Spay and Neuter Syracuse (SANS) recently reached the milestone of 3,000 companion animals spayed or neutered.By Jennifer Bailey, Vice President, Syracuse-Onondaga Cat Council Office Manager, Spay and Neuter Syracuse
Furbie, a seven-month-old grey kitten, sat on the examining table, sporting a bright purple ribbon around her neck.
The purple ribbon signified Furbie’s special status. In just a few moments, she would become the 3000th animal to be spayed at Spay and Neuter Syracuse, a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in Syracuse, New York.
Furbie belongs to Don and Debra VanAuken from Pennellville, New York, a community north of Syracuse. Don found her late last fall in a barn when she was eight weeks old. "She was nothing but a ball of fluff", said Debra. "She looked like a little furbie toy, so that’s what we named her."
Furbie isn’t much of a cuddler, but she loves to play. One night, she grabbed a spool of thread from Debra’s sewing table and batted the spool all over the house. The next morning, Debra awoke to find sewing thread everywhere. "I have to be careful what I leave out with Furbie around," Debra exclaimed. "Just about anything could be a toy to her."
Debra’s husband, Don, is retired and Debra only works about three hours a week. "There isn’t a whole lot of extra money around," she said. Don and Debra wanted to get Furbie spayed, but they couldn’t afford what a regular veterinary practice charged for the procedure.
Then Debra’s sister-in-law told her about Spay and Neuter Syracuse (SANS). "She had her cat spayed at SANS and said it was a great place to go," said Debra. "We’re so grateful for the service SANS provides."
SANS is a program of the Syracuse-Onondaga Cat Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to putting an end to pet overpopulation in Central New York. Established in October 2004, the corporation was founded as a partnership between local animal rescue organizations and the City of Syracuse Common Council.
One of the first priorities of the new organization was to open a low-cost spay and neuter clinic. According to Linda Young, a board member and one of the founders of the Cat Council, the founding members turned to the No More Homeless Pets Conference sponsored by Best Friends Animal Society for information.
At the conference, members of the Cat Council heard from speakers from organizations who had started successful clinics. Once the Cat Council was ready to open their own spay and neuter clinic, they were able to call upon those organizations – The Humane Alliance, Spay Virginia, and Shelter Outreach Services – for advice. "We adapted elements of each program to fit our own demographics and limited funds," said Linda.
In November 2005, the Cat Council opened Spay and Neuter Syracuse with the help of a seed grant from the CNY Community Foundation. SANS provides low-cost spay and neuter packages for cats and dogs residing in low-income households and with people receiving public assistance. SANS also provides assistance to animal rescuers and feral cat caretakers in the community.
As a part of the spay and neuter package, each animal receives a physical examination by a licensed veterinarian, spay or neuter surgery, basic vaccinations, and pain medication. Each animal also receives a nail trim, an ear cleaning, and a one-month dose of Advantage.
At first, opening a low-cost spay and neuter clinic seemed like a daunting task. "There were people, particularly in the veterinary community, who told us we wouldn’t last six months," says Christine Leonardo, SANS clinic manager and president of the Cat Council. "Now look at us – we have been open almost 2 ½ years and we have spayed or neutered over 3,000 companion animals."
Over 1,500 low-income people and animal rescuers have been assisted since SANS opened its doors. SANS serves a nine-county area in Central New York. "Clients have come from as far as 100 miles away to use our services," says Christine. "There’s a definite need in our community for the services we provide."
On average, volunteers field about 25 calls per day from people looking to have their pet spayed or neutered. "When we first opened, we operated four to six clinics per month and altered 12 – 14 cats per clinic," Christine said. "Now we are operating up to 15 clinics per month and are safely altering up to 18 cats and 2 dogs per clinic."
All of this success has created a problem for SANS – they have outgrown their current clinic space. "Ideally, we would like to double the size of our surgical suite so that we can better accommodate our patients," says Jennifer Bailey, SANS office manager and vice president of the Cat Council. "We also need space to accommodate basic necessities, such as a laundry facility, office space, and storage."
SANS also needs help with spreading the word about the services they offer. In the past year, over 200 kittens have been abandoned along a rural state route near Syracuse. All of the kittens were left in boxes and always in the same spot. This and other incidents of kitten abandonment highlight the need for spay/neuter education and publicity about SANS.
In fact, SANS is the only clinic of its kind in Onondaga County, of which Syracuse is the county seat. That puts SANS in a unique position to serve the community beyond the operating room. "We want to expand our educational outreach program, develop a marketing program, and position the clinic for greater support by the community in which we operate," says Jennifer. "And, of course, we want to be a resource for others that are interested in starting a low-cost spay and neuter clinic in their community."
In the nearly 2 ½ years SANS has been open, the clinic staff and volunteers have earned the respect and support of their community. "We are honored to have an organization like SANS in our community," write the veterinarians and licensed veterinary technicians at Fairmount Animal Hospital in a recent letter of support for SANS. "[We] will continue to support their mission to end pet overpopulation in the Greater Syracuse area."
So, what is the staff of SANS going to do now that they have spayed or neutered 3,000 companion animals? "We’re going for the 4,000 mark," says Jennifer. "We’ll keep spaying and neutering until they are no more homeless pets."
Spay and Neuter Syracuse
1108 Spring Street
Syracuse, NY 13208
firstname.lastname@example.orgArticle posted with permission by Brandi Bennett, Best Friends Network StaffSANS logo courtesy of Jennifer Bailey