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Spay, neuter program tries to combat pet overpopulation
The Las Cruces Bulletin
When SNAP (Spay and Neuter Action Program) was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1998, its mission was primarily education and outreach. Three years later, it changed the “Awareness” to “Action” in its name and added issuing vouchers for the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats to its mission.
In 2001, SNAP helped subsidize 54 animal surgeries. In 2015, that number is expected to reach 1,400, said SNAP Co-Director Janice English. She said the program would like to be able to provide twice or even three times that number of vouchers to more fully address the issue of cat and dog overpopulation countywide.
SNAP works with 11 veterinary practices in the county to accomplish its mission, which reads “to prevent the suffering and death of dogs and cats due to overpopulation.”
The program “facilitates low-cost spay/neuters for pets coming from qualifying, low-income households in Doña Ana County,” according to snapnewmexico.org. The website notes that “90 percent of all pets relinquished to shelters are from low-income households. By reserving all assistance funding for only those qualifying as low income, the pet-keepers who most contribute to shelter overpopulation are the ones being assisted.”
SNAP is funded by donations from individuals and organizations, and has received grant funds from PetSmart, Best Friends and Union Pacific Railroad, as well as Doña Ana County. It currently receives no funding from the City of Las Cruces.
Fundraisers like the upcoming Pet Photos with Santa (10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 7 and 8, at the SNAP office) and the sixth annual Critter Christmas (7 to 10 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Las Cruces Convention Center) are also important funding sources.
English said co-pays from participating pet owners also “make a big difference.” The way the program works is, a person visits the SNAP office or applies online to see if he or she qualifies for SNAP services. If the person seeking services qualifies as low income, SNAP collects a co-payment and issues a voucher for spaying or neutering services that can be redeemed at one of the veterinary practices that participates with the program. The pet owner is responsible for making and keeping the vet appointment.
Once the surgery is completed, the voucher and an invoice for services come back to SNAP for processing. “This procedure also builds a rapport between these clients and the veterinary clinic that does the surgery,” English said. “Many of these pets have never seen a veterinarian previously.”
Dr. Elizabeth Carver of Mesquite Animal Vaccination Clinic provides pet immunizations for as low as $5 to $10 per pet with a SNAP voucher. Carver owns and operates a mobile vaccination clinic that provides services throughout the county.
SNAP works with clients, and sometimes does not require any co-pay at all if the individual or family is in extreme poverty, English said. It can also provide lower co-pays to people dealing with colonies of free-roaming cats.
SNAP staff also give information to pet owners about other services, including vaccinations, adoptions and other spay and neuter services for the pets of people who do not qualify for SNAP vouchers. SNAP can provide animal traps as part of the nationwide trap, neuter, return (TNR) program for free-roaming cats.
“We try to help everybody we can,” said SNAP Board Vice President and volunteer Suzanne Bramlett.
SNAP also coordinates monthly spaying and neutering clinics at its office. With the support of Dr. Amy Starr, owner of Paws N’ Hooves Mobile Vet Services in Anthony, N.M., SNAP conducts a clinic from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm. every third Saturday of the month for pet owners who find it difficult to make appointments with local clinics during the week.
Starr also conducts a monthly Big Kitty Fix spay/neuter clinic strictly for cats at the SNAP office. The Big Kitty Fix is a 501c3 established under the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico and a partner with the Las Cruces Coalition for Pets and People, English said.
SNAP also works with other local nonprofit animal welfare groups in the area, and supports the TNR program advocated by Doña Ana County and other governmental entities in the state and around the country.
“I think we have a really active animal advocacy community here,” said Bramlett, who has been a SNAP volunteer since 2006. That community, she said, includes not only organizations, but “a lot of concerned people who are not part of a group.”
English and fellow Co-Director Julie Miller are SNAP’s only paid employees. The program also has about 20 active volunteers, including Bramlett and Lynn Mulholland, who has been a volunteer for about 10 years. She works in the SNAP office every Tuesday and, like Bramlett and others, also volunteers during SNAP clinics and at fundraising events.
“Our volunteers are great,” English said, “but we could use twice as many.”
English said SNAP’s greatest need is “support from the community.” That includes volunteering and supporting SNAP’s fundraisers and making other donations, she said.
“It’s a great program,” English said. “It’s really beginning to take off because of everybody working together.”
The SNAP office is open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The office is located at 2405 W. Picacho Ave., Suite 103, directly across the street from the Peddlers Pavilion.
For more information, contact SNAP at 524-9265 or visit www.snapnewmexico. org or https://www.facebook.com/ events/745474778915421/.