by Christie Lagally
On Feb. 24, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proclaimed World Spay Day to be honored in our city with an homage to the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) Spay & Neuter Clinic: “WHEREAS, in 1982, 18,401 live animals were taken in to the shelter and 8,320 of those animals were euthanized. Five years later, with its low-cost spay/neuter clinic in place, Seattle Animal Shelter intakes were reduced by 33 percent and the euthanasia rate reduced by 50 percent. Last year, live animal intakes to the shelter dropped to 3,344, with the number of euthanasias reduced to 245.”
While there are several contributing factors to pet homelessness and overpopulation, reducing the number of companion animals born in our city and the surrounding area is a powerful, community-based solution that is clearly effective on a grand scale.
A community effort
In 1982, veterinarian Dr. Mary Ellen Zoulas was there to open the Seattle Animal Shelter’s Spay & Neuter Clinic (2061 15th Ave. W.), and she continues her dedication to that role today with the help of a small, dedicated staff.
As an open-intake shelter, SAS houses every Seattle animal that comes to its doors. Hence, offering community-wide spay and neuter surgeries to everyone’s animals works to reduce shelter animal intakes overall.
Zoulas said that when she first started at the clinic, about 90 percent of her patients were free-roaming cats. Today, of the clinic’s approximately 2,500 patients per year, about half are dogs, with the remainder rabbits and cats. Furthermore, those thousands of surgeries per year are carefully orchestrated by Zoulas’ efficient team of three veterinary technicians and a very busy clinic receptionist.
Curbing the homeless pet-rabbit population is vitally important. The clinic started offering spay and neuter services for rabbits in 2013. Zoulas’ team runs one of the only clinics that offers rabbit spay/neuter, since these creatures can be sensitive patients with special care needs.
Zoulas said the the clinic has a good relationship with the Rabbit Meadows Sanctuary & Adoption Center in Kenmore, Wash., to encourage people to spay or neuter their rabbits. The group also assists rabbit owners by loaning carriers to bring their rabbits to the clinic for surgery. Zoulas and her team spays or neuters about three rabbits a day.
In an effort to combat pet homelessness wherever it starts, the clinic will spay and neuter pets owned by people inside or outside Seattle city limits; about half of its patients are owned pets brought in from the community.
While a standard price is listed for these services, the final cost depends on the owner’s ability to pay. “We ask people to pay what they can,” Zoulas said, adding that income verification is not required.
Hence, funding the Spay & Neuter clinic takes a community effort. Along with the clinic opening in the 1980s, the City of Seattle also set up the Pet Population Control Fund (www.seattle.gov/animal-shelter/spay-and-neuter), which collects donations to supplement the cost of free or low-cost spay/neuter surgeries and the surgeries of shelter pets.
“Due to a lack of critical resources and public awareness, Humane Societies and animal shelters across the nation have no choice but to humanely euthanize millions of cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals each year, many of whom are healthy and adoptable,” SAS director Don Jordan said.
Other ways to help
There are other ways to help, as well. Once we have spayed or neutered our own pets, we can easily be advocates to help our neighbors, friends, co-workers and associates do the same by talking to others about the benefits to spay/neuter and how it helps reduce euthanasia in our community.
Zoulas said that people can even volunteer to transport animals to and from the Spay & Neuter clinic for surgery. Since the spay and neuter of even one cat, dog or rabbit can prevent the birth of between two to 10 animals, even one volunteer trip to the Spay & Neuter clinic makes a profound difference.
The SAS Spay & Neuter Clinic has shown how effective a coordinated effort can be when our community of animal lovers continues to donate, to volunteer for and to support a high-quality, low-cost spay and neuter program.
For more information on Rabbit Meadows, visit http://www.rabbitmeadows.org.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane (livinghumane.com). To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.