Inside a Free Spay and Neuter Clinic

Because I work with rescue animals every day, I am quite aware of spay and neuter programs like The Big Fix and Beat the Heat, and I applaud their efforts to reduce the animal overpopulation which results in around 4 million animals being destroyed each year. These programs offer low cost, or no cost, spaying and neutering on special “clinic” days. This morning I was able to volunteer in one of these major clinics. This one was hosted by the Dr. Carol Hood Memorial Animal Clinic in Newport Tennessee.

I was to show up at 7:00 AM, and I did so. Though it was barely light outside, there was already a table set up outside the front door, manned by volunteers, and a line of folks bringing their pets in to be “fixed”. My role was to help get the animals inside, weighed, and crated to await their surgery.

spay and neuter clinic catsThe shelter’s Director and staff had everything well organized and it seemed to go smoothly. I heard several of the other volunteers comment on how well organized this clinic was. Reservations had been taken ahead of time, crates and neckbands had been labeled with each pet and owner’s names, files had been set up with all the pertinent information. As patients arrived they were ticked off a master list, neck banded, weighed, and crated. Cats went into small crates in the hallway, spay and neuter - dogsdogs in larger crates in the laundry room. Files went into the medical room so they could start drawing up drugs by each animal’s weight.

spay and neuter - mobileIn addition to the shelter’s own medical staff: Dr. Gill Conklin DVM and vet tech Alicia Payne, working diligently in the shelter’s operating room, a mobile unit from Lowell Michigan run by Dr. Bruce Langlois arrived to help out.

spay and neuter - leaders
Dr. Bruce Langlois and Brandy Zmich Hensley

Dr. Langlois is owner and head veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Lowell, in Lowell Michigan. He works with Spay Neuter Express and the National Relief Network to provide care to animals in times of disaster and for clinics such as this. Dr. Carol Hood used to organize the large Remote Area Medical (RAM) clinics and Dr. Langlois always volunteered at those. Dr. Langlois became the head of Veterinary for RAM and designed that program. Rural Area Medical has since discontinued its veterinary program, but Dr. Langlois continues to do low cost surgeries all around the United States and sometimes in other countries. When he heard of Carol’s passing, he volunteered to do this in her memory.

Assisting Dr. Langlois was Chrystal Crino. Chrystal and her husband Rich are former volunteers and long-time friends of the Newport shelter. They came in from Kingsport, where Chrystal manages two veterinary practices and Rich works for Humane Society of United States (HSUS) in their Animal Rescue Team: which helps remove dogs from puppy mills and dog fighting rings.

Brandy Zmich Hensley is the Director of the Dr. Carol Hood Memorial Animal Shelter (formerly the Newport Animal Shelter). Brandy is a vet tech as well as an administrator and her tremendous love for animals is obvious.

spay and neuter - surgeryThis is the third mobile unit fielded by Dr. Langlois. The first wore out and was replaced with a larger, better unit. That was lost in a highway accident and this unit was built. It offers an efficient surgical room with two operating tables and easy access to all the equipment and supplies he might need.

spay and neuter - recoveryThe rest of the bus is a waiting and recovery area with equipment/supply storage racks opposite. Brandy and Alicia commented that they were envious of the space and equipment Dr. Langlois’ mobile unit offered. Adoption Coordinator, Jenifer Steele quipped that she was impressed by how well the air conditioning worked!

spay and neuter - breakfastThe Friends of the Animal Shelter provided breakfast and lunch for the volunteers, as well as coffee and sodas. We were well looked after! A variety of breakfast biscuits and coffee supplied breakfast. spay and neuter - lunchLunch would be a vegetarian Ratatouille made by Gloria Pritikin with a sausage and chicken red sauce that could be spooned over it to appease “the carnivores”, as Gloria laughingly calls us. Other members of the Friends group who provided home-made goodies were Pat Trautman and Annie Fontaine.

Once everything was set up, the surgeries began. The animals were given a pre-op sedative, volunteers carried each animal to an operating room for the surgery, then back to their crate afterward for recovery. The animals were monitored until they were awake and ready to be returned to their owners in the afternoon. For some, it was a long day: 10 or 11 hours for the shelter staff. But in the end fifty animals have been neutered or spayed in this one day clinic.

This procedure goes well beyond simple population control. The A.S.P.C.A. provides this list as the top 10 reasons to spay or neuter your pet.

  1. Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life.
    Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast cancer, which is fatal in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases.
  2. Neutering provides major health benefits for your male.
    Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age.
  3. Your spayed female won’t go into heat.
    While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!
  4. Your male dog won’t want to roam away from home.
    An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate! That includes digging his way under the fence and making like Houdini to escape from the house. And once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other males.
  5. Your neutered male will be much better behaved.
    Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs and cats may mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering.
  6. Spaying or neutering will NOT make your pet fat.
    Don’t use that old excuse! Lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to pack on the extra pounds—not neutering. Your pet will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor food intake.
  7. It is highly cost-effective.
    The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter surgery is a lot less than the cost of having and caring for a litter. It also beats the cost of treatment when your unneutered tom escapes and gets into fights with the neighborhood stray!
  8. Spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community.
    Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, damage the local fauna and frighten children. Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.
  9. Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth.
    Letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping is not a good lesson for your children—especially when so many unwanted animals end up in shelters. There are tons of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more responsible way.
  10. Spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation.
    Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays. These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.

This spay and neuter clinic was the first to be hosted at the Dr. Carol Hood Memorial Animal Shelter, but it went so well and was so successful we’re sure it will not be the last. For information about shelter activities, including these free spay and neuter clinics, check out the shelter’s Facebook page.


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