By Joseph Robertia
Walking through the narrow corridor between the cage cubicles that temporarily house dogs at the Kenai Animal Shelter is far from a quiet experience. Excited to see a newcomer, many burst into an unbridled display that includes much howling and barking. This noise of canine enthusiasm can be an overwhelming cacophony to some visitors, but it is a sound that speaks to Judy Fandrei.
A longtime veterinary technician by trade, her love of animals drew her to begin volunteering at the shelter, but the experience was more than she bargained for. She was already aware that not all who take in a dog or cat are responsible, lifelong owners, but helping at the shelter, she was exposed daily to how many pets are abandoned or surrendered. Worse yet, she couldn’t avoid the knowledge of what happens to those animals when no one comes forward to adopt them.
“I got to see how bad the problem was and what a recurring cycle it was. People would bring in litter after litter of kittens from the same cat without ever getting it spayed. I’d hear about litters of puppies or kittens on Tradio or see people with them out front of Fred Meyer,” she said. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t sleep at night. It was very painful for me.”
Of the 1,673 animals handled in 2011 at the Kenai Animal Shelter alone, 730 of them were euthanized. Many dogs and cats that ended up at the Soldotna Animal Control facility met a similar fate. Outside of city limits many other animals that were never caught or claimed by anyone met grizzly deaths from starvation, being hit by vehicles, predation by wild animals or by being killed by people who viewed them as a nuisance.
Fandrei wanted to change something, anything, to make things better for these animals, but didn’t know how or where to begin making a difference beyond what she was already doing. She, herself, couldn’t adopt or save all of the unwanted pets.
Then came what some might call serendipity. Fandrei calls it Doris.
“It all started with her. She was a gray and white cat that came into the shelter. She was sickly, but managed to give birth to four kittens the next day. None of them made it due to her compromised health, but we were able to keep Doris alive and nurse her back to health,” Fandrei said.
After weeks of foster care under Fandrei, Doris eventually grew healthy enough to be spayed, ensuring she wouldn’t be bringing any more unplanned kittens into the world. Not long after she had the procedure, she was returned to the shelter and was adopted out.
“That was the impetus to start,” Fandrei said, referring to the Peninsula Spay and
Neuter Fund she started at the end of 2011. “Instead of just getting upset, I wanted to do something. Even if it’s just saving one dog or cat’s life a month, that is a success. That is making a difference.”
The fund is dedicated to “ending the needless euthanasia of homeless and unwanted companion animals by encouraging owners to spay and neuter their pets.” It works partially though education. Fandrei has printed and disseminates informational pamphlets citing the health benefits of spaying and neutering animals. Included are some tough statistics, such as: In six years one unspayed female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies, and in seven years one unspayed female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens.
The fund also works by financially assisting those who cannot afford to have a pet spayed or neutered. After being referred by a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, Fandrei has pet owners fill out an assistance request form to understand what their needs are. If she has money in the fund, she provides pet owners with a voucher for a discounted spay or neuter procedure that is accepted by all local veterinary clinics.
“I really view this as a team effort between me, the clinics and shelters, and the community. It’s a hand up, not a handout. It’s worth 50 percent of the cost of a spay or neuter, and only a spay or neuter — not vaccines or any other medical procedures,” she said.
Since the cost of procedures can vary from clinic to clinic, as well as varying depending on the size and age of the animal, Fandrei said that the vouchers will only cover up to $100 for a canine spay and up to $75 for a canine neuter or cat spay.
There also is a limit of three animal vouchers per family, and the coupons expire within 30 days of being issued.
“I didn’t want any waiting that could lead to dogs or cats going back into heat,” she said.
In developing the fund, Fandrei met with pet-related agencies and organizations from Anchorage to Homer. Several of them gave her the seed money to start assisting with surgeries in February, along with other financial assistance from her own family and friends.
“A 2-year-old pit bull named Haley was spayed. That was the first one, but since then we’ve done a total of three dog spays, one dog neuter and two cat neuters, and I have two dog spay vouchers that are still outstanding,” she said.
Fandrei said she hopes to continue to grow the fund to help as many pet owners as possible. The number of pets that can be helped will be determined by the level of support the fund gets.
“I know there are a lot of pet lovers on the peninsula, and I meet a lot of people who, after finding out I volunteer at the shelter, tell me, ‘I’d love to help, too, but I just can’t,’” she said. “Well, this is a way that they can help.”
To learn more about the Peninsula Spay and Neuter Fund, call 907-690-2723 or email email@example.com.
Tax-deductible donations to the fund can be made at Wells Fargo (account No. 7861883044) or at Bridges Community Resource Center in Soldotna. There also is a donation box at the Kenai Animal Shelter.