Monthly Archives: February 2015

What we talk about when we talk about animals


Animal Matters Bill Hutchison

This column is the first of a series we’re launching to talk about the issues that animals – with humans alongside them – are facing today. One of the central ideas that will guide these columns comes from the French philosopher, Jacques Derrida. Long an advocate for animals, Derrida describes the issues of animal welfare as a war. But it’s not a war that is fought – it’s a war that is thought. “To think the war we find ourselves waging,” he writes, “is not only a duty, a responsibility, an obligation, it is also a necessity that no one can escape.” The analogy to war is a complicated one, but the main thrust seems right given the intensity of our feeling for them. Animals produce in us so much emotion; an absolute overflow at times. It’s almost impossible to bear the squirming glee of an adorable puppy or the clumsy stumbles of a young kitten. When we lose them to age or illness, the grief is comparable to losing a dear human in our lives. And when we bear witness to the unkindness and cruelty to which our philosopher refers, who can deny the anger and frustration we feel at the human perpetrator of the violence?

But each one of us who has felt so deeply for animals also knows how difficult it can be to work effectively for them when we are blinded by those intense rays of feeling. And yet those feelings are our fuel, they keep us moving forward. Precisely because we love our animals, because we don’t want living things to suffer, our emotions about them are our most powerful tool. One of the most important traits we share with animals is feeling. Increasingly, scientists who study animal behavior tell us that animal emotion is quite real, and while it may differ from human emotion, it’s part of our obligation to animals that we recognize it. That shared capacity is one of many links of kinship we have with animals. But used alone on behalf of animals, emotion is a blunt instrument. To sharpen that instrument, to make it precise and effective in our efforts to help animals, we must hone its edge against our ability to think in our uniquely human way.

That’s what we hope to do here, with you – to talk about the issues facing animals, to think through them together, and to be aware of how driven we are by our feelings toward animals. We want those feelings to be our strength, not our weakness, and to do that we have to constantly challenge our own ideas and beliefs. It is as important for us to know why we think and feel the way we do about animals as it is to know what we think and feel for them. So with these articles, we want to challenge you. We want you to challenge us. When we look into their eyes and see them seeing us, it serves as a constant reminder. We want to think together for them because they need us to, and because we should never stop feeling like they are worth thinking about.

Bill Hutchison, the shelter's former communications director, is currently working on a doctorate in English at the University of Chicago, specializing in animal studies. His column appears twice monthly. Contact him at

Animals deserve a healthy start

It seems like winter has missed Santa Fe this year, and although cold and wet weather may decide to show up before April, I can’t help but think about spring and what the change in season means at an animal shelter.

To many people, spring in Santa Fe means wind and the spread of all sorts of things, including germs, which gets

Mary Martin AnimalMD

Mary Martin

me to thinking about vaccination and preventing disease. There’s been a lot of talk about vaccination in the news lately and I thought it might be timely to share some thoughts about what vaccination means in the communities I know best, animal shelters.

Having worked or volunteered in shelters for more than 25 years, I’ve watched the devastating effects of infectious disease in the most vulnerable populations — the young and the old — particularly before shelters automatically vaccinated animals the moment they arrived. I remember the days when a puppy or kitten would have diarrhea and that would bring a cold chill down the spines of anyone who had worked at the shelter for more than a week or so.

Diarrhea could mean parvovirus (panleukopenia in cats) and parvovirus invariably meant death at that time. Those infected animals could get help that could lead to survival but instead, because it can be difficult to control such an infectious disease, euthanasia was the tool shelters used to try and stop its spread. It rarely worked. One case would lead to another and to another and an outbreak like that could be devastating to the shelter population.

Parvo and panleukopenia used to be common in shelters and worse yet, outbreaks of these diseases were just as common and resulted in the deaths of thousands of young animals. Eventually, shelters began to spend the money to vaccinate animals the minute they arrived and veterinarians urged their clients to vaccinate their pets, so the number of unvaccinated pets in the community was much lower than in decades past.

