All the Wild Horses

The preservation of Spanish mustangs in New Mexico

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, January 14, 2010

Carlos LoPopolo is large in stature—and in ambition. His frame seems to dwarf the wooden bench he’s perched on at the Satellite Coffee on University. His height is hard to gauge from a sitting position, but he looms over the table, a studded black cowboy hat bobbing as he talks, which is most of the time. To his right, Paul Polechla serves as his counterpart—a man of average size and quiet disposition, wearing a white cowboy hat and yellow-and-blue checkered shirt, topped with a matching silk bandana tied around his neck. LoPopolo is a Southwest historian and the founder of the New Mexican Horse Project, an organization many New Mexicans know nothing about. Polechla is the group’s biologist as well as a biology professor at UNM.

Though the Horse Project’s mission to preserve a certain kind of horse is simple, LoPopolo and Polechla will tell you the road they’ve been down has been anything but. In the 10 years the organization has existed, LoPopolo has met criticism and fury from horse breeders and cattle ranchers, spent nearly $1 million out of his own pocket, and has even been graced with the occasional death threat. The reason he puts up with it? It’s all to protect a horse most people thought no longer existed.

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Leader of the Pack

A new director helms Albuquerque's animal shelters

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, December 24, 2009

Albuquerque’s new mayor, Richard Berry, walked into his 11th-floor office for the first time on Dec. 1. But that Tuesday wasn’t just Berry’s first day on the job. It was also Day 1 for all of his city appointments, including Barbara Bruin, the head of the city’s two animal shelters.

The shelters, which take in more than 27,000 dogs and cats a year, have an unfortunate history. Although they’ve come a long way since 2000 when the Humane Society of the United States declared them inhumane and abusive, they’re still far from their goals. From July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, about 42 percent of the animals that came through the shelters’ doors weren’t adopted and were therefore euthanized, according to Jeanine Patterson, Bruin’s predecessor [“Living Like Animals,” Aug. 20-26, 2009].

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Living Like Animals

A walk through the city's shelters

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, August 20, 2009

More than 10 years ago the city's animal shelters were declared inhumane and abusive. It started in 1998, when a woman named Marcy Britton discovered practices that led her to file a lawsuit against the city (using her entire life savings in the process—a sum totaling more than $95,000). The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was called in, and the organization released a report in 2000.

The loudest alarm was sounded for the shelters' euthanasia procedures. HSUS reported the shelters’ use of intracardiac euthanasia (poison injected directly into the heart) when animals were still conscious, a practice that has since become illegal in the state. Some animals were found to still have heartbeats after being placed in the freezer.

In 2006, HSUS returned for a follow-up evaluation. In its findings, it stated that much had changed at the shelters, but there was still a lot of work to be done. The report cited “many grave concerns about the quality of animal care with regard to proper cleaning, feeding, disease control and housing.”

The shelters’ director, Denise Wilcox, was fired and replaced within months of the report’s release. After more than a decade since problems were brought to light and nearly three years since the Humane Society’s last visit, after more lawsuits, new leadership, and a myriad of new laws and policies—what’s actually changed at the shelters?

For one thing, money.

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What is “Grass Farming”?

An interview with one of the nation’s pre-eminent experts on the subject

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, March 6, 2008

Joel Salatin loves his work. He loves getting up at the crack of dawn and taking his chickens for a walk. He loves the succulence of tender, grass-raised beef. He loves observing his pigs, which snort with glee while sifting through piles of manure. And he loves the philosophy of his business, which is that a truly sustainable farm should also support a local food system. He loves it so much, in fact, that he refuses to ship any of his products. Aside from a few deliveries made to local restaurants, if people want ’em, they can come get ’em. And that’s basically how Joel Salatin became famous.

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Still in the Pound

City misrepresents the number of animal adoptions over the holidays

by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, February 14, 2008

Albuquerque Journal subscribers woke up Christmas Eve morning, stepped outside and scooped up their daily papers. The headline on the bottom left-hand corner of the front page stated, simply, “Animal Shelters Are Empty.” That title was, at best, misleading.

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