Santa Fe Scoop

Animal sense: Tips to coexist with pets, wildlife

By Sara Palmer/Animal Protection New Mexico

New Mexico has some of the most diverse communities in the nation. You can find a modern, urban high-rise just a few miles away from a traditional, spacious adobe, nestled next to foothills or an open space. This kind of diversity brings color and culture into our lives, but it can also bring a clash of opinions and values, especially when it comes to animals.

“It’s important if you think a neighbor is neglecting or abusing an animal to check out your local ordinance,” said Alan Edmonds, program manager for Animal Protection New Mexico’s cruelty hotline. “For example, in the city of Santa Fe, it’s illegal to carry an animal in the bed of a truck without a crate or a non-metal mat so he or she cannot fall or jump from the truck or be strangled. If your neighbor is repeatedly putting his or dog in the back of his Chevy without any protection, he’s likely in violation of the ordinance. However, that same ordinance might not apply in other cities and towns.”

So, how do you approach a neighbor who may not be treating his or her animal as humanely as you think they should? Perhaps a wandering cat is an inconvenience to you or causes a stir in your animals.

Most of us can tolerate the occasional barking dog, but what about a dog who barks nonstop? What if you constantly pass a dog down the street who is attached to a fixed-point chain most of the day without any shade?

Edmonds says the best thing to do if you already have a rapport with the neighbors is check your ordinance and then talk with your neighbor in a nonconfrontational manner.

“If you can’t find a compromise or don’t feel comfortable bringing up the subject yourself, then check your local ordinances,” Edmonds advised. “You can bring in animal services or law enforcement to help the neighbor make the right choices for his or her companion animal.”

However, dogs and cats aren’t the only animals we call neighbors, especially here in the Land of Enchantment.

“Wild animals also call our landscapes home,” said Phil Carter, program manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico’s wildlife initiatives.

“Living near the mountains or open spaces, people may have encounters with wild animals such as raccoons, bobcats, skunks, coyotes and bears. Fortunately, there are many simple ways to peacefully coexist with wildlife while also protecting property.”

Most people in New Mexico enjoy seeing wildlife in their backyards. From bird watching to nature photography, our lands are filled with opportunities to coexist with wildlife. However, not everyone is accustomed to dealing with wildlife on their property, so what do you do if your neighbor is reacting negatively to these animals?

• Have an informed discussion: Let your neighbor know it’s not normal for foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bears and bobcats to be predatory toward humans.

Outdoor domestic animals, particularly chickens or other farmed animals, should always have shelter available, especially at night.

• Be responsible and remove attractants: Wild animals are sometimes attracted to food smells coming from sources such as unsecured trash cans, food left outside, fruit trees and barbecue grills. There is a temptation among property owners to provide food, like bird seed, and water for wild animals. However, attracting wildlife to residential areas increases the risk of the animals being considered a nuisance and being moved or euthanized.

• Understand animal behavior: Understanding the usual characteristics and behavior of animals helps people to discern typical, harmless activity. For example, familiarize yourself with the difference between venomous and nonvenomous snakes.

Know which species are active during the day and which are nocturnal, meaning active at night, and encourage your neighbors to do the same.

Sometimes people don’t always know the best approach to dealing with animals, and other times misinformation is to blame. When trying to coach your neighbors on how to humanely treat pets and wildlife, be sure to approach the conversation without blame. Taking a diplomatic, friendly approach to educating your neighbors will make them more receptive to changing their behavior.

“When you are frustrated by a barking dog or a neighbor’s treatment of wildlife, it’s easy to let the emotion drive your conversation,” Edmonds said.

“But helping your neighbors make better choices for animals comes from a place of understanding, compromise and coexistence. However, if you see something disturbing, be sure to say something. You can call [Animal Protection New Mexico]’s anonymous cruelty hotline at 1-877-548-6263.”

Contact Sara Palmer, communications director of Animal Protection New Mexico, at sara@apnm.org.

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