Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Statistics from Dakin's first year of full-service operations in the Pioneer Valley are now available. To celebrate the successes of our first year, I'll spend the next few blog entries walking through individual programs and their achievements in 2010.
If there is one thing we do to save lives in our community, it is to provide high-volume, high-quality, low-cost spay/neuter services. More than any other service we provide, Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic will most effectively help us reach our goal of saving the life of every adoptable homeless animal by August 2012.
Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic opened its doors in October 2009, and since then Clinic staff have sterilized more than 11,000 cats and dogs!
In 2010, the Clinic served 9,498 animals. Of those animals, 75% were cats and kittens, while 25% were dogs and puppies. The Clinic has identified "target" clients: animals already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. This means animals in the custody of humane societies and animal control agencies or the types of animals most likely to be in custody--namely cats of low income people, feral cats, or pit bull dogs. Of the 9,498 animals served in 2010, 89% were "target" clients.
Pit bulls are disproportionately represented in our region's animal shelters. While they may be only 3% of the overall pet dog population, they can account for as many as 50% of the dogs surrendered to humane organizations or picked up by animal control. That's why Dakin's Clinic will spay/neuter any pit bull or pit mix for $50. In 2010, we helped 424 pit bulls, or 27% of all dogs brought to the Clinic by the public.
Cats belonging to people with few financial resources are not only at risk of becoming homeless, but they also produce unwanted litters of kittens. Thanks in part to a grant from the Massachusetts Animal Coalition's Animal Friendly License plate program, we are able to provide $25 cat spays and $50 cat neuters for people who are on some type of state or federal assistance.
We provided Thomas J. O'Connor Animal Control and Adoption Center's animal control officers with coupons for $10 cat surgeries (including vaccines). The officers identified people in need in the course of their daily work. Together, we helped 28 cats and kittens in 2010.
Through our Pet Food Aid partnerships with the Amherst and Franklin Area Survival Centers, we sterilized and vaccinated 6 pit bulls and 54 cats at no charge to families who were struggling to put food on the table.
For female pets old enough to have had babies, a quarter of the dogs and half the cats have already had at least one litter. And many have had more than one litter--a lot more! Our record holder so far is Orea, a beautiful black and white longhaired cat who, at 7 1/2 years of age, had 13 litters of kittens before we spayed her. Although Orea is an "indoor only" cat, her powerful hormones led her to escape, find a male cat, and get pregnant...13 times!
Older animals who have had multiple litters are common at the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic. We have spayed cats around Orea's age whose people report that the cat has 2 to 3 litters every year--they just haven't kept track of exactly how many litters that was.
Says Clinic Director, Karina King: "The Clinic's work ties in with Dakin's Adoption Center work in many ways. Adoption Center staff often walk clients over to the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic's desk once they learn that the clients want to surrender their male cats for spraying or because they can't deal with anymore litters but can't afford surgery. We are able to provide them with spay/neuter they can fit into their budget. It's win-win-win: the pet gets to stay at home instead of being surrendered; the client gets to keep her beloved pet (we get lots of tears of joy!), and the Adoption Center has one less animal they need to care for and re-home. Adoption Counselors also bring over clients who are surrendering litters of kittens. When we spay a kitten's mother, we know that the Adoption Center will have fewer kittens arriving next year."
Although the Community Spay/Neuter Clinic does not screen for income for non-subsidized services, most of the animals we see have either never seen a veterinarian or have not seen one in the past year. Only 22% of animals brought in by members of the public had seen a veterinarian in the past year and were current for a rabies vaccine (as required by law). Of those who have been seen by a veterinarian, low-cost vaccine clinics (i.e., PetCo, LuvMyPet) are the most popular veterinarian for our clients.
Only 4% of our patients are non-pit bull dogs whose people are not receiving state or federal assistance; 18% of our cat patients are not receiving state or federal assistance and can afford our already low price of $80. Most of these people have indicated that they called their veterinarian and could not afford the fees.
I make these last points, not because I think veterinarians charge too much for their services. In fact, I have a long relationship with a local animal hospital, love their staff, and happily pay for the excellent care my animals receive. But I also know that many of my neighbors are not so fortunate. For these folks Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic offers a real and accessible alternative for spay/neuter surgery. In fact, many local veterinarians refer clients to us who could not otherwise afford spay/neuter services.
We are grateful to PetSmart Charities, the Massachusetts Animal Friendly License Plate program, and many individual donors for their support of Dakin's Community Spay/Neuter Clinic. Without their generosity, the Clinic would not be the life-saving force it is. Please consider making an online gift to support the Clinic's work, today.