The last Tuesday of every February is World Spay Day. To celebrate this day—and highlight the life-saving importance of spay/neuter services—we checked in with some of the ASPCA’s own Spay/Neuter Advocates who are on the ground every day making a difference in the lives of animals and their families.
On a recent, frigid January morning in East Harlem, ASPCA community advocates Selena Edwards and Arturo Arana visited Theresa J. to check on her eight-month-old pit bull, Coco, who had been spayed two weeks before.
Selena and Arturo first met Theresa and Coco last September. They offered a free ID tag for Coco, whom Theresa had adopted from a friend. Theresa considered letting Coco have “just one litter,” but decided to have her spayed after being encouraged by Selena and Arturo.
Coco is one of thousands of owned dogs and cats who live in high poverty areas with limited access to veterinary care and or other pet resources, and where pets are most at risk of neglect, cruelty, relinquishment to shelters, and euthanasia.
But with focused initiatives, the ASPCA is concentrating its attention on pets—like Coco—most at risk.
ASPCA CARES (Community, Advocacy, Resources, Enrichment, and Service) employs advocates who visit communities one city block at a time to ensure every resident or family on that block has the opportunity to take advantage of the ASPCA’s free and low-cost services.
Their dedication pays off. In 2014, the ASPCA provided 3,782 spay/neuter surgeries in New York and 3,359 in Los Angeles. These numbers comprise 16 percent of the ASPCA’s 2014 total of 42,584 spay/neuter surgeries, more than ever before in a single year in the organization’s 148-year history.*
Christopher Keith and Desire Menendez, community advocates who canvas the Claremont Village area of the Bronx, go door-to-door in the Morris Houses, a public housing complex comprising several blocks. Across the country, community advocate Elizabeth Gamboa knocks on doors in South L.A. Like her counterparts in NYC, Elizabeth offers free ID tags in addition to information on spay/neuter services, and the many benefits they provide
“Our community advocates engage residents in a very grassroots way—knocking on doors and introducing themselves,” says Jocelyn Kessler, Director of Operations for the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Operations team. “They build trust with residents to improve the quality of lives for both the animals and the people who care for them.”
ASPCA advocates Lisa DeLarios and Isadora Peraza-Martinez regularly visit neighborhoods in the Mott Haven section of the Bronx. “We meet a lot of pets that are related and that helps spread the word,” says Isadora. “In one building, all of the cats were from the same source—they were all ‘Bubbles’ babies,” said Lisa.
Lisa and Isadora convinced Bubbles’ owner to have her spayed, and even transported the black and white tuxedo cat to the ASPCA on January 14 for pre-surgery blood work. They are now targeting other cats and dogs in the building.
Margie O., a client in the Bronx, welcomes Chris and Desire each time they visit with home-made corn cakes. Although Margie has undergone two open-heart surgeries and is raising her five-year-old granddaughter, she made sure all of her dogs were altered with the ASPCA’s help.
As Chris says, “If that doesn’t motivate you, what does?”
*The ASPCA provided 16,602 surgeries to NYC residents within the targeted areas via its mobile spay/neuter clinics, which have been providing free and low-cost spay/neuter since 1997. Two stationary clinics in New York—at 92nd Street in Manhattan and in Glendale, Queens—serve the rescue community, ASPCA Adoption Center, Animal Care & Control of NYC, Community Intervention Advocacy (CIA) clients, and Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs—and have doubled their capacity, with 18,840 surgeries last year. The ASPCA also provided 225 grants totaling over $3.7 million dollars to other organizations nationwide for spay/neuter.
Could you imagine having to give up your beloved pet because you couldn't afford to spay or neuter it?
Sadly, in underserved communities in and around the greater Los Angeles area, the biggest obstacles to spaying and neutering pets—which is critical to preventing animal homelessness, suffering, and unnecessary euthanasia—come down primarily to issues of economics and geography.
These neighborhoods are often "resource deserts," where pet-friendly resources are difficult to find, hard to reach and often unaffordable. As a result, many families find themselves having to choose between paying for preventive pet care and paying the rent.
But if keeping animals alive, out of shelters, and in homes are top goals, then helping owners achieve them should be a top focus. That means putting our best efforts inside the communities that desperately need them, providing accessible and affordable resources, and engaging residents directly.
This is what Spay Day—tomorrow, February 24—is all about. But to be successful, we have to maintain this level of commitment every day.
Last year, with the help of our local partners in the animal rescue and sheltering community, we opened a spay/neuter clinic in South Los Angeles to significantly expand access to fully-subsidized spay/neuter surgery in the area. To date, we've performed more than 4,000 subsidized spay/neuter surgeries for pets at our facility in Chesterfield Square.
Meanwhile, our "safety net" program in partnership with Los Angeles County has arranged for over 700 spay/neuter surgeries for pets at risk of being relinquished to the Baldwin Park and Downey shelters, subsidized in part by funding from the Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation.
