How Spay/Neuter Services Help Pet Owners

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.–Chrissy Dillow

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.


How Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Addresses Animal Homelessness

A note of thanks for all your assistance with getting our puppy, Sunshine, spayed. Your help was invaluable– especially when she went into heat. You saved us!  Keep being awesome.–Danielle

One service offered by Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is a low-cost spay/neuter program for Lancaster County, Nebraska, who are unable to pay the full cost of altering their pets. There are many health benefits to having a pet fixed. Spaying and neutering reduces the risk of infection and of cancer in both males and females. It curbs undesirable behaviors such as aggression and the insatiable desire to seek attention from the opposite sex. Finally, when it comes to cats, it helps to minimize a tendency of either sex to roam and of male cats to spray in the house. Healthy pets also make for happier pets and owners. And of course the most important reason to spay/neuter is to help end animal homelessness.

Just want to thank you all for your recent help with neutering costs. A beautiful young female came onto my farm this spring. In less than a week I noticed she was pregnant. She had her litter of kittens outdoors, because she doesn’t like to be indoors for more than a few minutes. The family now spends a good deal of time on my back porch. The two kittens who survived were neutered with the help of your vouchers. I had the mother spayed at my own expense in July. I feel responsible now that my feline population is in check. Your help made this warm, fuzzy feeling possible.–Gayle

The number of unwanted animal is heartbreaking. To cite just two stats: 2.4 million dogs and cats are euthanized (killed) each year because of overpopulation. In addition, there are estimated to be 70 million homeless dogs and cats. By making spaying and neutering more affordable, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is addressing the root cause of homelessness.

Hi Pauline. I wanted to let you know that I received the voucher and printed it off. Thanks for this type of program. I’ve been worrying for the last 2/3 months about how I’ll be able to afford to fix my dog. This help is amazing and very much appreciated.–Heather

Pauline Balta’s duties as the coordinator of LAA’s spay/neuter program include working with vet clinics. I asked two of the participating vets why their clinic works with Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. Both stressed the importance of preventative care. Dr. Megan Ehlers stated, “It is important to offer anything that is preventative. Vaccines, parasiticides, routine parasite screening, and spay/neuter options are all important to aid in prevention of diseases that are expensive and difficult to treat.” Dr. Kimberly Ehlers noted, “Our involvement with Lincoln Animal Ambassadors involves performing spays and neuters on these pets, as well as other procedures that may be necessary such as hernia repairs. We do require that the pets are vaccinated and that dogs over 6 months are tested for heartworm, but these requirements are good for proper health care of your pet anyway and should be done regardless of whether the pet is spayed or neutered.”

Thank you so much for helping me get my kitty cat spayed. You are providing such an amazing service. Lyndsay

Making use of Lincoln Animal Ambassadors’s low-cost spay/neuter program is simple. To have your name added to the waiting list, complete the form at Lincoln Animal Ambassadors’ website or leave a message at 402-817-1168. A volunteer will call you to conduct a short interview that will include your selection of a participating vet clinic. You will then receive your voucher in the mail, and then it will be your responsibility to make an appointment with the chosen vet.

Since Lincoln Animal Ambassadors began its low-cost spay/neuter program in 2010, over 2,700 pets have been serilized. Sadly, in February of this year, Lincoln Animal Ambassadors was forced to reduce the number of vouchers it provides to pet owners in need. On Give to Lincoln Day, please give generously so that even more pets can be helped, and so that together the Lincoln community can help reduce pet overpopulation.

Thank you, I have indeed received the voucher! Please know that your efforts are much appreciated and that I’ll continue to encourage spaying and neutering!–Kacy


How Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Helps Pet Owners

Megan 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 Lincoln Animal Ambassadors.

By this time, I realized Sam was very pregnant. I didn’t want another litter after her first, and so I set up the appointment to have Sam fixed as soon as possible after the babies were delivered and I got clearance from the vet saying she was ready.

