Taking on the spay/neuter problem

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

During our investigation into the conditions at the St. Joseph County Humane Society, almost everyone we've talked to has stressed the importance of spaying and neutering for every pet owner, to control the area pet population.

Now, some local organizations are trying to make that a reality, despite the high costs of the procedures.

But in Michiana, you can probably expect to pay a $100 or much more for a spay or neuter.

For about 40 animals to get the treatment they needed, for a price their owners could afford, they had to leave the county and even the state onThursday.

“(They were) taken to Mokena, Illinois, under a 2 hour drive and the spays and neuters were done, shots were updated. They were brought back and picked up and taken home and spoiled tonight,” said Janet Graham with Paws N’ Purrs with Impact.

Graham’s group organizes the pick-up and drop-off with NAWS (National American Welfare Society of the U.S.) almost every month, to offer spaying or neutering for less than $50 at the Illinois clinic.

“We just kind of saw that niche, and we just started talking and said someone to organize it and bring everybody together to central places would really help,” Graham said.

Currently there aren't many options for a low-cost spay and neuter to be done in St. Joseph County.

Now, local shelter leaders and vets hope to change that.

“It’s very hard for people to take care of their pets the way they want to,” said Michelle Whaley, President of the St. Joe County Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP).

After months of preliminary meetings, SNAP had its first official board meeting Thursday, with hopes to start helping low-income pet owners by January 2009.

That will hopefully give them plenty of time to raise funds.

“We want to reduce the pet population that we have coming in all the time with broken legs and all kinds of horrible diseases. That situation is absolutely pitiful to all of us,” said Pam Mahlie, RVT a board member who works for Western Veterinary Clinic.

Those who are already taking on the problem, have high hopes for the new option.

“It’s not good to not have a low-cost spay neuter option available. It’s going to help with pet population of animals that are already out there, it’s going to cut down on animals at the shelter. It's going to help increasing adoptions because people can afford that second or third pet,” Graham said.

SNAP would cover the costs of a spay or neuter at a participating veterinarians’ office, as long as the owners qualify for their program.

They're modeling themselves after a similar program in Elkhart County.

But there's also another program. The Franz Dantzler Fund hopes to help low-income pet owners pay for basic medical procedures.

They also are still in the organizational phase, but hope to start work with local veterinarians soon.

They started organizing about the same time as SNAP, but separately.

Now that they found out about each other, they hope to work together when possible.

So, for many the overpopulation problem is obvious, and other communities already have low-cost spay-neuter programs.

Many saw the need here in St. Joe County, and are trying to fill that niche.

"For whatever reason a lot of things are coming together at the same time, and programs and one program doesn't solve it all. We need a lot of programs and a lot of different approaches to solve the overpopulation problem in our community," said Whaley, a Notre Dame Professor who is also a member of the St. Joseph County Humane Society Board of Directors.

Meanwhile, we've been showing you the conditions inside the St. Joseph County Humane Society

Now county leaders are going to see it for themselves.

The board of commissioners and the county council will tour the shelter on Monday.

They are allowed inspections under their re-written contract for animal control services from the Humane Society.

Visit the Paws N Purrs website below for more on current options for low-cost spay and neuter programs, including the Neuter Scooter that will make a stop in South Bend next month.

The next NAWS trip to Illinois is scheduled for June 24th.

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