Orange County, Fla. – In an effort to help combat the pet overpopulation problem in the local community, Orange County Animal Services launched the “Spay It Forward” program late last year. Initially grant funded, the program provided spay and neuter vouchers for qualifying low-income pet owners. The program experienced high demand after launch and so far, a total of 525 vouchers have been issued, exhausting the available funds. But in order to continue to program, the shelter is now turning to the public for financial help.
“The sheer volume of abandoned and discarded animals coming into our shelter day after day signals a problem,” said Diane Summers, manager for Orange County Animal Services. “The remedy is accessibility for spay and neuter, to prevent pets from having unwanted litters of puppies and kittens and to help their owners obtain these essential veterinary services.”
Prices for a spay (female pets) and neuter (male pets) range from as low as $50 for cats at low-cost clinics up to several hundred dollars for large dogs at other clinics.
“A portion of our Orange County residents are already living paycheck to paycheck so while $50 or $100 is undoubtedly a reasonable price for the procedure, the price still puts it out of reach for many,” said Summers.
Of the pet owners surveyed after redeeming their voucher, 92% stated they would not have been able to obtain spay/neuter services for their pets without the assistance of the program.
Single mom Heather Olson, who redeemed a voucher for her kitten Mac, stated: “Our budget is not infinite, but we’ve always made room in it to take care of our two cats. A third was not something I felt like we could take on, but then we heard about an abandoned litter. The kittens were only five weeks old and in desperate need of homes. We couldn’t say no, but I was really stressed, wondering how I was going to pay for his microchipping, his neutering, his vaccines. Those costs add up so fast, and it wasn’t something we could afford at that point.”
Mac was neutered on January 12 at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. Heather continued, “We’re beyond relieved that he’s living such a safe, cozy, contented life now, and so grateful to the program that helped us provide that for him. This is really a wonderful service to be providing to the people and the pets of Orlando.”
Animal Services identifies low-income individuals as those who meet or are below the federal poverty level, receive Medicaid benefits or have an ACCESS EBT Card. Proof of low-income status must be presented to the participating clinic and verified for the voucher to be redeemed.
Animal Services accepted more than 12,000 homeless pets in the last fiscal year.
Animal Services has partnered with high-volume low-cost spay/neuter clinics at the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando, Snip It and Spay N Save for this program and hopes to continue it indefinitely.
“We know this community loves and supports animals and we’re turning to the public to ask for donations, in any amount, to continue and grow this program,” said Summers. “I’m proud of what we are accomplishing and anyone willing to donate should feel directly responsible for improving the lives of pets in need.”
Donations to Animal Services are placed in a Trust Fund that is utilized for special projects, such as the Spay It Forward program. Donations are accepted via cash, check and online through PayPal. More information on the Spay It Forward program can be found on Animal Services website.