In July 2012, Megan found a skinny, scarred dog wandering the streets. Without hesitation, she brought the Black Lab/Chow mix home and posted ‘Dog Found’ signs. When no one came claimed the dog, Megan took Samantha to a veterinarian for a check-up There, she learned that Samantha was about 18 months old and perhaps a Black Lab/Chow mix. Later that fall, Megan was dismayed when Samantha, who was in heat, got out of the house. After being reunited with Samantha, Megan soon noticed that Samantha’s stomach was getting bigger. Yes, Samantha was pregnant. Through a friend, Megan heard of the Lincoln Animal Ambassadors pet food bank. Megan applied for help because she wasn’t earning enough with her part-time at a fast-food restaurant to care for the puppies that would soon be born. After receiving support a few times from the pet food bank, Megan learned that Lincoln Animal Ambassadors also offers low-cost spaying/neutering. Early 2013, Samantha gave birth to a litter of seven puppies and, with the help of Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, Megan had Samantha spayed.

In August 2015, Megan’s boyfriend saw a Facebook post from a friend saying he could no longer keep his one-year-old dog. Megan, being a “softy”, contacted the dog’s owner and said that they’d foster the dog and find him a new home. Bandit’s previous owner told them that if he was able, he’d like Bandit back, and so Megan and John told him that they’d hold Bandit for 30 days (as required by Lincoln Animal Control) before attempting to re-home. In the meantime, Megan found herself beginning to bond with Bandit. “I don’t live in the best neighborhood, and so being a 23-year-old woman, letting my dogs out alone at night was pretty scary until Bandit came along. Bandit became attached to me and my three other dogs within the first week.” When the thirty days passed, Megan knew she eventually wanted to adopt Bandit, and so she made another call to Lincoln Animal Ambassadors.

Lincoln Animal Ambassadors is so fantastic! They got me on the spay/neuter list as soon as possible.

In recent months, Megan has also been rescuing cats. On March 23rd, John was letting the dogs out, and a little orange cat came up to him. He tried to shoo the cat away once the dogs started to notice it, but the cat kept coming back. John took the cat inside with the dogs and fed it. When Megan got off work, she and John took the cat to Parkview Animal Hospital. There, they learned the kitten was an unaltered male and about four and a half months old. Megan used this information to report the kitten to animal control, post “Lost Cat” sign on Lost Pets of Lancaster County, and other Facebook pages. While all this was going on, a former coworker of John’s asked him about rehoming her young cat. Naturally, Megan and John agreed to take Bitsy “At that point, I had an unaltered male and female cat, and it became an urgent situation to get them fixed as soon as possible before I had a litter of kittens on my hands. So, I reached out again to Lincoln Animal Ambassadors for help.” Megan set up an appointment for right after the 30-day waiting period with the orange kitten, now known as Scotch, and got both cats both fixed on the same day.

My last rescue hasn’t involved LAA, and mostly likely won’t, but she was one of my more interesting rescues, and so I feel like she should be included.

Megan’s most current rescue is Babs. On April 18th, some neighbor kids were gathered around a car in the parking lot of an apartment across the alley from Megan’s residence. When Megan went over to investigate, she discovered there was a rabbit under the vehicle. It was obvious to Megan that it was someone’s pet and not a wild rabbit. It took her over an hour to catch the rabbit, and then she immediately headed to her vet. “I wasn’t expecting her to be chipped but I tried. They said she had no chip and is a female Lionhead bunny.” Megan borrowed a cage from a co-worker and is fostering Babs while looking for her owner. She’s reported the rabbit to animal control and posted on the missing pet pages, but no one has claimed Babs yet.

My thanks to Megan, who kindly agreed to let me share her story as a way of paying back Lincoln Animals Ambassadors for their help. Currently, Lincoln Animals Ambassadors’ 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. Your donations on Give to Lincoln Day will help Lincoln Animal Ambassadors to continue its current services and to reach towards the organization’s dream of one day hosting a low-cost spay/neuter program housed in its own building, with local veterinarians volunteering their time to perform the surgeries.