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Pets in a pinch

Regional animal rescue groups, pet shelters and private pet owners are feeling the pinch this summer with the sudden absence of the region’s most relied-upon provider for low-cost spaying and neutering, leading to delayed adoptions and limitations on the number of feral cats that rescue groups can help.

The county’s first clinic devoted to low-cost, high-volume spaying and neutering — operated by SNYP (Spay/Neuter Your Pet) — lost its primary veterinarian nearly a month ago, creating an immediate ripple effect.

SNYP Director Sally Mackler said she is hopeful that a replacement will be found quickly for her fledgling clinic. The organization worked to open the clinic in Talent on March 1, and Mackler estimated they performed 1,358 surgeries between then and mid-July.

Mackler said she is grateful for the kindness and patience her clients have exhibited — and stunned and humbled by the level of reliance the community has on SNYP.

Founded in 1997, SNYP has been a staple in the region for spaying and neutering and educational outreach. For two decades, the organization has provided discount vouchers and had a network of veterinarians who would accept the vouchers to do reduced-cost spay and neuter.

“There was a shift a couple years ago, and the local vets seemed to have more and more demand for regular veterinary services, and they were having a harder time accommodating all of the vouchers,” Mackler said.

“Being without has really demonstrated the need, and it’s extremely frustrating we can’t just snap our fingers and get back in the groove immediately, but we are doing the best we can until we get another veterinarian.”

In addition to providing services for private pet owners, SNYP serves local shelters, including the Jackson County Animal Shelter and a slew of rescue groups that work to reduce and sterilize feral cat colonies.

SNYP offers sterilization surgeries beginning at $45 for cats and $80 for dogs. Sterilization at private veterinary clinics can cost two to three times as much, with some clinics charging between $150 and $300 for some spay services.

Barbara Talbert, Jackson County Animal Shelter manager, said the SNYP clinic is one of three local options for spaying and neutering of adoptable cats and dogs housed at the county shelter.

“It’s a vital service, and to not have it is problematic,” Talbert said. “People are having to be put on hold for adoption and surrendering because (SNYP is) not able to make any appointments. Instead of working with three vets, we’re now working with two, so we’re having some animals having to wait longer to get to go to their forever homes.”

Talbert estimates the SNYP clinic was doing 10 to 12 spay and neuter surgeries per week for the county shelter.

“We work with three different veterinarians. We work out a price that vets are willing to accept from us because it’s what we can pay. We adopt out probably about 1,500 animals a year, and around 1,200 of them have to be spayed and neutered. When we lose a vet like we just did, it means the animals have to stay in the shelters for longer.”

Donna Jones, a Medford women who founded Oldies But Goodies Senior Rescue, said the loss of SNYP’s vet was felt immediately by local rescue volunteers. Jones said she has seven mixed-breed puppies whose adoptions are on hold pending spaying or neutering. The delay prevents her from taking in other animals because the puppies can’t be adopted yet.

“There is an extreme lack of resources in our community, the need is just so great. I don’t think people really understand how much is being done behind the scenes and how much it impacts people when we’re unable to get spaying and neutering done,” said Jones.

“I’ve been extremely reliant on SNYP, because I can’t afford the $300 that my vet charges for a spay. When I’m pulling dogs from shelters, I already have the shelter fees and foster costs for people to hold the animal until we can transport. And transport costs money, too.”

Jones said rescue efforts would be nearly impossible without discounted services such as those provided through SNYP. In addition to spaying and neutering, the clinic provides a host of services, including vaccines, micro-chipping and flea treatment.

“You don’t recoup what you put into an animal with adoption fees, which is why all the rescue people spend more than they bring in with adoption fees,” Jones said. “There are a lot of costs involved, so I absolutely have to be able to do low-cost spay and neutering.”

Mackler said the region would do well to come together to identify additional solutions for pet overpopulation.

“That’s always been our goal, to prevent as many unwanted litters as we can and to educate the community to look at the overpopulation solution as prevention. It’s been our mission for 20 years as the best way to minimize suffering and horrible heartbreak,” she said.

“If you do the math, it’s really mind-boggling. One female and her offspring will, conservatively, produce 20 cats in a year. Half her offspring will be girls, and you figure that number, the next season, times 10 to 15.”

“It just feels like a weight sometimes,” Mackler added. “The demand is so huge, and it’s hard to get your arms around that. At this rate, without delays, we could spay and neuter seven days per week and still not feel like we were getting a handle on the situation.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

cute yellow labrador dog from shelter posing outside in sunny park, adoption concept