April 13, 2020
Almost every part of our lives has been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Like many of you, Animal Protection Voters staff all continue to physically distance and work from home for the sake of our fellow New Mexicans, and we send our heartfelt thoughts to all those who have personally been affected by the ongoing pandemic.
Dogs and cats, for so many of us, are family and are part of the fabric of our communities, and the pandemic impacts them, too. Some families have lost jobs and face hardships in caring for their animals. Others have found the #StayAtHome order the perfect opportunity to add a new furry family member, and many animal shelters across the state have reported a surge in adoptions and foster homes. In both cases, many New Mexicans want to know how they can access or afford spay/neuter surgeries.
We want to answer your commonly asked questions about what comes next for Senate Bill 57, the affordable spay/neuter bill.
What does Senate Bill 57 do, and what does it not do?
Senate Bill 57, known as the affordable spay/neuter bill, was legislation passed by the New Mexico State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on March 6, 2020 (you can thank the Governor here). This new law establishes a statewide spay/neuter funding mechanism—modest fees paid by large pet food manufacturers—identified as the best option in a State Senate-requested study that is proven to reduce shelter animal euthanasia in other states.
Once fully implemented, the law is projected to generate over $1.3 million every year for low-cost spay/neuter services in communities across the state, something especially needed in rural and low-income areas.
Every year, pet food manufacturers already pay fees to the state in order to register and sell their dog and cat food and treat products in New Mexico. Senate Bill 57 added a spay/neuter fee on each product, or SKU, of $100 per year (phased in over three years: $50 the first year, $75 the second year, $100 the third year). This fee will be charged to pet food manufacturers—not to wholesalers, retailers, or consumers. This is not a new sales tax that consumers pay at the check-out counter. It’s a manufacturer-level fee (in addition to existing fees) assessed by the NM Department of Agriculture when companies annually register dog/cat food products to sell.
When will Senate Bill 57 take effect and start benefitting New Mexico?
The law goes into effect on July 1, 2020. However, according to the law’s text, fees won’t begin to be collected until product registrations begin anew in January 2021. It is only after that, once some fees have accumulated, that the funds will be granted to spay/neuter providers. So actual dollars generated from this new funding mechanism won’t be applied “on the ground” for spay/neuter surgeries until about a year from now or possibly a little longer.
However, in the meantime, there are other state funds available for spay/neuter services that were generated from NM’s spay/neuter license plate and tax check-off systems that have been in place for years. So, low-cost spay/neuter funding will still be available while the state waits for Senate Bill 57 to kick into gear.
Who collects and administers the spay/neuter funds?
Beginning in January 2021, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) will begin collecting the additional $100 spay/neuter fee from pet food manufacturers that register to sell to customers in our state. NMDA is the agency that already registers and regulates pet food sold in New Mexico, including collecting fees. According to the law, NMDA will keep 4% of the fees collected for registration enforcement and monitoring.
The rest of the fees will be transferred to the New Mexico Board of Veterinary Medicine (NMBVM) to use for the statewide spay/neuter program. Since the NMBVM serves as the state entity tasked with enforcing the state Animal Sheltering Act and administering the spay/neuter program, including distributing the spay/neuter funds, the NMBVM will utilize 5% of the fees received to carry out its duties under the law.
The remaining 91% of the collected fees will then be distributed to spay/neuter service providers based on recommendations from the Animal Sheltering Committee, which operates under and advises the NMBVM.
How will the Animal Sheltering Committee decide which communities and spay/neuter providers receive funds?
Prior to Senate Bill 57’s passage, the statewide spay/neuter fund collected beneficial but relatively meager funding from specialty license plate sales and voluntary tax return donations. Over the past several years, the Animal Sheltering Committee has distributed these dollars to areas with high shelter intake numbers and those most in need of resources. The Committee has demonstrated a smart focus on serving rural areas of the state where more people find it harder to access and afford spay/neuter services.
However, with the passage of Senate Bill 57, significantly more funds will be generated, and with increased funding comes an increased responsibility to ensure the funds are applied where they will have the biggest impact across the state over time. The legislation calls for detailed annual reporting of the program’s outcomes, which Animal Protection Voters fully supports. We are optimistic that these funds will be strategically applied and will dramatically reduce New Mexico’s need for euthanasia. We—arm in arm with our 501(c)(3) organization, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM)—will continue to work with the NMBVM on Senate Bill 57’s implementation, and we plan to recommend a fair, comprehensive, vigorous application process that will ensure communities most in need of resources will receive funds, and that service providers are using those funds judiciously and effectively.
Which communities are most in need?
A great way to answer this question is to refer to APNM’s 2018 New Mexico Animal Shelter Survey, which rigorously compiled and analyzed data from 44 facilities across the state, to paint a picture of New Mexico’s current dog and cat overpopulation problem. We will be recommending that the Animal Sheltering Committee consider an area’s intake per capita as a strong marker of the need for more funding for spay/neuter. Additionally, euthanasia rates in a particular municipality or county demonstrate the gap between the number of homeless animals and the pool of adoptive homes. Some of New Mexico’s counties most in need of resources for spay/neuter are Cibola County, Eddy County, Rio Arriba County, Valencia County, Lea County, McKinley County, San Juan County, and Doña Ana County.
What happens next?
There are countless amazing people who are involved in spay/neuter, rescue, sheltering, and advocacy to help New Mexico’s animals. Animal Protection Voters is proud to support and honor their work by pushing for systemic change and stronger government programs, as well as shaping policy implementation. We have been working for years to create the infrastructure needed for a successful state spay/neuter program, starting in 2007 with the creation of the state Animal Sheltering Board (which now operates as the Animal Sheltering Committee within the Board of Veterinary Medicine). And we have been the daily presence in the State Legislature lobbying for Senate Bill 57 over four years—driven by the spirit, heart, organizing prowess, and knowledge that other grassroots activists have brought to the table.
Now that a mechanism for sustainable and significant funding has been secured for spay/neuter services, we intend to continue being proactive to make sure the spay/neuter funding is successful at driving down euthanasia rates. Animal Protection of New Mexico will monitor the program’s outcomes through future animal shelter surveys, and we will stay engaged with the state agencies tasked with carrying out the duties associate with this vital program.
We plan to talk more about the outlook for this new affordable spay/neuter law in a live webinar to be hosted later this summer. Please stay tuned—keep an eye on your email inbox and social media—to learn when that webinar is scheduled, so you can join us online, ask us questions, and celebrate the monumental success and potential that lies ahead!