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March 22, 2010

Helping Pets in the Gulf

How our spay/neuter initiative is saving lives in the Gulf Coast region

  • A boy and his dog at a recent spay/neuter clinic in the Gulf Coast. Amanda Arrington/The HSUS.

  • New spay/neuter clinics have opened or will be opening soon in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Monroe, and New Orleans, La. Amanda Arrington/The HSUS

by Amanda Arrington

One of the things that I love the most about my post as the manager of spay/neuter initiatives for The HSUS is my work with the amazing people in Louisiana and Mississippi. They work tirelessly to combat the shocking volumes of homeless animals entering shelters and low spay/neuter rates in the region.

Recently I visited the two states and met with leaders in the markets where our spay/neuter campaign is at work.

What we do in the Gulf

My role with The HSUS is to carry out our commitment in the Gulf to increase spay/neuter rates by addressing core issues in the region. We've been engaged in this effort for the past four years, having conducted groundbreaking research to develop a clearer understanding of why more pet owners aren't spaying and neutering pets and finding out what will compel them to do so, strengthening animal welfare groups' resources and reach, and working with these groups to increase available low-cost spay/neuter services throughout the region.

Not fighting a losing battle

More cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens arrive on a daily basis at the doorsteps of organizations and individuals working to help animals in Louisiana and Mississippi. These folks felt as if they were fighting a losing battle; they were operating in constant crisis mode, faced with ongoing life-death decisions, and were typically isolated in their area.

Thanks to support from The HSUS and others, these groups have more resources than ever before. They've been equipped with resources they didn’t know existed and have been enlightening and empowering with opportunities to network.

Helping St. Landry

St. Landry Parish Animal Control and Shelter in Opelousas, La., is doing its best in an old, crumbling concrete building, running on extremely low funding. Just four staff do everything from responding to cruelty calls to cleaning runs, yet they aspire to do more.

When a new clinic in neighboring Lafayette Parish opens this spring, The HSUS will help them implement a transport system so that St. Landry can provide low-cost spay/neuter services to the families in their parish for the first time ever. 

New clinics open

Representatives from the Southern Pines Animal Shelter of Hattiesburg, Miss., opened a high-volume spay/neuter clinic last year with support from The HSUS and others.

"We're excited to share that we've spayed/neutered nearly 3,000 pets in our first seven-and-a-half months," said Valerie Rachal, executive director of the clinic. "Our shelter intake rate also dropped this year for the first time in recorded history."

New clinics have opened or will be opening soon in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Monroe, and New Orleans, La., and a transport system based in Meridian, Miss., is reaching thousands of animals. From Tupelo Lee Humane Society in Tupelo, Miss., to Animal Angels Spay Neuter Alliance Clinic in Lake Charles, La., new clinics mean a big difference in the lives of thousands of dogs and cats. By the end of 2010 there will be approximately 40,000 to 50,000 more spay/neuter surgeries being performed annually. 

Find low-cost spay/neuter services near you »

How TV, radio help

Other clinics such as the Humane Society of Southern Mississippi Spay Neuter Clinic in Gulfport, Miss., Robinson's Rescue in Shreveport, La., and The Big Fix Clinic in Jackson, Miss., have been in operation for at least a year and are seeing a great response to the advertising campaign running in their media markets. 

The HSUS launches a year of television and print advertising with every new spay/neuter effort. The advertisements, developed after an in-depth research project we conducted over a two-year period, direct pet owners straight to the new local service. Watch the TV ads here »

The future in the Gulf

The landscape for companion animals in the Gulf is changing drastically. The HSUS will be tracking data from shelters in these two states to see how this massive increase in spay/neuter impacts intake numbers over time.

As Asunta Davis, executive director of Robinson's Rescue, says, "Hurricane Katrina shone a light not only on the poverty and suffering of the people of Louisiana, but also the plight of our animals. HSUS allocated resources, people, and dollars to make sure the light did not go out.  Together we begin a better day for animals in Louisiana."

Amanda Arrington is the manager of spay/neuter initiatives for the Companion Animals department of The HSUS.

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