2007 Milagro Award Winners

Governor Richardson Receives Executive Director’s Award

Animal Protection of New Mexico has awarded its prestigious Milagro Awards for 2007 in ten categories. Chosen from among nominees throughout New Mexico, this elite group of animal champions were honored with awards presentations at the Milagro Awards gala event at the Eldorado Hotel in Santa Fe, on October 6, 2007.

APNM’s Milagro Awards recognize individual and collaborative humanitarian acts on behalf of animals. The awards event audience watched video montages that briefly highlighted the winners’ contributions. (Videos available below.) Award winners received a handcrafted sterling silver medallion imprinted with the paw or footprint of an animal appropriate to the winner. Milagro medallions are designed by San Juan Pueblo silversmith Andrew García.

APNM’s 2007 Milagro Award recipients are:

Advocacy Award: Deborah James, Rio Rancho—for promoting the compassionate treatment of animals. Ms. James is involved behind the scenes of Albuquerque city government, employing creative approaches for education and action on behalf of animals. She has directly contributed to making Albuquerque an animal-friendly role model for the entire country.


Animal Award: Stubby Harris, Embudo—for exceptional animal courage and/or intelligence. In the middle of a below-freezing February night in 2007, Stubby began to bark insistently, waking her guardian and finally making him get out of bed to let her out. Agitated, Stubby ran back and forth from the cottage to the pasture, until Steve Harris, Stubby’s human, went out to investigate. He found a partially-clad man, lying unconscious, his sweatshirt freezing on his body. The man was rescued. He had been drinking when he fell into the Rio Grande. He likely would have died if the pit bull mix had not sensed the man was nearby, and in serious trouble.


Board of Directors’ Award: Tamsin Faith Bemis, Albuquerque—for lifelong commitment to animal rights. (Awarded posthumously.) Ms. Bemis spent most of her free time taking care of dogs in need. She helped to launch Albuquerque Spay/Neuter Now!, which provided coupons to have dogs and cats fixed. The answer to animal overpopulation, she’d say, was a statewide, low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter clinic. In the 2006 state legislature, Rep. Justine Fox-Young introduced a bill in Ms. Bemis’ memory, which passed, authorizing $400,000 for spay/neuter services across New Mexico in 2007. Also in her memory, a group of legislators gave almost $1 million for two spay/neuter vans for Albuquerque, and equipment for a high-volume spay/neuter room at Albuquerque’s east side shelter.


Direct Animal Services Award: Jemez Valley Animal Amigos, Jemez Springs—for efforts that directly improve the lives of animals. This all-volunteer organization works to create a better environment for animals in the Jemez Valley, from facilitating numerous opportunities to get animals spayed and neutered, to being willing to mediate tense situations involving people and their animals.


Executive Director’s Award: Governor Bill Richardson, Santa Fe—for outstanding leadership in supporting APNM’s mission and program. Since 2003, Governor Richardson has been a staunch supporter of animal protection legislation that helps animals in numerous ways, including: making euthanasia more humane, mandating safe antifreeze by adding a bittering agent, providing funds for animal shelter improvements, and funding spay-neuter services to help control cat and dog overpopulation. In the 2006 session, he authorized an unprecedented $2.75 million for animal-related capital projects, and approved $400,000 for state-funded spay-neuter surgeries. In 2007, Governor Richardson publicly supported and signed the bill to end the practice of cockfighting, and created a new board to implement animal shelter and euthanasia standards.

Humane Citizen Award: Christopher Willett, Santa Fe—for efforts by a private citizen to promote the humane treatment of animals using a variety of approaches and methods. In June of 2006, Mr. Willett saw a small pig limping down Cerrillos Road after she had apparently been struck by a car. He took the pig to a veterinarian and paid to have her broken leg repaired. After two weeks of recuperation, Mr. Willett drove Hattie the pig to an Arizona animal sanctuary. This is one in a life-long series of humane acts demonstrated toward animals by this winner.


Humane Education Award: Lannie Alexander, Albuquerque—for innovative civic education efforts that foster humane ethics. Ms. Alexander established the “Art for the Animals” program at La Mesa Elementary School, which is located in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood. Among children, she is raising the awareness of how animals live in that neighborhood, and she is guiding those children to regard animals with sensitivity and respect.


Lawmaking Advocacy Award: Representative. Justine Fox-Young, Albuquerque—for efforts that led to the passage of animal protection legislation. In 2006, Rep. Fox-Young demonstrated her leadership in animal issues by introducing and passing a bill that authorized the first-ever legislative appropriation for low-cost spay-neuter services for animals in New Mexico. With this appropriation, thousands of animals were spayed and neutered at low or no cost in June and July 2007.

Lawmaking Advocacy Award: Representative Thomas Swisstack, Rio Rancho—for efforts that led to the passage of animal protection legislation. Rep. Swisstack sponsored the House version of the Animal Sheltering Services Act (HB453), which created a board to establish statewide animal shelter and euthanasia standards. He fought hard to move HB453 through multiple House committees involving tense debates over the bill. When HB453 and its Senate version–SB458–faced serious time constraints in the waning hours of the legislative process, Rep. Swisstack stepped in for Sen. Mary Jane García and helped move SB458 through a crucial Senate committee. This persistence kept the bill moving when it might have otherwise died.

(The Lawmaking Advocacy Milagro Award video combines material for both award winners in this category: Representatives Fox-Young and Swisstack.)


Mary Jane García Champion for Animals Award: Sally Mayer, Albuquerque—for exceptional leadership, courage and persistence in the face of opposition, resulting in positive change for animals. Albuquerque City Councilor Mayer has made use of her position to introduce, gather support for and pass local laws that help animals in basic but critical ways. Her leadership on the city council has worked to prompt other city leaders to pay attention to the conditions under which Albuquerque animals live and die. Her leadership as author of the HEART ordinance has already saved the lives of hundreds of unwanted animals. This is a new, permanent award in 2007.

Media Award: Sunny Aris, Ruidoso—for spotlighting animal issues with courage, creativity, integrity. Ms. Aris may be doing more to raise awareness of animal issues in southeastern New Mexico than anyone else. She took the initiative to use her position with MTD Radio to create the Critter Connection program, which has addressed issues such as the former research-subject chimpanzees now at Save the Chimps, the need to ban cockfighting, and bringing local animal abuse to the attention of her listenership.


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