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  D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  February 2011

Spay and Neuter Program

Page: 2

"If we had the money and the volunteers, we could have doubled that number," Mary Jane Friedler says. She adds that in the first month after they started distributing flyers she received more than 200 phone calls.

snap3

Silver City Councilman Jamie Thomson and Mary Jane Friedler, secretary and founding board member of the Silver City SNAP group, discuss some of the issues of pet overpopulation.

The group is a 501(c)3, paying the balance of spaying and neutering costs for low-income people in Grant, Catron and Hidalgo counties who provide a small co-pay. It is one of approximately 25 groups in New Mexico that help people with lower incomes spay and neuter their pets, including a handful of groups that pay the entire cost.

Taking a more no-nonsense view of the pet overpopulation problem, Albuquerque requires all pet owners to "fix" their pets, providing assistance for low-income families, and exempting breeders. The law also requires all pets to be microchipped for easier identification. Los Angeles County, Dallas and Las Vegas have similar laws. Twenty-eight states, including New Mexico, require pets adopted from shelters to be sterilized.

Friedler says that while her group's fundraising efforts have been hit by the economic downturn, several local firms and organizations continue to provide assistance. "The Kiwanis Club of Silver City and the Town and Country Garden Club have been absolutely tremendous, along with several others," she says.

These supporters include Vicki's Eatery, Yankie Creek Coffee House, Sunrise Espresso, Hacienda Realty, Silver City Food Co-op, Alotta Gelato, Pet Food Annex, Spoiled Rotten Animal Health Spa and Toy Town.

She expects SNAP's future fundraising efforts to be more successful, but the biggest hurdle today for its continued operation is more volunteers.

"We're down to about five people, including myself, and we're all getting burnt-out," Friedler says. "We need some new blood, especially an experienced grant-writer, and some dedicated people who can just sit down and give us their time and ideas."



For a short-term answer, Jamie Thomson of the Town Council has been meeting with town and county officials to try to match the spay/neuter funds raised by SNAP, HALT and other local groups. For the longer-term and for the ordinance re-write he is working on, the basic premise is that spaying and neutering is a cost-effective investment.

As one example of this, a publication of the International City County Management Association says, "A City that impounds and euthanizes 4,000 animals in 2001, but does not promote spaying and neutering will probably still euthanize 4,000 animals in 2010. A City that institutes a subsidized spay/neuter program will likely euthanize significantly fewer animals in 2010 and save on a host of other animal-related costs as well."

The Association also says that cities that work closely with volunteer groups "transfer the costs from taxpayers to private individuals, and also yield revenue in the form on increased adoptions."

So just how much does it cost to kill an unwanted dog or cat?

Thomson says the only number he has been able to find that comprehensively covers the total cost of euthanizing an animal is about $170.

"We are willing to pay the full cost of $170 for killing peoples' animals, but we won't pay anything for preventing the killing of animals. That's crazy. We have to change that," Thomson says.

He adds that looking at the supply and demand of dogs and cats in Grant County, "the supply is so overwhelming, due to the biological potential of the animals, that the value of the animals is zero. The replacement cost is zero."

Thomson goes on, "So you have to figure out a reasonable way to lower that supply, or we'll always have this same problem. The very best way is ongoing spaying and neutering."

Concerning a short-term agreement with SNAP and the other groups, Thomson compares it to when the city or the county gets a federal grant with a 50% matching co-pay.

"We just jump on that, because it's like for every dollar we put out, we get three back," Thomson says. "So here's SNAP. They come up with $20,000 or $25,000 a year, and that doesn't include the legwork and the paperwork. That's $40,000 of work embedded in every $20,000.

"What I would like is for us to go to these groups and ask, 'What do you guys need? How can we remove some of your frustrations? What we have is capital, and what you have is your energy and your commitment to this important thing.' But the community is going to have to get on board," he says.

Friedler says she and the other members are committed to seeing SNAP continue.

"I just don't want to see it end, period," she says. "We've taken so much for granted with all these animals, allowed so much cruelty to go on. That has got to stop."



To become a member of SNAP in Silver City, or to get more information, call Mary Jane Friedler at (575) 534-1296. To make a donation, make checks payable to SNAP and send to PO Box 1958, Silver City, NM 88061. Except for the cost of the mailbox, all monies go for spay and neuter costs. Donations are tax-deductible.



Harry Williamson moved to Grant County almost two years ago after reporting and editing for newspapers in New York, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas. Feel free to contact him with comments and story ideas at editorharrydad5@gmail.com




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