they go to the shelter. Reducing the number of lost pets at the shelter lets staff focus on surrendered animals who don’t have a home to return to.

Being the mayor of “Dog Cruces” is a title Vic has earned through years of involvement with dogs and dog people. Besides managing a quarterly magazine about all things dog in our area, he has taught dog (and owner) training classes, participates in search and rescue, is actively involved with a Golden Retriever rescue group, and he helps dogs that are being transported across the country to new homes.

But he points to his staff at American Classifieds and Dog‘Cruces as the power behind the mayor. “Charissa Paskowski, Jen Woods, and Phyllis Wright make me look like such a great person,” he says. “It’s the people behind the scenes who are truly doing the work.”

After Vic’s ride-along with city Animal Control, Dog‘Cruces contributing editor Phyllis did the same with the county, traveling with officers who cover an area from Hatch to Anthony. Both city and county officers now have access to Dog‘Cruces’ Facebook page as anonymous editors to post photos of pets they pick up that don’t have tags or updated microchips.

City of Las Cruces Animal Control Supervisor, Gino Jimenez, has plenty of experience with this problem. Last year, he and his team dealt with thousands of animals wandering within city limits. They took almost 2,000 dogs to the shelter, 1,300 cats, and 400 “others” (everything from wandering livestock to skunks that needed to be moved elsewhere). Of those, they unsuccessfully attempted to connect with 366 pet owners by phone or knocking on doors. Their return-to-owner (RTO) success rate was 414 pets. Compare that to the 3,300 that went to the shelter because they had no current identification.

So, how do his officers feel about this new opportunity to use Facebook to help connect with owners? “They’re very excited about it and I do mean excited,” Gino says. They had already implemented an RTO program rather than bringing all collected animals to the shelter, but the Facebook page allows them to reach out to pet owners (and their friends and neighbors) in real time. He adds, “When Vic did the ride-along, it really, really brought notice to what we are doing and we appreciate Vic for that because it has helped us tremendously with our field RTO numbers.”

Thanks to social media, Gino says, “They take a photo, post it on Dog‘Cruces and keep the pet with them for an hour or so. If in that time the owner contacts them, they can return the dog to the owner and it saves them the time of taking the dog to the shelter.”

Vic sums it up saying, “We are really pleased with it. We feel we are saving one dog at a time. People get their pet back and we saved one from going to the shelter and saved one from being euthanized.”

Stay in-the-know on all things dog related by visiting dogcruces.com


Gino and Vic offer up their best expert advice for keeping your pets safe.

  • Have identifiers on your pet, including a collar and tag or a collar with your phone number woven into it. The tag should include the pet’s name, your name and phone number, and address.
  • Have your pet microchipped and keep the contact information updated with the chip company. A disconnected phone or old address won’t get your pet returned to you.
  • As required by law, license your pet, which also archives contact information for your animal.
  • Keep your dog leashed any time it is outside a contained property, also required by law. Even walking from your front door to your car can turn into a dangerous situation if your dog spots another animal or a child riding a bike and begins a chase.
  • Ensure your fences will keep your dog inside. Dogs are good at finding ways over, under, and around fences and rock walls are sometimes simply doggie superhighways.
  • In addition to the Dog’Cruces Facebook page, check the Lost and Found Pets Las Cruces Facebook page.
  • Don’t let your dog run loose in city parks or open areas—unless it’s the city dog park. A dog excited by chasing rabbits may transfer that predator-prey instinct to another dog. Of course, your dog could also just keep running and become lost.
  • Take your dog to obedience class so you both master basic commands such as a reliable sit, stay, and come.
  • Spay and neuter your pets. Females in heat send out pheromones that lure intact males to escape to seek them out. Plus, we have plenty of pets needing homes already. More puppies or kittens, we don’t need.
  • If you spot a lost dog, call central dispatch at 575-526-0795 to report it to animal control.
  • If your dog or cat is lost, check the shelter daily. You never know when your pet will be brought to the shelter and found pets are held at the shelter for three days before becoming adoptable.

The post Furry Friends: Pet Project appeared first on Las Cruces Magazine.

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