October: Spay and neuter your pet month

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    By Mike Stoll
    Special to The PREVIEW

    October is spay and neuter your pet month at the Humane Society of Pagosa Springs (HSPS) animal shelter, with special promotions and additional funds available to assist dog and cat owners who would like to get their pets spayed or neutered.

    If you are a resident of Archuleta County and need assistance with the cost of spaying or neutering your pet, contact HSPS to see if you qualify for one of our programs. We are also putting a special emphasis on helping people with multi-pet households in October, so if you have more than one dog or cat and need assistance, contact HSPS and find out how we can help.

    Creating a safe haven for homeless animals, promoting adoptions and reuniting lost animals with their families are aspects of the HSPS mission that most people readily associate with our animal shelter. Promoting pet spay/neuter is also an important, if less well known, part of our mission that benefits numerous community members who receive our help each year.

    The animal shelter often receives calls from people overwhelmed with the birth of an unwanted litter of puppies or the discovery of a litter of stray kittens under their deck, behind a shed or in the garage. Calls also come from people who want to do the right thing by spaying or neutering their pets, but have pressing financial needs that make the cost of surgery challenging. The HSPS Pet Overpopulation Program is designed to address these issues by offering financial assistance with the cost of spay/neuter surgery for owned pets and by providing surgeries for unowned cats and dogs that otherwise would not be spayed or neutered.

    There are five primary components to our Pet Overpopulation Program. In each case, HSPS pays local veterinarians directly for services they provide. The program components are:

    • Fix-It-Free is an assistance program for income-qualifying households. Those who meet the program criteria receive a voucher, redeemable with any local veterinarian, that covers the entire basic cost of a pet spay/neuter surgery.

    • Spay-Aid provides a spay/neuter discount coupon to community members who may not qualify for the free voucher program but who may also find it difficult to cover the entire cost of pet sterilization. Each Spay-Aid coupon has a face value based on the species, gender and size of the recipient’s pet. The pet owner is responsible for paying the balance of the veterinarian’s spay/neuter fee after the discount coupon has been applied.

    • Mother’s Aid offers a voucher for a free spay for any dog or cat that has recently had an unplanned litter. Recipients of a Mother’s Aid voucher are encouraged to surrender the litter to the shelter at the appropriate time so that we can vaccinate, socialize and spay/neuter the young ones to promote a good start in life and find great adoptive homes for them.

    • Pit Bull provides a Fix-It-Free voucher, with no income qualifying necessary, for spay or neuter of a pit bull or pit bull mix. Pit bulls are often wonderful dogs and some of the best dogs the shelter has experienced, but there is a perceived stigma toward the breed that makes it difficult to adopt or transfer. Our pit bull program helps control the local population so fewer dogs end up in the shelter, where they may linger for a long time waiting for a new home.

    • Feral Cat Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is a component of our Pet Overpopulation Program that addresses the local free-roaming community cat population. Free-roaming cats are feral and stray domestic cats that are significant contributors to the annual “kitten tsunami” that inundates the animal shelter each year.

    Through TNR, we trap free-roaming cats and provide a medical examination, vaccinations and spay or neuter surgery. Free-roaming cats that can be resocialized are taken to the animal shelter, where staff can work with them and find them adoptive homes. Truly feral cats — those that cannot abide being with humans and cannot be socialized — are returned to their place in the outdoors, where they can live fully but no longer reproduce.

    Over the past three years, the HSPS Pet Overpopulation Program has provided financial support for nearly 1,100 spay/neuter surgeries for community animals, at a cost of nearly $80,000. During that same time, we also provided spay/neuter surgeries for over 650 shelter animals prior to placing them in adoptive homes.

    In a community our size, our ongoing spay/neuter efforts can make a difference in limiting the number of newborn unwanted cats and dogs. Yet the evidence of litters of puppies and kittens that still make their way to the animal shelter means this work will continue into the foreseeable future. During the spay and neuter your pet month of October, we encourage everyone with an unaltered dog or cat to make a commitment to have your pet spayed or neutered before the end of 2014.

    HSPS does not receive any funding from national organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States, American Humane, ASPCA or United Way. The funds that support our community spay/neuter programs are raised through grants, direct donations, thrift store revenues and fundraisers. Programs like spay/neuter and our emergency medical fund are important services for the community and also a way for HSPS to give back for the wonderful local support we receive.

    To learn more about the HSPS Pet Overpopulation Program, visit the website www.humanesociety.biz. To find out more about our special October spay/neuter promotions, contact the animal shelter at 731-4771.