It wasn’t then and it isn’t now cheap for shelters to vaccinate. The shelters had to buy the vaccine, along with the syringes, and have enough staff to vaccinate all the animals. But it was a helluva lot cheaper than dealing with the outbreaks. In addition, shelters began to be very cautious of how young vulnerable animals were housed; isolating the animals as much as possible to give the vaccine time to work before the young animal was potentially exposed to the disease. The isolation had its own set of problems, forcing the animals to forgo socialization at the most important time of a puppy or kitten’s life. No decision is without some consequence and this lack of socialization could result in death, too.

Now we can walk and chew gum at the same time. We know better how to protect young animals from disease without missing the opportunities for human contact. We know the importance of excellent air-handling systems, the value of hand-washing early and often. We know better in general how disease is spread and how it can be controlled.

We see few cases of parvo in our shelter (knock very hard on wood) but under no circumstance do we want to let our guard down. I’ve seen what can happen without vaccine; I’ve seen the devastated owner who cannot afford treatment and opts for financial euthanasia. I’ve seen the beleaguered shelter staff who, in years past, might consider hiding any sign of disease knowing what would happen to that animal or animals.

Proper vaccination under a veterinarian’s supervision is not just a good idea, it will save your pet’s life. Now is the time to make sure your pet is protected. PLEASE see your vet this week. Talk to him or her about the risks and the benefits and protect your pets and the other pets in your community.

Mary Martin is executive director of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter and a licensed veterinary technician. Her column appears monthly.

Puppy class changes dates

The Santa Fe Animal Shelter’s free puppy class for shelter-adopted young dogs has changed its weekly drop-in day.

The free STAR classes, which are open to adopters of puppies ages 8 weeks to 5 months, will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. every Tuesday at the shelter, 100 Caja del Rio Road. Puppies must have had at least two of their regular vaccinations before attending classes.

The classes are open to the general public, but classes are $15 for those attending with puppies not adopted from the shelter. Those individuals must also contact the class leader, Emily Burlingame, before attending at 983-4309 ext. 251 or email

This is a drop-in class and adopters do not need to sign up ahead of time; adopters may register at the time of class. Vaccination records are required for those puppies not adopted from the shelter.

Attendees should bring: a 4 to 6-foot leash, a collar, dog treats and their puppy.

The puppy class is six week longs and the curriculum meets the standards for the AKC STAR Puppy Program.

Folk art supports shelter

Raffle tickets remain available for a folk art sculpture created in support of the Santa Fe animal shelter.angel1

The piece, “Angel Cat,” made by Santa Fe artist Ron Archuleta Rodriguez, will be raffled at the Feb. 15 close of the folk art exhibit, “Wooden Menagerie: Made in New Mexico,” at the International Folk Art Museum.

The artwork is about 17 inches tall and 11 inches wide, with detachable wings. Tickets are available at the shelter, 100 Caja del Rio Road, at the shelter’s two resale stores, Look What the Cat Dragged In, 2570 Camino Entrada and 541 W. Cordova Road.

Tickets are $10.

The piece will be on display at the shelter and the shelter’s resale stores during the final two weeks of the raffle and at the exhibit’s final day, Feb. 15. The winning raffle will be drawn at 4 p.m. at the museum.

Feburary’s sponsored animals

All our animals are special, but sometimes we have people who want to help give homeless animals a paw up – so businesses and individuals sponsor the animals through their daily upkeep or their adoption fee. Meet February’s sponsored animals, whose adoption fees are waived through the month:

April, a petite Rottweiler mix, loves affection and has quickly become a staff and volunteer favorite. She will lay or sit by your side and put her head on your lap for affection. Her adoption feeaprilprofile is being sponsored by Back Road Pizza, 1807 Second St., No. 1, 955-9055.

kittyKitty, a lovely, snow-white 9-year-old domestic shorthair, enjoys attention once she gets to know you. She prefers women and enjoys the company of her human friends. Her adoption fee is being sponsored by an anonymous supporter.

If you’re interested in learning about sponsoring an animal, call our Adoption Desk at 983-4309 ext. 610.