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De-Sex in the City Dedicated to Reducing Pet Overpopulation

Interview with Marleen Oetzel, runner-up in the 2010 Spay Day Pet Photo Contest

Julie Hauserman

  • Marleen Oetzel with a now healthy and happy Barnaby. Katie Faulkner Photography

  • Barnaby. Katie Faulkner Photography

  • The three-legged rescued Boxer-hound, Barnaby. Katie Faulkner Photography

"She tried to spay and neuter every dog and cat she could Catch." That, Marleen Oetzel swears, is what she wants engraved on her headstone.

Three years ago, the high-energy Oetzel founded De-Sex in the City in Delaware, a nonprofit group that covers half the cost of spaying and neutering animals for the residents of Delaware.

“I love rescuing dogs; it’s who I am—but it’s like putting your finger in the dike,” she says. “I finally realized: As a true animal lover, I can save more lives by financing the spaying and neutering of other people’s animals along with rescuing as many as I can from high-kill shelters.”

"We’ve got to do more than just rescue dogs."

Several years ago, she was running her Lost and Found Dog Rescue No-Kill Adoption Center when she saw an e-mailed photograph that shook her deeply. It was of Connell, a neglected dog with kind eyes and a body that was skin and bones. He was supposed to weigh 70 pounds but only weighed 38.

“I sat back and gasped, and it came to me that we’ve got to do more than just rescue dogs. Connell made me realize that we have to get other people’s animals spayed and neutered so that they don’t end up starving on the streets or dying in shelters.”

Oetzel rescued Connell and found him a loving home. Then she started De-Sex in the City with a $700 donation from PetSmart stores. In three years, the group has financed low-cost spaying and neutering of 140 dogs and cats.

Making it happen

When someone calls the Stanton & Kent County SPCAs and asks ‘How much does it cost to spay or neuter?,’ sometimes they don’t book an appointment because they just can’t afford it.

“With the full cooperation of both shelters, if someone doesn’t book an appointment, the workers are trained to say, ‘There is a nonprofit group that can help you with a low cost spay/neuter. They will pick up half the cost of spay and neutering, as well as rabies and distemper shots and a microchip.’”

Oetzel also had postcards printed to educate pet owners about the impact of every litter they allow their pets to have and got animal control officers to pass them out in strategically targeted neighborhoods.

“We also implemented a "Spay Momma" program, which means we ask people to please let a female dog nurse and wean her pups before resorting to leaving her at a shelter because she is pregnant or had pups,” Oetzel said. “We will pay to have the Mom spayed if they will keep her and take the puppies through our "Spay Momma" program once they are weaned.”

Stand-out success

Oetzel is an amazing fundraiser who came in second in The Humane Society of the United States’ national 2010 Spay Day Photo contest—which had 32,000 entrants in total.

Through the photo contest, Oetzel reached out to supporters and raised a whopping $30,000 in donations with her picture of a three-legged rescued Boxer-hound named Barnaby. In 2009, she raised $11,000 with her picture of Jake, a shepherd mix who was saved from a life of abuse.

"Can you imagine how much less suffering there would be?"

Nationally, the Spay Day photo contest raised $527,000 to support the spay/neuter programs of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, Humane Society International, and nearly 300 local organizations around the globe.

Oetzel put her donations to work right away. De-Sex in the City provided free spay/neutering for 26 dogs and cats in the spring, provided 6 Havaheart traps and spayed an entire colony of feral cats in a local trailer park.

“My hope is that we can hopefully inspire other rescues like mine to realize how many more animals lives we can save by not allowing them to be born unwanted. What if each rescue across the country held a fundraiser to provide just one low-cost or no cost spay/neuter for a family in their town? Can you imagine how much less suffering there would be if that caught on?”

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