In an effort to reduce high euthanasia rates at area animal shelters, the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby County is raising money for a mobile spay and neuter clinic capable of fast and efficient sterilization at little to no cost for the pet owner.
Approximately 17,000 animals are euthanized annually in Memphis and Shelby County, a number that Alexis Amorose, the executive director of the local Humane Society, hopes will decrease when the mobile clinic is up and running.
"By reducing the obstacles and the reasons why people don't spay and neuter their pets, the more inclined people will be to participate," Amorose said.
The mobile spay and neuter unit will primarily target low-income areas of the city, where obstacles such as lack of transportation and financial hardship prevent pet owners from sterilizing their animals. The cost of services is yet to be determined, but Amorose anticipates it will fall somewhere between $20 and $30.
While mobile sterilization units operate in other cities, this will be the first vehicle of its kind in Tennessee. After receiving a $150,000 start-up donation from Humane Society board member Allen Iskiwitz and his wife Kay, Amorose kicked off a fund-raising campaign for a mobile clinic.
The goal of $1 million will cover the purchase and maintenance of the unit, as well as all costs to operate the vehicle for five years. The mobile spay and neuter clinic will cost approximately $1,000 a day to run.
"You have to figure that a generator for the unit will be running all day. Then there are costs for the oxygen and the anesthesia gas," Amorose said. "We also have to pay the veterinarians, the assistants, the gas costs, and all other supplies."
Ideally, the mobile clinic will be at a given location for four days at a time, 10 hours a day. It would operate 40 weeks a year, performing around 5,000 sterilizations annually. Amorose said it's possible for an unsterilized dog to be responsible for 5,000 puppies in a five-year period, assuming that her puppies also remained unsterilized and have offspring of their own.
In July, the Humane Society rescued Lady, a Beale Street stray, and her nine puppies. Lady had escaped capture for months, but Humane Society volunteers noticed that she was often pregnant.
"Lady the Beale Street Dog had 30 puppies in a year, and we have no idea how many babies her babies produced," Amorose said. "If she kept up that pattern, she would have 150 dogs in a five-year period, and that's just one dog."
Kerry Sneed, the Humane Society's community outreach and humane education manager, said she sees the mobile spay and neuter clinic as a potential break for local taxpayers.
"It's tax dollars that euthanized those 17,000 animals last year," Sneed said. "It was tax dollars that helped pick them up, house them, and feed them for 72 hours while we were waiting on their owners to pick them up. Even if you're not all about animal welfare, you can certainly see the benefit for the taxpayer of having fewer animals on the street."