Even during uncertain times, as the pandemic made another turn this summer, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society continued to put together its annual fundraising gala, Barkin’ Ball.

This year marked the 25th anniversary of Santa Fe’s most beloved animal event, which is crucial to raise the necessary funds to remain Santa Fe’s open-admission, no-kill animal shelter. Weekly meetings turned to daily conversations as the event committee listened and assessed the updates from city, state and national officials. However, it wasn’t until days before the event started that an official green light was given.

Barkin’ Ball, which annually draws over 400 supporters for our hometown shelter, only allowed 150 donors this year to ensure everyone’s safety. However, the pandemic did allow us to think outside of the box, and for the first time in over a decade, we brought Barkin’ Ball home to the shelter’s main campus to hold the benefit.

We constructed a 100-foot-long tent in front of the shelter and kept two sides wide open for airflow. Of course, there was a quick sprinkle of rain, but that allowed temperatures to drop to make the summer evening cool and provided us with an amazing sunset as a backdrop.

Roddey Burdine was the recipient of this year’s Raphael Award. As a longtime devoted supporter of the Santa Fe animal shelter, Burdine was one of the original visionaries who saw a need for a world-class animal shelter in Santa Fe, and he was instrumental in seeing it to fruition. He truly embodies our mission to support animals, save lives and spread compassion.

With the help of Mayor Alan Webber and Councilor Signe Lindell, both true animal advocates, Barkin’ Ball met and exceeded our goal, making the 25th anniversary a huge success.

As Santa Fe’s hometown shelter for over 80 years, the Santa Fe animal shelter will usher in a new CEO in the next few months. But before we do, we must give thanks to the current executive director, Dr. Jennifer Steketee, who will officially retire this fall. Steketee started at the shelter almost nine years ago as a veterinarian and then became the medical director before taking over as executive director in 2015.

Along with the board, she led and successfully took the nonprofit out of debt, making the no-kill shelter sustainable again. Steketee’s strong leadership and knowledge guided staff and volunteers during unprecedented times. We are happy to say the shelter never closed once for the animals in need over the past 18 months, and we all thank her for her leadership.

We should all be proud of what our community has built for Santa Fe County’s injured, neglected and homeless animals. But our work doesn’t end. As you may have seen on the news, our shelter has hit the critical capacity level more than four times this summer. Animals are still roaming the streets, and unfortunately, many arrive at the shelter injured and sick.

With the help of our community, we will continue to be here for all the unwanted puppies, injured doggies, neglected kitties and neonatal kittens that need around-the-clock care here in Santa Fe and around New Mexico. Today, tomorrow, always! We thank you, Santa Fe, for your support.

Caren Shiozaki is the chairwoman of the Santa Fe animal shelter’s board of directors. In her day job, she’s a chief information officer and e-discovery specialist. She is an ardent advocate for animal welfare; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and girls’ and women’s issues.

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