We've also distributed more than $1.3 million in grants to L.A.-based animal welfare organizations and partners including Downtown Dog Rescue, which holds regular spay/neuter events in Compton; and The Amanda Foundation, which rescues hard-to-adopt animals from L.A. City and County shelters and operates a "spaymobile" throughout the city.
Pet homelessness is a problem that calls out for compassionate and targeted solutions. With about 7.5 million companion animals entering shelters across the country each year, it's critical we focus on making preventive services accessible and available for families—including pets—who need them most.
Great news for Midwestern pets! The ASPCA announced the first grant recipients of our newly-launched Midwest Disaster Resiliency Program to provide much-needed funding, training and expertise to local communities to better serve and assist animals and pet parents during and after disasters.
Animals are often overlooked when it comes to disaster planning, and communities—especially those in areas like the Midwest, which experience higher rates of natural disasters—must be prepared to rescue, shelter, and provide emergency care for pets in the event of a crisis.
While the ASPCA Field and Investigations and Response (FIR) team frequently responds to natural disasters around the country, the Midwest Disaster Resiliency Program allows the ASPCA to work with communities, animal welfare organizations and government agencies in Midwestern states to better enhance their ability to respond to animals and pet guardians affected by emergencies.
Through the program, the ASPCA is providing more than $50,000 to the below groups for emergency response training, equipment and disaster preparedness:
Animal Rescue League Of Iowa (Des Moines, IA)
Beadle County Humane Society (Huron, SD)
Benton Animal Control and Adoption Center (Benton, AR)
Butler County Kansas Animal Response Team (Augusta, KS)
City of Sherwood Department of Humane Animal Services (Sherwood, AR)
City of St. Cloud, MN
Enid SPCA (Enid, OK)
Faulkner County Animal Response Team (Conway, AR)
Johnson County Animal Response Team (Lenexa, KS)
Kingman Pratt Area Animal Response Team (Cheney, KS)
Kansas SART, Inc. (Wichita, KS)
Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association and Veterinary Medical Reserve Corps (St. Paul, MN)
Nebraska Humane Society (Omaha, NE)
Springfield-Greene County Community Emergency Response Team (Springfield, MO)
Emergencies come in many forms and the best thing communities can do for their citizens and pets is to be prepared. The ASPCA is also working with PetSmart Charities, Inc. to provide animal welfare organizations across the country with the equipment and supplies necessary to respond to and care for an increased number of animals in large-scale emergencies.
We are so excited to help local communities keep more families and pets together during disasters.
Toefu was one of 76 dogs rescued from the home of a hoarder in Tennessee in 2010. The dogs were found living in horrific filth, with fumes of ammonia and animal waste strong enough to send one rescuer to the hospital. All of the dogs were desperate for freedom; Toefu was number 16.
After their rescue, the animals were taken to a local shelter where they were treated for a variety of issues. It was there that ASPCA Animal Behaviorist Kristen Collins first spotted Toefu. Likely inbred, Toefu had an underbite, extra toes, and had never before experienced life outside of the hoarder’s home. Kristin adopted her and spent the next year helping the sweet spaniel overcome a lifetime of anxiety, fear and neglect.
In 2013, Kristin and her dogs moved to Madison, New Jersey, where Kristin began overseeing the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center—the first and only facility dedicated to the behavioral rehabilitation of canine victims of cruelty. It was there that Toefu discovered her true calling: helper dog.
This past week, dog breeders and owners came together in New York City to celebrate their definition of “best dog” in several categories at the nation's most famous dog show. One of those categories, introduced in 2014, allows mixed-breed animals to compete amongst their pure-bred counterparts in an agility contest. This year, 15 mixed-breed dogs were among the 330 dogs competing in the agility category. It’s a small but important step in the right direction.
In that direction, all dogs are celebrated, regardless of their lineage, circumstances, condition, or residence. This also means committing time and energy to animals with the fewest advantages—not the most advantages— including millions of homeless dogs across the country in desperate situations.
We’ve been traveling this path for nearly 150 years, and now it has its own “competition”: Best in Shelter with Jill Rappaport, an NBC special airingon NBC owned television stations and NECN on February 21. The ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City is proudly participating, and three ASPCA-adopted dogs will be featured.
Created and hosted by journalist and animal advocate Jill Rappaport, Best in Shelter with Jill Rappaport documents her year-long search for remarkable shelter dog contestants, focusing on hard-to-adopt animals such as pit pulls, older animals and animals with disabilities. While the program ultimately declares “winners,” all of the selected animals find loving homes.
Several celebrities have signed up to lend a hand, including Betty White, Bernadette Peters, Bryant Gumbel, Lindsey Vonn and Emmylou Harris. But the big goal of this project—more so than crowning a champion—is spreading the idea that “best” dogs are everywhere…and they’re waiting for you at your local shelter.
Many of these animals came to shelters as the result of family changes such as death, illness, divorce or relocation. Some owners simply lost the financial means to care for their pets, while other owners abused them to such an extent that the animals had to be saved and seized by police.
Whatever their situation, these animals are innocent victims of human circumstance, and their rescue is in all of our hands. Let’s double our efforts to adopt animals in need and urge others to do the same.