With shelters overflowing and pet overpopulation burgeoning as many struggling families find they can’t afford to “fix” their pets, the need for lower-cost alternatives is pressing, said animal-care experts.
Currently, FCC runs free monthly clinics where volunteer veterinarians and vet techs fix about 120 to 150 feral cats. The clinics rotate locations around San Diego County. Last spring, at the height of kitten season, FCC had a backlog of 700 sterilization requests from caretakers.
SNAP operates several spay/neuter clinics for dogs and cats weekly in San Diego County aboard their two mobile veterinary clinics — the “Neuter Scooters” — which can each perform 40 to 50 sterilizations daily.
In the past, FCC and SNAP ran twice-yearly Feral Cat Fixathons, where they altered about 250 to 300 cats. Recently, with the poor economy and overstretched volunteer vets and vet techs, the groups haven’t been able to recruit enough volunteers to schedule these events, according to San Diego FCC President Amber Millen.
A permanent, stationary facility can’t come too soon for both Millen and SNAP volunteer Executive Director Candy Schumann.
“If we’re able to open it, just from the perspective of feral cats, we would be able to do 50 cats a day,” Millin said. “We could do 1,000 cats a month instead of just 150 at our one-day clinic,” Millen says.
Schumann, who has worked in animal welfare for over 25 years and founded SNAP in 1991 to address pet overpopulation, said more than $100,000 has already been raised toward the goal of $2 million to build and support the clinic.
“What we want is a wellness clinic, a community veterinary resource for low-income people, rescues and feral cat caretakers,” Schumann said.
Schumann envisages offering a pet food bank for low-income families and seniors.
Among those welcoming a clinic are volunteer cat caretakers like Tanya, who asked that her last name not be used. Along with her sister, Tanya cares for a feral colony near their mother’s property. They began feeding them and soon found a pregnant cat. After finding homes for the kittens, the women spayed the mother and returned her.
They realized then that their work had just begun. Over the last year, using FCC’s monthly clinics, the women trapped, sterilized and released about 20 cats to the local colony, while also treating the cats’ medical problems.
“We want to get the situation under control,” Tanya said. “We’ve made a big impact. We have about another 20 to 25 cats to catch. We’re about 40 percent done.”
Schumann said she considers the need for a clinic urgent.
“I’ve never seen so many animals in shelters,” Schumann said. “A lot of them are there because people can’t afford vet care. So, if people could take care of the eye infection, broken leg, diagnostics and treatment at lower costs, they would be able to keep their pets.”
Once the groups raise the money and build a clinic, low-income residents will have a new resource to save their pets, Schumann said.
For more information, call SNAP at (619) 525-3047 or FCC at (619) 758-9194, or visit visit their websites at www.snap-sandiego.org or www.feralcat.com.