April 19, 2007 — A milestone was reached Thursday at the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center as Dr. Stacia Boswell neutered the 500th animal in the recently opened and refurbished operating room.
Gabby, a privately owned male cat, was "fixed" so he won't contribute to the overpopulation of animals on the island.
Since the beginning of this year, 876 animals have been taken in at the shelter. Carole Wells, development director, said, "The only way we can stop strays is to solve the problem of overpopulation. This can be controlled on an island with natural borders, with the surgeon we can accomplish this."
The shelter showed its appreciation by presenting Boswell with a cat clock designed by Jan Mitchell.
Boswell said, "My personal goal is to spay or neuter 1,000 animals, if we keep up this pace we will achieve that. I hope people will continue to bring in their pets while we have the half-off program running."
The goal for the shelter is to offer the sale price as long as the money is available.
Boswell said, "Working together with the support of the community and the staff at the shelter we are making the low-cost spay and neuter program an affordable option for everyone." The cost for neutering a male cat is $13 and a dog is $20, female cats are spayed for $18 and dogs are $25.
When the program is finished, residents will be able to get vouchers to use at a veterinarian of their choice for half off the procedure, which can be over $100.
Wells said, "We have had such an incredible response, we can't stop the sale. I want to retire when we have solved the overpopulation problem, and I'm ready to retire."
To raise money to continue the program and expand other programs, the shelter will host the Bartender's Olympics at Hotel on the Cay June 24. Also planed is a clambake at Elizabeth's at the Palms tentatively scheduled for July 1.
Other events, hosted by the shelter, are a pledge party and a flea market fashion show, which will be held in the fall.
Boswell said, " The program has been a team effort with the help of all the staff and especially surgery technician Anna Loizeaux, who has worked really long days and is incredibly energetic."
Loizeaux said, "I moved here just to help the animals."
The two women every Tuesday and Thursday perform the surgeries. Shelter-housed animals are spayed or neutered before being adopted. Boswell said, "It is very important to neuter the boys even though some men don't think it is right to do so. Boys can go out every night and reproduce, while girls will have at most two litters a year. Neutered animals are also healthier."
Feral cats are humanely trapped, tested for leukemia, vaccinated, fixed and then released into a managed colony. The cats have a notch taken out of their ear to show they have been spayed or neutered. Some of the feral cat colonies may be as large as 15 to 20 cats. The colony will eventually die off from old age without the cats reproducing.
According to Boswell, there are dogs born as strays back two generations that still haven't been socialized. Each year they continue to reproduce, creating a larger population of strays.
Boswell said, "The No. 1 message I want to get out is to stop pet overpopulation. I want to see less strays and less animals put to sleep. There are simply not enough homes for all of those unwanted dogs and cats. We are encouraging people to help us help the animals by spaying and neutering their four-legged family members."
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