SPOT Clinic all about the numbers

PARKERSBURG – For Humane Society of Parkersburg Executive Director Michelle Earl, the animal shelter’s low cost spay and neuter facility – the SPOT Clinic – is all about the math. The number of homeless dogs and cats greatly outnumbers the people willing to care for them.

And with that discrepancy seemingly growing wider every day – and with many of these animals ending up at the animal shelter – Earl said reducing the pet population by spaying and neutering is the best option.

“Out goal (with the SPOT Clinic) is to try to reduce the overpopulation in our community and the number of homeless animals that end up in our shelter,” she said this week.

Long a dream of area Humane Society officials, the SPOT Clinic opened its doors in October 2013. Since that time, approximately 4,600 dogs and cats have been spayed or neutered at the facility.

These animals have come through the clinic’s doors in the morning only to leave later in the day with owners who know their pets will not be contributing to the massive overpopulation problem and the subsequent heartbreak it causes.

In addition to spaying and neutering, many other pets have been given rabies or other vaccinations, been tested for heartworms, feline leukemia, given flea treatments, or even had their toenails trimmed.

The procedures are provided Monday-Friday, and appointments are required. People can drop off their pets between 8-9 a.m., and pick them up between 4:30-6 p.m. the same day.

Earl said the clinic’s goal is to do 30 surgeries a day. Currently, it is averaging 27, while staffed by one veterinarian, Kevin Rowles, and four assistants.

Earl said many people believe that the clinic is only for Wood County residents or people adopting a pet from the shelter.

“That’s a misconception,” she said. “We want to be able to reach everyone.”

Animal rescue groups throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley, such as Save-a-Kitty, the Area Animal Rescue Foundation, in Meigs County, Ohio, and the Ritchie County Humane Society use the clinic for both spay and neutering services and vaccinations, Earl said.

Earl said that while it is the clinic’s ultimate goal to reduce the number of unwanted animals at the shelter, it won’t happen immediately.

“We hope to see a big impact (on population numbers), but we don’t expect to see a drop in the numbers taken in at the shelter until possibly two to four years,” she said.

This estimate is based on work done by the Humane Alliance, an Asheville, N.C., nonprofit organization that began as a high-volume, low-cost spay-neutering clinic and now mentors animal organizations across the country on its methods.

Unlike the animal shelter, which depends on its fundraisers for much of its day-to-day costs, the SPOT Clinic is “self-standing,” Earl said. “The services pay for the clinic’s expenses, so the fundraisers can go to the shelter’s needs,” she said.

“We have looked at the possibility of holding some type of fundraisers in the future that would give low-income residents who may not be able to afford even the current costs, the opportunity to have their pets spayed and neutered at no cost.”

The cost of spaying or neutering a cat is between $50-$55; for a dog, the fee is between $65-$80, depending on the dog’s weight.

The clinic gives those wishing to adopt a pet from the animal shelter an advantage.

Spaying, neutering and having the animal vaccinated are required before any adoption can be finalized and the pet taken home by its new owners. By operating the clinic at the shelter location, it gives people wanting to adopt a pet the ability to bring the animal home sooner.

“We really want to speed up the adoption process,” she said.

Earl, who became the shelter’s executive director in November 2013 when former director Maryann Hollis stepped down, said the clinic gives her the opportunity every day to see the positive impact being made on the pet overpopulation problem.

“I love my job,” she said. “Every day I get to come in and see the important work going on to help our community in lowering the pet overpopulation. It’s a great job. I can’t complain.”

To make an appointment or for information about services offered by the SPOT Clinic, call 304-917-4275 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.