25% of pets in the United States have not been spayed or neutered. Cost is one major reason. The good news is that there are animal welfare groups in every state that offer low-cost spay/neuter services. The group I belong to and write for, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, is one such group. Earlier this month I talked to representatives from three animal groups offering low-cost spay/neuter services in other parts of the U.S.
|Animal Care Sanctuary is in Pennsylvania. While ACS is a sanctuary and does have many animals that live out their lives there, adoption is its primary goal. ACS also offers humane education and spay/neuter services. I spoke to Jill Elston, a Licensed Veterinarian Technician.Connect a Pet New England is a small, non-profit, dog rescue “dedicated to helping New Englanders find the right dog for their home and family”. I spoke to Cecelia Blake.
Tri-State Spay & Neuter is in Kentucky. It focuses on Trap-Neuter-Return for homeless cats since theyare euthanized at a much higher rate than dogs “and there aren’t any other cat rescues in their area. I spoke to Chrissy Dillow.
Jill said that ACS, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, has promoted spay/neuter for decades to address pet overpopulation, and in 2011 opened its own low-cost spay/neuter clinic. Since that time, the group has averaged about 3,000 surgeries a year, including on over 500 cats that were free roaming in local trailer parks thanks to a grant. Jill explained that ACS is “hoping to get grants for barn cats soon, as we are in a very rural area and farm colonies are a huge problem.”
Why do animal welfare groups feel it’s so important to offer spay/neuter services? The reasons shared are similar:
“An outrageous number of homeless cats and dogs exist in the United States.”
“There are too many cats/kittens and not enough homes or rescues.”
“Every altered dog saves us more heartache.”
The bottom line is a belief succinctly expressed by Jill: “Overpopulation can be fought with spay/neuter efforts.”
The spay/neuter coordinator for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, Pauline Balta, said that her fourteen-plus years of involvement with Hearts United for Animals has given her a greater awareness of pet homelessness. She joined LAA in 2008 out of a strong belief that there’s a better way than euthanasia to reduce the homeless pet population.
My previous articles on this topic for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors have included hard-hitting data to refute the reasons pet owners offer for not having their pets fixed. Just as compelling are the stories from the volunteers of animal welfare groups that offer spay/neuter services.
Chrissy referred to strange medical cases such as a litter of petrified kittens inside a feral cat. “But my favorites,” she said, “would be when we are able to catch something like pyometra where spaying saved the animal’s life.”
To explain spay/neuter to children, I review overpopulation and ask the children to imagine sitting in a cage away from their families. Scared and smelling others’ fear. Hearing them crying. I worried it was too much but the teacher said it was the best ever presentation, and a child adopted from the local shelter that weekend.–Cecilia Blake
Jill’s favorite story is of a man who inherited his dad’s dogs when his father passed away. Neither the dad or the son had thought thought to spay/neuter the dogs. “When we first began working with him,” said Jill, “he had around 60 dogs of various ages, all extremely inbred. The [son] had previously had some bad experiences with both the dog warden and veterinarians, so he didn’t have much trust for anyone in the animal welfare world. Our adoption coordinator was the first person to really form a bond with him and she slowly convinced him to bring the dogs in for care and spray/neuter.” ACS was able to help with the cost of surgery and to help him find new homes for several of the dogs. Jill added, “He now comes to every fundraising event we have to show his support and gratitude.”
To reach young people, we use the Best Friends “Fix at Four” ads, and play them before each movie at the local theatre. We also have contests in the area schools. (Coloring contests for elementary, poster contests for middle and high school). School groups also have the option to tour the county shelter.–Cecilia Blake
Pauline’s greatest joy comes from realizing the efforts that pet guardians will go through to keep their beloved pets with them and make sure they’re healthy. She shared the story of a 19-year-old woman who worked multiple jobs to get by, who rescued a dog running through her neighborhood. She was determined to keep the dog that turned out to be pregnant and so she called LAA to get help spaying the mother dog when the pups were weaned, and then went on to have pups spayed. “Just recently the same young woman called again,” Pauline said, “because she had rescued a dog from a bad situation and needed to get him neutered. Stories like these keep me going.”
In previous interviews, I also personally talked to spay/neuter recipients. One of these was Megan, who has a big heart for homeless animals. She also believes in having animals spayed and neutered. For that reason, she’s grateful for the assistance she’s received from LAA.
Megan told of a dog of hers that was pregnant. “I didn’t want another litter,” Megan said, “and so I set up the appointment to have Sam fixed as soon as possible after the babies were delivered and the vet said she was ready.” She reached out again to LAA when, through her rescue efforts, found herself with an unaltered male and female cat. “It became an urgent situation,” Megan said, “to get them fixed as soon as possible before I had a litter of kittens on my hands.”
Currently, LAA’s low-cost spay/neuter services are available at select veterinary clinics and are obtained with vouchers. Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has provided nearly 2,700 spay/neuter procedures since its start in 2008. Pauline’s ultimate dream for LAA is to host a low-cost spay/neuter program that is housed in its own building, with local veterinarians volunteering their time to perform the surgeries.
Especially if they don’t have their own clinic, the organizations I interviewed depend on volunteers to talk with spay/neuter recipients and veterinarians to work with them. The organizations also rely on the public for donations. Be a part of the no-more-homeless-pets solution by supporting spay/neuter services with your time and/or donations.
If you’re interested in helping Lincoln Animal Ambassadors specifically, please spread the word about its services, volunteer as a telephone interviewer, and give generously on Give to Lincoln Day this May 31st.