By Joseph Robertia
Whatever circumstances surround their appearance at animal shelters, even when well intentioned, the sad reality is that not all animals will be adopted. Those that don’t find homes are euthanized. It’s a cycle that plays out across borough, state and country, year after year.
Judy Fandrei is no stranger to this reality. After years working as a veterinary technician and volunteering at local animal shelters, she realized that while some pets are surrendered to shelters by people who are no longer interested in being responsible for them, there also are big-hearted people who do still care about their companion animals but don’t have the means in their lifestyle or financial situation to provide for them.
In November 2011, Fandrei established the Peninsula Spay and Neuter Fund with the hope of generating enough funds to perhaps pay to fix one or two pets a month, in an effort to curb the number of unwanted animals being brought in and destroyed at shelters. To her surprise, support for the organization and the need within the community to offset sterilization service costs have been overwhelming.
“It’s going unbelievably well,” Fandrei said. “It was around mid-February that I got my first coupon out and we’ve done 158 spays and neuters in the 10 months since then.”
The fund 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.
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.
“I knew the only way for it to work was for the community to help support it, and people have been very generous,” she said.
Some people have given monetary donations; others have donated goods, materials, even custom-made dog beds, for Fandrei to sell to raise money for the fund. In order to maximize opportunities to sell these items and seek further fundraising, Fandrei spent the summer working booths at the Wednesday Market in Soldotna and the Saturday Market in Kenai. She also held garage sales and numerous bake sales in front of local grocery stores.
“Education is a big part of this, so I used every one of those opportunities to also talk to people about responsible pet ownership and why they should have their pets spayed and neutered,” she said.
So far 50 dogs have been spayed and 28 neutered through the program, with 35 cats spayed and 33 neutered. Fandrei said that she is pleased to have sterilized so many more animals than she initially thought the fund would be able to assist, but particularly because these animals will also greatly reduce the number of future pets that would enter shelters.
According to data from Fandrei, in as little as 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.
Locally, Kenai Animal Control Officer Stacie Mallette said the 2012 numbers are still being compiled, but rough estimates indicate 1,500 animals were handled in 2012 at the Kenai Animal Shelter alone, of which around 830 were adopted and 350 euthanized. This is down considerably from 2011, when 1,672 animals were handled and 730 were euthanized.
“We’re still getting lots of animals in, but the fund is definitely helping,” Mallette said.
Many dogs and cats that ended up at the Soldotna Animal Control facility met a similar fate. Outside of city limits and beyond the animal shelters, many other animals that were never caught or claimed met conditions of starvation, being hit by vehicles, predation by wild animals or being killed by people who viewed them as a nuisance.
In the coming year, Fandrei hopes to continue assisting to fund pet sterilizations, and expand her educational campaign.
“I’d really like to get into the schools, to start teaching kids about the reasons to get their pets spayed and neutered,” she said. “Other than that, the goal is the same — to bring down the number of pets being brought to shelters, and less being euthanized. And, as long as people keep helping me, and I can keep helping other people, then in the end we’re all helping the animals.”
To learn more about the Peninsula Spay and Neuter Fund, call 907-690-2723 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
PETCO also has a service whereby customers can donate via credit card to a local animal group. One of the choices is to spay/neuter. This does not contribute to the Peninsula Spay and Neuter Fund.