Pet spay-neuter-a-thon erases backlog in Brownsville

The six people of the surgical team for the Brownsville spay-neuter-a-thon around a surgical table with a sedated black cat
A dedicated group of veterinarians and vet techs, organized by Best Friends, banded together over 10 days to spay or neuter more than 350 dogs and cats.
By John Polis

With only one in-house vet in a bustling animal shelter, it’s hard enough keeping up with routine animal care during peak times — let alone meeting the goal of spaying or neutering every dog and cat resident. Such was the case at the Brownsville (Texas) Animal Regulation and Care Center in April 2023 when, during an especially busy time, it was necessary to put spay/neuter surgeries on hold.

“Because the center was so crowded back in April, animals were adopted out on agreements to bring those animals back for a free spay/neuter at a later date,” says Taylor Lefebvre, a Best Friends employee embedded with the Brownsville staff. “With just one vet and a single surgical table, the center wasn’t able to proactively do spay/neuter surgeries as planned.”

Taylor is in the midst of a one-year embed assignment through Best Friends’ national shelter embed program, made possible in part by a grant from Maddie’s Fund®. The program is one of the many ways Best Friends is helping shelters across the country reach no-kill by 2025.

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A brainstorming session in October produced a plan to catch up. “We were discussing where the bottlenecks existed at the shelter, and one of them was spay/neuter surgeries,” says Taylor. “We decided instead of just trying to tackle it a couple of animals at a time that it would be a better use of our resources to try and do all of them in a single, concentrated effort.”

Plans took shape for a 10-day spay-neuter-a-thon event, supported by Best Friends. A guest veterinarian and some vet techs would be brought in to join forces with Brownsville vet Dr. Logan McAllister and vet tech Ann Mehner, with the goal of erasing that backlog of surgeries.

2 vets, 6 vet techs answer the call

Word of the event was circulated to Best Friends staff, including some partner organizations, and it didn’t take long for a team to be assembled. Joining the Brownsville team would be Dr. Karyn Carlson of Tucson, Arizona, and five vet techs from Best Friends.

“When they all said yes, we were able to book them flights and get them housing,” says Taylor. “Dr. Karyn has worked with Best Friends previously. She’s incredible. Teams of two vet techs rotated in for each week, and a fifth vet tech was with us the entire time. So we had plenty of tech capacity.”

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To solve the one surgical table dilemma, Best Friends donated two more. “We stayed late hours after we closed to finish setting up the surgical area so that it was more like a high-volume, high-quality surgical suite,” says Taylor.

Pop-up kennels were configured so that there would be separate areas for pets recovering from surgery, while still enabling staff to utilize existing space for dealing with incoming animals from the public.

Each day, a group of 30 to 40 spay/neuter patients arrived. “We told people what time to drop off their pets,” says Taylor. “We knew who was coming in and had the paperwork all prepped ahead of time. As the animals arrived, we’d match them with their paperwork. It was a ton of activity out front, but it was a pretty smooth procedure.”

Teamwork pays off

The spay-neuter-a-thon was a rousing success, with more than 350 spay and neuter surgeries completed. “They erased almost the entire backlog,” Taylor says, “and they were even able to do several other minor surgical procedures, too.”

The surgical team, many of whom were working with each other for the first time, banded together quickly, says Dr. Logan.

“Seeing vet techs, surgeons, and support staff from several different agencies come together for this initiative was so wonderful to watch. By the end of the first week the group looked like they had been working together for years. It was inspiring to watch everyone come together to save lives.

“I’m very appreciative that Dr. Karyn was able to come out and help. It gave the shelter a fresh start in having every animal leave the shelter already sterilized. As we move forward into 2024, we’re able to focus our efforts on expanding community cat surgeries and proactive spay/neuters.”

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

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