March 10, 2022
From the start of the 2022 state legislative session, Animal Protection Voters focused on the dire need for increased state support and funding for equine shelters. We were thrilled to be able to work with six compassionate state legislators who championed that cause this year.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers across the State Senate and State House allocated $350,000 in recurring funding for the Horse Shelter Rescue Fund in this year’s special appropriations (“junior budget”) bill, Senate Bill 48. This would have been the first-ever reliable and meaningful source of state funding for New Mexico’s equine shelters who directly serve government agencies and communities by caring for homeless horses, donkeys, and mules.
Unfortunately, yesterday the Governor vetoed Senate Bill 48—and the Horse Shelter Rescue Fund recurring funding died along with it.
We are heartbroken at this news—and our hearts especially go out to the hardworking people on the ground in each community who are desperate for relief as they continue to work miracles with scarce resources, bringing abandoned and abused equines into their safety net. But we won’t give up on our state’s horses and the equine sheltering community. Read on to learn more about why this issue is so important.
The Challenge: Support for NM’s Equine Shelters
When equines are found starving, abused, neglected, or homeless, New Mexico’s equine shelters are their lifeline. Right now, there are hundreds of homeless horses, donkeys, and mules being cared for in nonprofit shelters across the state.
Although equine shelters provide services that benefit the entire state, including government agencies and local communities, these horse shelters operate almost solely on donations and volunteer help. They receive no regular financial support from government sources (in stark contrast to most dog/cat shelters, which provide similar services but whose costs are largely paid for from government budgets).
There are ten state-registered nonprofit shelters for equines (horses, donkeys, and mules). These shelters are responsible for taking in, housing, feeding, providing veterinary care, training, and adopting out homeless equines. Most of these equines are either “estrays” (abandoned or found running at-large) who are captured and transferred from the New Mexico Livestock Board or surrendered by peoople who can no longer provide care. Others are seized as part of animal cruelty and other law enforcement cases.
Usually, when equines find themselves in a shelter, it’s because their human family has fallen on extremely hard times in one way or another.
Some equines remain in shelters for years before finding a new home, and for a few with special needs, lifelong sanctuary is the best option, adding to the cost of humane care. Adding to the challenges, horse shelters also can face unique and significant problems, such as the rising cost of feed due to drought (e.g., the lack of available water decreases crop yields, which creates feed scarcity that drives up prices).
Equine shelter staff and volunteers have been able to power forward despite the hardships, but more help is urgently needed.
The Solution: Funding
2013 – Establishing the Horse Shelter Rescue Fund
Spearheaded by Animal Protection Voters (APV), the Horse Shelter Rescue Fund (HSRF) was created by the State Legislature in 2013 to be administered by the New Mexico Livestock Board with the purpose of helping to defray the shelters’ costs of caring for shelter equines. In the same legislative session, APV also pressed for initial funding for the HSRF through a one-time general fund appropriation of $250,000. This initial funding prompted the NMLB to develop a sound process—incorporating input from equine shelters—for fairly distributing these dollars to help the most equines. But since then, the revenue for this fund has been mostly limited to a small amount of annual state tax refund check-off donations, a system established as a way to generate modest funding for the HSRF when it was first created in 2013. This has not resulted in nearly enough support for our state’s equine shelters.
2021 – Securing One-Time Funding
Last year, considering news that extra one-time funding would be available for individual legislators to allocate in a special appropriations bill (often nicknamed the “junior budget”), Animal Protection Voters reached out to state legislators to ask for an appropriation to the HSRF. Three legislators generously came through, and the 2021 “junior budget” (Senate Bill 377) included $150,000 for the HSRF. Read more about this on Pages 5-6 of our 2021 Scorecard.
2022 – Attempt to Secure Recurring State Funding
For 2022, APV’s staff learned the Legislature would work on a similar special appropriations bill. However, this year, a portion of those appropriations could be recurring—meaning they would be automatically included in future regular general fund appropriations bills. This would provide a unique opportunity for New Mexico’s equine shelters to finally receive meaningful and predictable funding to cover some of their annual operating costs incurred in support of the state’s homeless equines. APV’s staff again conducted outreach to engaged state legislators, asking them to dedicate some funding to the HSRF.
$350,000 in recurring funding was added to Senate Bill 48, thanks to six generous legislators who championed this cause: Senator Roberto “Bobby” J. Gonzales (D-Ranchos De Taos), Senator Carrie Hamblen (D-Las Cruces), Senator Brenda G. McKenna (D-Corrales), Senator Steven P. Neville (R-Aztec), Senator Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics (D-Cerrillos), and Representative Kristina Ortez (D-Taos).
But on March 9, 2022, Governor Lujan Grisham vetoed SB 48. Because of this disappointing veto, those caring for equines in our communities will continue to struggle to ensure their humane care, and fewer horses will be able to receive life-saving help.
Animal Protection Voters will continue to look for any paths forward on this issue. This work—to overhaul and strengthen the systems on which animals rely to be safe and protected in New Mexico—is and always has been hard. But we are able to carry on, no matter the obstacles, because of APV supporters like you.
No matter how many times we get knocked down, we will get back up and gallop forward—just like the resilient equines we fight for every day.