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Free spays & neuters for Bandera - but donations are always appreciated

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Across the United States, failure to spay and neuter pets causes significant animal over-population - resulting in an astronomical number of intact dogs and cats killed in shelters annually.

According to statistics from the American Humane Society, of the 4.3 million animals that find their way to shelters each year, 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats are euthanized. Only 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats of these animals are reunited with their owners. Only 25 percent of dogs and 24 percent of cats are adopted.

Statistics provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) are as appalling.

This data shows approximately 5 million to 7 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year, and approximately 3 million to 4 million are euthanized - 60 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats. Additionally, according to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), less than 2 percent of cats and only 15 to 20 percent of dogs are returned to their owners - most because of identifying tags, tattoos or microchips.

Significantly, only 10 percent of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered as opposed to about 75 percent of owned pets.

Stopping the cycle

The last available statistics from Bandera County Animal Control indicated that stray, lost and abandoned animals here fare little better. Of the 273 animals impounded in 2010, 77 were euthanized for space and 49 for health or behavior problems. However, these grim statistics may be about to change.

On Thursday, Jan. 12, Treasurer Billie Reeves told county commissioners that Bandera County had received an unexpected grant that would provide free spay and neuter procedures for Bandera County dogs and cats.

Hill Country Animal League (HCAL) SPCA in Boerne received the two-year totaling $101,840 grant from PetSmart Charities®.

"The people at the Hill Country Animal League applied for a grant to provide free spaying and neutering for pets in Kendall and surrounding counties," Reeves explained. "They about fell off their chairs when they learned the grant was to be used for Bandera County pets exclusively."

According to Reeves, the grant will fund the spaying and neutering of 1,754 dogs and cats, plus rabies vaccinations, pain medication and microchipping. The grant was designed for companion animals; however, for a nominal fee of $25, feral cats will also be sterilized and be given rabies innoculations, pain medication and ear notching. "This is a wonderful gift that came with absolutely no strings attached," Reeves said, adding, "If our animals exceeds that total, PetSmart Charities will cover the additional animals, too."

The surgeries will be done at the HCAL Clinic at 924 North Main Street in Boerne. "HCAL is willing to work with local vets, but it would probably be difficult for Bandera County vets to do the surgeries because of the reduced reimbursement fees," Reeves said.

Free spay-neuter

This special HCAL Bandera County Spay-Neuter Initiative will offer free spay and neuter services for pets whose owners reside in Bandera County. Owners of companion animals must provide proof of residency when they bring their pets in for surgeries at the clinic, however.

There is no income stipulation.

Appointments are required for the surgeries. To make an appointment, pet owners should call the HCAL Clinic at 830-249-2341 between the hours of 8:30 am and 4:30 pm on business days. Surgeries will be performed Monday through Thursday and from 20 to 40 sterilizations are performed daily.

While procedures through the HCAL Bandera County Spay-Neuter Initiative are free, donations to help defray surgical costs would be appreciated.

Other HCAL programs provide low cost sterilization services for pet owners residing outside Bandera County.

Plans are also in the offing for two visits to Bandera County by a mobile veterinary van equipped to do 100 spay-neuter procedures per day, according to JJ Blackson, HCAL director of animal services. The mobile unit would most likely be in the Lakehills area, but locations will be determined at a later date.

Additionally, the Bandera County Animal Welfare Society has offered the use of a van to transport local animals to Kendall County for the surgical procedures. "This would help people who find it difficult to take their animals to Boerne," Blackson said.

In an interview, Jeff Davis, senior communications manager for PetSmart Charities, noted that the foundation at times gives targeted grants. While he did not know the specifics of the HCAL Bandera County Spay-Neuter Initiative, he said, "We often give funding to entities that demonstrate specific needs."

HCAL background

The Hill Country Animal League was established in 1986 to help eliminate the overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats in the greater Kendall County area. Since its inception, the league has provided low cost spay-neuter services, animal adoptions and public education.

After opening a medical clinic in 2006, HCAL expanded its service area to the greater Hill Country area and northern Bexar County. HCAL's pet sterilization program successfully alters an average of 6,500 pets per year. Multiagency pet adoptions are also held on weekends at various locations.

Alma Aguirre, HCAL interim executive director, said, "HCAL is very happy to provide this service to Bandera County in partnership with PetSmart Charities. This special Bandera County Spay-Neuter Program will help stop the proliferation of homeless pets and promote long and healthy relationships between people in Bandera County and their cats and dogs. HCAL is very proud of having been chosen for this grant award."

To support this special spay-neuter program and other HCAL programs, tax-deductible donations may be sent to HCAL Clinic, 924 North Main Street, Boerne 78006. Telephone is 830-249-2341. Donations can also be made online at www.hcaltx.com.

Additionally, proceeds from the HCAL Thrift Store, 115 West Bandera, in Boerne, also support HCAL programs.

'Wonderful gift'

For his part, Bandera County Attorney John Payne also expressed enthusiasm for the unexpected grant, telling commissioners, "This is a wonderful gift and we will get a lot out of it." He anticipated speaking with area veterinarians about participating in the program. "It important that the entity giving the grant see that there's involvement on the local level."

Due to the low reimbursement payment and the fact that vets would also be required to donate pain medication, vaccinations and microchipping services, Payne realized that local participation is far from a given.

He remained optimistic, however, saying, " This will really help us with our animal control program." Payne encouraged those adopting a dog or cat from the Bandera County Animal Control Facility or City of Bandera Pound to take advantage of the free spay-neuter program, currently available in Boerne.

Established in 1994, PetSmart Charities, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that creates and supports programs to save the lives of homeless pets, raise awareness of companion animal welfare issues and promote healthy relationships between people and pets.

As the largest funder of animal welfare efforts in North America, PetSmart Charities has provided more than $134 million in grants and programs benefiting animal welfare organizations and has helped save the lives of more than 4.5 million pets through its in-store adoption program.

For more information, visit petsmartcharities.org or call 1-800-423-PETS (7387).

Bandera County residents are urged to take advantage of the Bandera County Spay-Neuter Initiative. Spaying and neutering companion animals will help stop pet overpopulation.