Senior Pet Fair 2009 by Amy
March 25, 2009, 8:19 pm
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , , ,

Lately, I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on the power of collaboration among different non-profits.  Collaborations between agencies with different missions and agendas can be challenging and time consuming, certainly; but when they work, it’s something like magic.  

The collaboration on my mind today is between EMANCIPE+, Meals on Wheels and More, Town Lake Animal Center, and Blue Dog Rescue.  The Senior Pet Fair is in its second year and has become one of my favorite projects of the year.  This week, our staff is hard at work making preparations for the event, which is coming up in a few weeks.  On Saturday, April 4th, specially trained volunteers will visit the homes of Meals on Wheels clients who have pets in need of spay/neuter or wellness care. Those pets will be transported to EMANCIPE+ for free veterinary services and to stock up on preventative medications for the year at no charge.

I think the “magic” of this collaboration is that the end result would be impossible to achieve by any of the organizations alone; and somehow, the outcome is fully satisfying to all four different organizations, but for completely different reasons.  For MOWAM, this project is important because it is an innovative way to improve the well-being and quality of life of their human clients who rely on pets for companionship and joy.  For EMANCIPE+, this project is an opportunity to prevent unwanted litters and keep high risk pets in their homes and out of shelters.  Blue Dog is excited about improving the quality of life of animals in need and TLAC is motivated by creating a more humane community for animals.  

With one project, on one Saturday afternoon, all of those things will happen, and that feels like magic to me.  Well, magic and a whole lot of hard work from some very dedicated people!




“Early” Spay/Neuter by Amy
March 17, 2009, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , , , ,

Years ago, veterinarians regularly advised pet owners to put off spay/neuter until their pet was at least six months old, or allow females to go through one “heat cycle,” or even have a litter first.  These views are pretty outdated these days, and “early” spay/neuter is now supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Animal Hospital Association.  At EMANCIPE+, we have encouraged early spay/neuter for years.  Our vets regularly sterilize kittens and puppies as young as three months old (provided they weigh at least three pounds) and have witnessed first hand the benefits of early sterilization.

Dr. Kimberly Bodner, our Interim Medical Director, recently shared with me her personal observations about spaying and neutering puppies and kittens under 5 months old.  She says, “the differences we observe with surgery recovery with our pediatric patients compared to adult dogs and cats are amazing.  The young patients wake up quicker and with much less discomfort.  They are ready to eat and go home in just a few hours!  This is likely due to the decreased time these animals are under anesthesia and the decreased bleeding and tissue manipulation involved in their very quick surgeries.”

Her experience and observation are backed up by over two decades of retrospective research.  Dr. Bodner explains it like this:  “Recent research has calmed the fears of those concerned about any immediate or future health risks of early spay/neuter.  For instance, we now know that there is no medical evidence to justify allowing a dog or cat to have a litter or even have one heat cycle before being spayed.  In fact, a female dog or cat has the best chances of good health if spayed well before her first heat; her risk of developing malignant breast cancer is almost eliminated, and her chances of developing ovarian cancer or fatal uterine infections is taken down to zero.  Males also have health benefits associated with early neutering, such as a decreased incidence of testicular cancer, prostate enlargement and cancer, and certain types of hernias.”

Two of my own dogs, Banjo and Angus, were spayed at nine weeks old by Dr. Williams at EMANCIPE+.  By the end of the day, they were up, alert, and ready to go on to more important things like finding where I hid the dirty laundry basket.  I guess with spay/neuter, as with so many things in life – sooner is better than later.

Outreach, Kansas City-Style by Amy
March 9, 2009, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , ,

Wolf enjoys his new toy

One of the many things I love about my job is getting to visit other spay/neuter clinics.  Talking about strategies to target the animals most in need is always energizing and inspiring.  This weekend, I traveled to Kansas City on a college tour, trying to help my little sister, who is a high school senior, determine where she will spend the next four years.  Happily, I was also able to squeeze in a visit to Spay Neuter Kansas City on one of their “Outreach Days.”

After a brief but thorough orientation, they put us into groups of four and we drove to one of Kansas City’s poorest neighborhoods.  We divided the neighborhood by streets and went door to door, offering free and reduced-cost spay/neuter, shots and other necessities like dog houses, collars and tie outs to replace the heavy chains and pad-locks worn by many of the dogs in the neighborhood.  Almost every person we talked to was incredibly grateful for our presence and the services provided by SNKC.

One gentleman we talked to called the surprise visit a “blessing” and agreed to spay and neuter his three pit bull puppies this week.  Another gentleman quickly agreed to have two of his dogs neutered and invited us into his backyard to show them off.  Two of the dogs were living on heavy chains, with padlocked chain collars, but he instantly agreed to switch them out when we offered a more humane alternative.  Despite the living conditions, it was clear to me that he cared about his dogs a great deal, and was eager for more information about how to make their lives better.

This experience was a powerful reminder to me that most pet owners love their pets very much, and sometimes, all they need is a little help and education to do the right thing for their pets.   It also highlighted for me how important it is to be proactive about reaching out to people whose pets are most at-risk for homelessness and euthanasia.  It is not always enough to make spay/neuter available for those who will seek it out.  Sometimes, we have to bring the services right to people’s doorsteps.

This SNKC staffer signs a pit up for s/n

The City of Austin has taken some early steps towards creating something like this in our own community.  For the last few weeks, Animal Control Officers and staff from Town Lake Animal Center have gone door to door in a low-income neighborhood in Austin offering free spay/neuter at EMANCIPE+ in addition to other services, like fencing assistance.  Many people have taken them up on the offer despite the fact that our mobile clinic regularly offers free surgery in this neighborhood.  In just a short time, we have spayed or neutered almost 30 dogs through this program, most of those pit bulls, which are one of our “target breeds.”

While this program is still in a pilot phase, I think it is a great start towards reaching out to those pet owners who are unlikely to ever seek out our free or low-cost spay/neuter program, and has the potential to improve the quality of life of dogs living in substandard conditions in Austin.  I would love to see this program grow and become a valuable part of our own strategy for reducing intake at our city shelter, and I would love to tell our friends at Spay Neuter Kansas City how they have inspired us to do more for the animals most in need in our community.

Kitten Season by Amy
March 4, 2009, 7:56 pm
Filed under: Executive Director | Tags: , , ,

Welcome to kitten season in Austin, Texas!  March, April and May are the months where we see the highest percentage of cat spay patients in heat – averaging about 44% each month.  So, along with our friends at Animal Trustees of Austin, we are offering a Spring Break special for free spay/neuter the week of March 16 – 21. And boy, are we excited!  Around EMANCIPE+, free cat weeks are a special thing!  Our staff loves them because a) there are no big, barking dogs to contend with, and b) they make us feel like we are really making a difference.

And we are making a difference!  This year we have really started to see the impact of our efforts: intake and euthanasia of cats are both way down at Town Lake Animal Center.  I believe this has a lot to do with high volume of low-cost and free spay/neuter in our community – at EMANCIPE+, Animal Trustees of Austin, and the successful Feral Fix program at the Austin Humane Society.  And I continue to be impressed with our leaders at the City of Austin who consistently invest in programs that are proven to reduce intake.  This Spring Break special is a great example of the City’s investment in reducing cat intake at TLAC.  They are funding the week of spay/neuter at both EMANCIPE+ and Animal Trustees of Austin.  The lucky cats who visit our clinics during the week of March 16 – 21 will each get a free sterilization, free rabies shot and microchip, and a free custom ID tag, thanks to the City of Austin.

If you want to make a difference for cats and kittens in Austin, here’s a few things you can do: