Financial help available at SMAS to spay/neuter pets

Angie Holland/The HeraldApplications for spay and neuter assistance are available at Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter.

OSKALOOSA — Bob Barker, of 'The Price is Right' fame, always urged his viewers to spay or neuter their pets.

Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter Animal Control Officer Terry Gott said the main reason people don't spay or neuter is due to the expense of the procedure.

A program is available at Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter to help defray part of the costs for people who meet financial requirements.

Gott said the Spray the County certificate is good for 30 days after applicants are approved.

"When you come out, you have to fill out an application to get it," he said, "and you have to bring in proof of your income for the last 30 days and something with your name and address on it to prove that you do live in Mahaska County."

There are income guidelines the animal shelter staff have to follow to determine eligibility.

"We have a chart that we use when they give us their pay for the last 30 days," Gott said. "We look at that and then look at the chart to see if they're eligible for it."

Participating veterinarians in the area are Animal Health Center of both Oskaloosa and Knoxville, Mahaska Veterinary Clinic, Pella Pets Veterinary Clinic, Garver's Animal Health Center, Inc. of Albia, Animal Clinic-Southside in Ottumwa and Oskaloosa Small Animal Veterinary Clinic.

The certificate is good for either $40-$50 off the cost of the spay or neuter surgery, depending on the clinic, and the owner is responsible for the remainder of the balance.

In addition to Mahaska County residency and income requirements, owners have to pay for pre- and postoperative treatment and for vaccinations.

Spaying and neutering pets is important, Gott said, to help with overpopulating animal shelters.

"That and it's good for disease control, too," he said. "Especially in cats, with the number of feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV)-positive cats that we've had this year.

Gott said the numbers have been extreme this year for FIV.

"More than the rest of the years that I've been here," he said. "I've been here for seven years."

Overpopulation is the reason for FIV, Gott said.

"There's so many stray cats running around. People get cats and they decide they don't want them or they get them and they just let them run around outside," he said. "It is transmittable through body fluids: Urine, saliva, feces."

Gott said Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter also has a trap neuter release program.

"The trap-neuter-release program, when we have the funding for it, what we do is we find a trouble spot in town and we talk to the people that have been feeding these cats," he said. "Because that's how it always goes, you get a big colony of cats, some little old lady feeding all the cats, they feel sorry for them. We talk to them about it. We do let them know that if we have the funding, we will do a trap-neuter-release."

The cats are trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and released where they were found.

Gott said there's no TNR going currently but there has been a TNR program in University Park. There used to be a huge problem with stray cats there.

"But we haven't had any calls about an extreme amount of cats running around out there, so we haven't done any trapping out there since February, I think it was," he said. "And the ones that we have been trapping out there here recently have all come back feline leukemia and FIV-positive, so they get euthanized right off the bat."

Alley Cat Allies provides grants for TNR programs, in addition to funding from the Mahaska County Humane Society. Gott said University Park is paying for their program through the city.

Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter is located at 1715 Pella Ave., Oskaloosa.

A garage sale fundraiser and bake sale for Stephen Memorial Animal Shelter will be held from 7:30 a.m.–3 p.m. on Saturday, June 29 at Southern Iowa Fairgrounds. All proceeds from the event go to the shelter to provide care for the animals.

Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at aholland@oskyherald.com and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie.