Animal Welfare Department Announces New Director, Updated Operations During COVID-19 and Completed Renovations on Shelters’ Play Yards

Continuing efforts to reform the department, enhance homeless pets’ lives during their stay at the shelter and find forever homes

May 12, 2020 – Today, Mayor Tim Keller announced a new director at the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department (AWD), updated operations during COVID-19 and celebrated the newly renovated Happy Tails Play Yards at the Eastside and Westside Shelters.

Mayor Tim Keller stated, “As the City deals with COVID-19, some important projects are still moving forward. We were able bring on a new director to steer the Animal Welfare Department through its continuing reforms and to keep critical operations like emergency in-take and foster and adoptions up and running. Today, we opened a new play yard that will be impactful for the shelter and the community, helping more pets find forever homes.”

New Director at Animal Welfare Department

Carolyn Ortega was appointed to serve as Director of the Animal Welfare Department. Carolyn comes to the City of Albuquerque with a strong administrative background. While not directly animal welfare related, she has deep knowledge of operations and fiscal management, as well as program development and planning.  Carolyn has overseen the operations and development of the Atrisco Companies for the last 13 years as the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operations Director and the Executive Director. Carolyn's strong management experience will be instrumental in moving AWD forward.

New Play Yards for Animal Well-Being

The Eastside and Westside shelters’ new play yards will allow dogs to socialize with each other and run free in an open space. This stimulating environment will allow them to burn off energy and reduce stress thereby helping them to become more relaxed when meeting families hoping to adopt. The yards also offer a place for meet and greets, allowing potential adoptive families to spend time with dogs in a shaded spacious environment.

The Eastside Shelter play yard is complete and the Westside Shelter play yard will be completed in four to six weeks.

The upgrades include new giant shade structures and industrial grade agility equipment. Covering the outdoor play yards with sun shades allows AWD the opportunity to provide much needed exercise and training for dogs almost year round. The yards include A-frame, elevated walk way, a teeter board, a plastic tunnel, an elevated pause board and standard jumps. 

“These beautiful play yards are just one of the tools to help enhance the lives of sheltered pets,” said Carolyn Ortega, Animal Welfare Director. “AWD also utilizes a variety of enrichment programs that are incorporated into animal care staff and volunteer duties to make a better living environment for the animals.”

Updated Operations During COVID-19

AWD has revised its non-emergency pet intake policies as allowed under the updated public health order. The department is expanding the hours for appointments for non-emergency stray or owner surrender of animals to the following:

  • Eastside Shelter: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Westside Shelter: Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

AWD will still accept emergency intake of stray animals, meaning animals in need of medical treatment because they are sick or injured and animals that may pose a risk to public safety, between 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day of the week. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 311.

AWD is continuing appointment-only adoptions in an effort to continue with its mission to save animal lives and also comply with social distancing recommendations. Lucky Paws and the Everyday Adoption Center satellite locations will remain closed during this time. All adoptions will take place at AWD’s Eastside and Westside facilities.

Please visit to see available pets and then call 311 to schedule an adoption. To sign up as foster home please email [email protected].


Albuquerque Animal Welfare reminds you to always spay or neuter your pets. The City of Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department mission is to encourage responsible ownership of domestic animals; manage care for missing, abused and homeless animals; encourage and celebrate the Human-Animal bond through quality adoption and education; and to help assure public health and safety for the community.