Rhode Island Community Spay/Neuter Clinic: working to end animal overpopulation in our state
Gizmo, an eight-month-old cat, became a celebrity at the Rhode Island Community Spay/Neuter Clinic (RICSNC) on May 9, 2011 when he became the 5,000th animal to receive services at the clinic, which opened on July 1, 2010.
|“People are confident their animal is going to get the best possible care here,” states Clinic Director Pam Knoecklein, noting that the Clinic receives its greatest number of referrals through word of mouth.
|“Spaying and neutering are the only permanent, 100% effective methods of birth control for dogs and cats.” – The Humane Society of the United States
Gizmo lives in Cranston with his owner and another cat, Buttercup, a one-year-old female. Their owner, a young woman, wanted to have both cats sterilized, but could not afford the $60 per cat spay/neuter fee, a cost that is subsidized through grants from the Program for Animal Welfare (PAW) at The Rhode Island Foundation and other grants the clinic receives.
“I was eager to get them sterilized because I knew what would come soon: a pregnant female who hadn’t even left the house,” explains Lesley Doonan, chapter coordinator, Volunteer Services for Animals (VSA) – Warwick, who had been contacted for help with the cats after the owner first called the clinic. It was determined the young woman could afford $25 per cat.
RICSNC’s clinic director offered a reduced rate of $50 per cat, utilizing funds from its Spay It Forward Fund. “Volunteer Services for Animals paid the other $25 for each cat, and the work got done. The cats received excellent and immediate care,” Lesley says.
Gizmo’s story, explains Clinic Director Pam Knoecklein, is typical, noting, “We have situations like this on almost a daily basis. Recently, we had VSA, PawsWatch, and C.A.T.S. (Cat Adoption Team Services) working together with RICSNC to help spay/neuter a feral colony of more than 12 cats.”
Animal welfare organizations working together are key to the clinic – both its daily operations and its establishment. “We credit The Rhode Island Foundation for bringing us together,” notes Liz Skrobisch, vice president of the Ocean State Animal Coalition (OSAC), the nonprofit organization that was formed four years ago to establish the clinic.
Ocean State Animal Coalition members:
- Animal Rescue League of Southern Rhode Island
- Potter League for Animals
- Providence Animal Control
- Rhode Island Animal Control Officers’ Association
- Westerly Animal Shelter
By the numbers
- Approximately 6,200 cats and dogs spayed/neutered
(July 1, 2010 – July 1, 2011)
- 75% cats (4,677)
- 1/3 of cats were feral cats
- More than 1,540 dogs sterilized
- 1/3 of dogs were part or all pit bull
- Feral cats and pit bulls present the biggest financial challenges for the clinic.
“The Program for Animal Welfare had funded spay and neuter programs for years,” recalls Tom Gulluscio, OSAC’s president and Westerly animal control officer, adding, “The Foundation began to ask the question, ‘Is this money helping?’ but no one could tell.”
He continues to explain that the Foundation brought in a consultant to answer the question of how spay/neuter funding could have the greatest impact, selecting animal welfare groups that could work collaboratively, and identifying options for programs. A second consultant, this one funded by Hill’s Pet Nutrition, worked on coalition-building among the organizations.
The spay/neuter clinic, established as an affiliate of Ocean State Animal Coalition, is based on a model created by the Humane Alliance of North Carolina.
Of what are coalition members most proud? “The staff,” replies Liz, without hesitation. “They’re the ones who get the work done every day.”
“Liz and I realized early on how important it was to find the right person to run the clinic,” Tom says, noting Pam’s strengths in building relationships and in providing education and outreach.
In addition to grants from the Foundation’s Program for Animal Welfare, which is made up of eight funds designated for the humane treatment and protection of animals, the clinic has received support from PetSmart Charities, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), and individuals who have provided in-kind services ranging from a logo design to materials, time, and labor to prepare the clinic for its opening.
“By focusing its efforts on ending Rhode Island’s companion animal and feral cat over-population problem, the coalition has taken on a longstanding challenge within the animal welfare realm. We anticipate that the clinic will, over time, significantly reduce both the statewide animal euthanasia rate and the state’s population of feral cats,” states Jenny Pereira, grants program officer at the Foundation who works on the Program for Animal Welfare.
| The Clinic provides transportation services five days a week from shelter and rescue facilities throughout the state.
Pam sums it all up, “The appreciation pet owners show makes it all worthwhile. Gizmo’s owner was extremely grateful for our assistance, as our clients – many who are in dire straits – usually are.”
Learn more about the Rhode Island Community Spay/Neuter Clinic.