Fireworks sparks record number of strays at shelter


Isabella was happy to reconnect with Missy on Tuesday after she ran away from home because of neighborhood fireworks.

Missy is a lucky dog. She’s one of just a handful of dogs who bolted from her house after loud fireworks spooked her on Independence Day and she was picked up by city Animal Services.

More than 20 dogs came into the Santa Fe Animal Shelter on Monday and early Tuesday – a huge increase from previous years — but more than half remain waiting for their owners. Some, like Missy, were microchipped or had tags, and their owners were contacted.

Others might have to wait much longer to be reunited with their owners.

Isabella Keim and Tara Jemenez were relieved to get a call from the shelter, saying their dog was waiting for them.

“We’re so glad they found her,” Isabella, 12, said. “When she [Missy] was younger, she was shot by a gun, so whenever she hears fireworks or a loud noise like a bang, she gets really freaked out. I think she thought she was under attack again.”

Isabella adopted Missy, now 8, when she 4 – she remembers coming to the shelter to get her. Monday, the family had just come back from a walk in their central Santa Fe neighborhood when fireworks went off and Missy ran. “She’s really fast,” Isabella said.

One reason for the uptick in stray dogs may have been because this is the first year that the city hasn’t banned fireworks. For the past few years, the city hasn’t allowed fireworks because of drought conditions. The shelter’s averaged just a few stray dogs on July 5, typically thought of at most shelters as the busiest day of the year.

“It’s never been so bad,” said Monica Gonzalez, the shelter’s director of admissions. “The animal-control officers were lined up at the sally port, waiting for us to intake the animals.”

There were more than 100 calls Tuesday morning for lost pets, and more than 30 lost reports filed, Gonzalez said, which means there are a lot of lost dogs in Santa Fe right now. The shelter also took in one stray cat, but Gonzalez said it’s unlucky the cat was spooked by the fireworks.

Some Good Samaritans also brought in strays they found running loose in town, Gonzalez said. One dog unfortunately snapped at the person rescuing him when fireworks exploded and is now in quarantine. The stray dogs are all ages and breeds – one elderly dog is particularly unsettled about not being at home, Gonzalez said.

The shelter also happens to be packed with a lot of dogs right now waiting for homes, she said. So animal care workers had to quickly find space, pairing animals and opening up other kennels. The shelter has 163 dogs, both in admissions – those lost or stray dogs – and in adoptions.

Gonzalez said only four of the dogs who came in on Monday had microchips or tags. And two of those microchips had outdated information.

The shelter uses a variety of ways to find owners – it immediately posts photos of lost animals on its website, and admissions counselors do what they can to find the owners, including posting on Facebook, looking in publications for lost animals and connecting lost reports with found dogs.

“They really do detective work,” Gonzalez said. “We work hard to find owners.”

City and county regulations vary on the length of time an animal is at the shelter before he or she becomes available for adoption – generally three days if the pet has no tags or microchip or five days if the animal has identification but the owner cannot be contacted for whatever reason.

Gonzalez urged people to license their pets or have them microchipped, both inexpensive ways to help make sure an animal is returned home safely. For more information on licensing or to ask about a lost pet, call the Admissions Department at 505-983-4309, ext. 606. The shelter’s website is