As part of our due diligence on the local animal welfare landscape, we have been on a mission to learn about the efforts of some of the less-recognized, small-but-mighty organizations doing big work for animals in the Albuquerque area.
Today, we’d like to shine a light on one of those organizations -- Friends of Estancia Valley Animals (FEVA), a low-cost spay and neuter non-profit based in the East Mountains of Albuquerque -- in the first of what we hope to be many “Superhero Spotlight” posts.
This week, we caught up with Susan Simons, who has been with FEVA since its inception in 2004, to talk about what the group does, how they operate, and what kind of support would be helpful to continue their nearly 18-year run of success.
Here’s what we learned on our call.
Providing Access To Spay/Neuter Services For All
FEVA’s main mission is to provide financial support by means of vouchers to pet owners in order to spay and neuter their pets. Susan wasn’t sure of the total number of pets and families they’ve served since 2004, but she hopes to look back at their records to count.
“All the animals and families over the years we have helped, that’s our greatest success. That’s why we’re here. Especially in the rural areas where there are a lot of lower income families who have to choose between taking care of the kids or having the dog spayed.”
She adds that the ripple effects of spaying and neutering pets extends beyond the health of the animal and the family.
“It’s not just less puppies or roaming animals. Livestock is safer. There’s less cost to round them up and shelter them. Less coyotes coming around eating your cat,” she says.
In September of this year, FEVA provided 100 vouchers to low-income households in the Tri-County area, which includes Torrance County, Bernalillo County, and parts of Santa Fe County.
They recently received some money from the Spay and Neuter License Plate Program that they hope to use to make a push in the coming months.
“So we will probably be doing 30 a weekend, and it will be free to folks under the poverty line. Otherwise there will be only a minimal cost,” she says, adding that they are currently offering services for cats at half price.
Who Are The Friends of Estancia Valley?
It was immediately clear that Susan is a bright and lovely woman, imbued with kindness and a passion for serving animals of all kinds. While we haven’t yet met the eight other volunteers that comprise the FEVA team, we are certain the same rings true for all of them.
Susan says the group meets quarterly over dinner to discuss business and to chat as friends, some of whom have been working together as FEVA since it launched after plans for a regional animal shelter in the area fell through.
At the time, Susan says, there weren’t any animal shelters or spay/neuter services available in the area.
“Even in Moriarty, the shelter was just a couple of cages in the back of the police station.”
Recognizing a great need for services and support, Susan and her volunteers started FEVA, working mainly in and around Edgewood, where all of the volunteers are based. Thanks to a number of grants, which they receive yearly, and the monthly donations of one generous supporter, they have been able to expand.
Speaking of the team, Susan says they are a group of people who are dedicated to helping animals however they can. Most still have day jobs and offer their support in their spare time, with each volunteer picking up a role that they feel comfortable in.
Susan, now retired, writes grant proposals, a skill she learned in her former work. Another volunteer fields phone calls, organizing the vouchers and working with participating veterinary clinics. Another balances the books. Yet another runs their social media.
Prior to the pandemic, one volunteer was in charge of collecting pet food donations and storing them in her home until it was time to deliver them to local food banks.
It’s a team effort, and according to Susan, they don’t ask a lot of volunteers. Simply to contribute in whatever way they are able.
And for most of the team, this is not their only gig. They sit on the boards of other animal welfare organizations, volunteer with shelters and rescue centers. They simply have a passion for animals.
Looking For Fresh Faces
Grants and fee-for-services are the main source of income for FEVA, with a sprinkling of donations here and there. But what they are really looking for in terms of support are new volunteers, or “fresh faces,” as Susan put it.
Who and what are they looking for in a volunteer?
“Someone who cares about animals and wants to help,” she answers, adding that they only meet quarterly, they don’t do fundraisers, and all they ask is for people to contribute in a way that suits them.
One specific area they are looking to expand in is education. They have long wanted to get into the school system and teach children about the importance of being kind to animals and how to take care of them.
The local school systems are willing to have them, but with the majority of volunteers working daytime jobs, they don’t have the manpower to make it happen at this time. They have some materials and contacts in the schools but would greatly benefit from a team member with the time and an interest in working with kids.
Education is one of the biggest challenges their organization faces, according to Susan. Some people just don’t see the benefit in spaying and neutering their pets, some think an animal is healthier without it (which is not the case), while others want to sell the puppies and kittens.
“But a female dog could have 14 puppies in a year. And cats go into heat four-six times a year, with three to five kittens every time. You can do the math. It’s a lot. And there are so many dogs and cats out there that need homes already.”
And that’s the message Susan hopes to get out there: No matter where you are, get your animals spayed or neutered.
Resources For Low-Cost Spay and Neuter
If you’re living in the Tri-Country area and are in need of services, you can visit the FEVA website or Facebook page, linked at the end of this post.
“No matter where you are, there are organizations out there who want to help,” Susan says.
If you’re in New Mexico, Animal Protection of New Mexico has a list of all the no or low-cost spay and neuter groups in the state, broken down by county. And a similar list exists in every state.
The DePonte Family Foundation would like to extend our sincere admiration and gratitude for the work this team has been doing in their community. They are an inspiration and a reminder that individuals working together can make a huge impact on the lives of others.
Contacting or Volunteering With FEVA
Are you in need of assistance to get your animal spayed or neutered? Do you have time and interest in volunteering with this group of inspiring individuals working for the wellbeing of cats and dogs? Would you like to say hello and thank them for their efforts?
Visit their website: https://www.fevanimals1.org/
Visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/helpingpetsintheEstanciaValley/
They’d love to hear from you!