Spay-Neuter-Now is on a mission to end animal suffering by helping to control overpopulation in the North Country of New York. In its 21 year history it has helped thousands of animals and their guardians.
It started with one woman and her dream to help animals in need.
From Dream to Reality…
As a girl, young Bea dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. While other girls played house or school, she played animal hospital. But for Bea, becoming a veterinarian was not to be. You see, in those days, veterinary colleges were all but closed to women. The few that were accepted were given an especially difficult time. So, at 17 years old, Bea gave up her dream, but held fast to her love of animals and her desire to make life better for them. Little did she know at the time that her dream was not to die, but would instead incubate and transform into a mission that would make an even bigger impact in her corner of the world.
Convinced there was a common denominator to the problems facing dogs and cats, Bea began her search for answers. She combed through information provided by the ASPCA and other groups (in the days before the world wide web made such fact finding easy), and came to the conclusion that overpopulation was the main issue. If she could find a way to curb population growth, then homelessness,disease, starvation, cruelty, shelter overcrowding and other causes of animal suffering would be reduced as a result.
In 1994, Beatrice Schermerhorn of Hammond, NY founded Spay-Neuter-Now. This grassroots organization is devoted to helping lower income individuals and military households finance spay/neuter for their pets and stray/feral cats, many of whom take up residence in North Country barns. Qualifying applicants were given vouchers to subsidize a portion of this medical service. This system worked well until spay/neuter through local clinics became too expensive.
Enter the Neuter Commuter
Undeterred from her mission, Bea decided to put Spay-Neuter-Now on wheels. Her decision was met with some resistance by those fearing it would take business away from local veterinarians, but that has not been the case. As staff veterinary technician Kevin Mace says,
“These are clients who aren’t coming otherwise.”
The cost makes it prohibitive for them, especially when they have more than one animal in need of spaying or neutering. Some are not willing or able to arrange this service through an animal hospital, but are willing to attend through SNN.
In 2004, SNN incorporated as a non-profit and took to the road in a used, retrofitted RV. Due to size constraints, it served cats only. In 2008, their new 27 foot custom built mobile surgical unit took to the road, making it possible for them to take dogs as well as cats.
The Neuter Commuter services St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties of rural Northern New York, an area of 6000 square miles. When a veterinarian and a location to host the clinic are available on a given date, and enough clients can be scheduled for that location, the team is ready to go.
SNN board member Denise Betterman and her family have hosted dozens of clinics at their farm. She opens her home to staff and volunteers and prepares lunch for them. She says,
“It’s my contribution to Spay-Neuter-Now…It’s something I believe in doing for the animals.”
The mobile unit is on the road from late April until early November when cold, inclement weather puts it into hibernation for the winter. Then the operation moves indoors. Their MASH style surgical suites have been hosted by a local church, humane society, and BOCES, where veterinary students get the opportunity for first hand learning experiences.
Dog and cat guardians come from the local army base and surrounding communities (even from Canada!) to take advantage of affordable SNN services. Some drive over an hour to get to a clinic.
For a flat fee of $70 for cats and $100-$160 for dogs (depending on weight), qualifying clients get a spay/neuter, a rabies and distemper vaccine, if needed, and a flea treatment. In addition, dogs are sent home with pain medication. The full cost of these services is estimated at $200-$500, which is more than many of these folks could afford, especially when bringing multiple animals. This fee is subsidized by funds raised by generous supporters, sponsors and those participating in fundraising events.
It is important to note that although qualifying clients receive a financial discount, they are not receiving discount services. Quite the opposite. SNN is dedicated to offering high quality care to all its clients. Surgeries are conducted by one of five veterinarians trained and experienced in high quality, high volume spay and neuter (HQHVSN) and animals are monitored and skillfully cared for from the time they arrive until they go home.
Surgeries are performed by a skilled veterinarian with the assistance of two licensed veterinary technicians. On the day I visited, Dr. Sandra Young was assisted by Jaylynn Boyce and Michael Schaff. They were responsible for pre- and post-surgical procedures and anesthesia. General manager Kevin Mace, LVT worked in the outdoor bay, where he was responsible for intake, monitoring animals before and after surgery, preparing take home meds, and communicating with guardians.
This busy team appreciates the assistance of volunteers. When I was there, I helped Kevin with intake and errands, and kept a watchful eye on recovery animals. Judy Tinker was in the surgical unit assisting with the monitoring of animals and cleaning the surgical instruments.
Behind the Scenes
When the Neuter Commuter isn’t in operation, there is a lot going on behind the scenes. After a clinic, Kevin drives the unit back to its home in Hammond where he restocks it for future surgeries. Dates for upcoming clinics are coordinated with available veterinarians and location hosts. Clinic dates are then advertised to the public. Once applications are processed and approved, clients are scheduled and briefed about how to ready their animals for surgery. An occasional clinic day may be scheduled to serve only one barn, as was the case of the stray cat colony that grew to 41 animals in need of spay/neuter.
In addition to preparing for clinics, members have funds to raise, fundraising events to organize, educational materials to disperse, board meetings to attend and newsletters to be written. Only with ongoing community support can SNN continue to meet the needs of the people they serve.
These efforts have paid off. Thanks to the dedication of the staff, volunteers, members, and a supportive community their mission is being fulfilled. Now in its 21st year, SNN has serviced over 16,000 animals in three NNY counties. Since the Neuter Commuter took to the roads over 1,000 animals a year, a large percentage of them cats, have been spayed or neutered and vaccinated.
How You Can Help
As you can imagine, offering this level of quality service to the community comes at a price. Keeping the Neuter Commuter on the road costs approximately $6,000 a year for insurance, gas and maintenance. Estimated total costs for treating 1300 animals a year is $139,000.
You can help SNN by making a donation at http://www.spayneuternow.org/.
Donations of needed supplies and items for fundraisers are also much appreciated. Local residents can support SNN by spreading the word, volunteering, and by opening your indoor or outdoor space to host a clinic.
Whether you live within the SNN zone or not, you can foster the spay/neuter efforts in your community by volunteering at local clinics and assisting with fundraising efforts.
Most of all, be part of the solution by spaying and neutering your pets.
Continue reading: A Day in the Life of the Spay-Neuter-Now Neuter Commuter