The Community Spay-Neuter Clinic, based in Freeport, has received an anonymous grant to help low income families with dogs get those pets fixed. The funder has an interest in reducing the euthanasia rate, particularly of large dogs, but help is offered for dogs of all sizes, said clinic director Dr. Elizabeth Stone, DMV. The clinic provides assistance on a case by case basis, said Stone, and anyone who thinks they may qualify can call the clinic for more information.
While this particular grant is for dogs only, the clinic also offers assistance for the spaying and neutering of cats. Stone said they get many funding opportunities to help people with cats, but not as many for dogs. “I was really happy to get some money to help people get their dogs done,” she said. While there is a feeling in Maine that there is not a dog overpopulation problem, Stone said many shelters and rescue programs bring in dogs from the south, where there is a much larger issue. At the clinic, they are looking at it as a big picture problem, she said. And in Maine there is often an issue finding larger dogs homes. The clinic has another fund that is specifically for pit bull owners, since that breed is even more vulnerable.
Stone said there are some misconceptions around spaying and neutering. One is that doing it early is harmful to the pet. She said that in reality, early is good – they recommend it as early as 12 weeks of age. “There is no reason to let a dog go through its first heat. Neutering an animal early helps prevent behavioral problems as well as health problems, and clearly makes for a better pet,” she said.
Another thing she hears, particularly from cat owners, is that they want their pet to have one litter and then they will have the pet fixed. “There’s a misconception that if they can find homes for those puppies or kittens that that’s fine, but actually that just takes homes away from animals that are in shelters already,” said Stone.
Stone adds that she encourages people to keep their cats indoors, partly to help with the overpopulation problem – an unfixed cat contributes to the feral cat population – but she also believes staying indoors is healthier for the cats as well.
Part of the new grant includes doing educational programs. Stone or volunteers from the clinic are able to speak to groups, such as classrooms, about pet care and the importance of spaying and neutering.
The Community Spay-Neuter Clinic has been open for three years, and has spayed and neutered 11,000 animals in that time. Spay and neuter is all the clinic does. It is a Humane Alliance Clinic, meaning it is part of a national network which has 125 similar clinics across the country. This alliance provides human resources and medical training resources for people who do spay/neuter. It’s a growing network of people who believe that veterinary medicine needs to participate in these efforts to control dog and cat populations and keep animals out of shelters to begin with, said Stone.
The clinic covers pets anywhere in the state, and offers van transport to some areas on a regular basis – including Rockland, Waterville and South Paris. They work with shelters that help organize transport of public animals as well. Typically, said Stone, they provide transport for places more than an hour away. But if people are closer, and the cost of gas is still prohibitive, they will work with them, she said.
The Community Spay-Neuter Clinic is supported by a nonprofit organization, the Center for Wildlife Health Research, which relies on grants and donations. Anyone who wishes to donate, or wants more information about spaying/neutering their pet can call the clinic for more information. People can connect with the clinic by calling with an email address to receive their newsletter or liking them on Facebook. The clinic is open Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, and is by appointment only.