LUMBERTON — Pet owners have two days to take advantage of the semiannual spay and neuter program held at six veterinary clinics in Robeson County.
The Spay/Neuter Improves Pet Program, or SNIP, offers discounted prices for sterilization of cats and dogs, which can cost as much as $150. The program, an effort by the Robeson County Veterinarians Association, began March 4 and ends on Saturday when the participating clinics close. Local vets say the program is essential to controlling the number of abandoned cats and dogs in the county, and that there are also health advantages for the pet.
Dr. Natalie Morris, a veterinarian at the Southeastern Veterinarian Hospital in Lumberton, said the response has been good.
“We’ve been doing a lot more surgeries,” Morris said. “With the program, we’re doing about 10 to 12 a day now.” Morris said that number is about twice the normal number of surgeries at her clinic.
“We’ve seen a lot more mature dogs that would not be spayed otherwise if the cost wasn’t reduced,” she said.
All animals that are scheduled to be spayed or neutered are given a brief physical examination to make sure that they are healthy enough for the surgery, according to Morris. However, the animal’s age is usually not a factor.
“If we come across something like a heart condition, we talk to their owners and address the options they would have,” she said. “If they have a heart problem, their risk increases, but age is not a disease. We just neutered a 16-year-old poodle.”
She said that pet owners are given thorough instructions on how to care for their pets post-surgery.
“It takes about 24 hours for the anaesthesia to wear off, and you want to keep them quiet and confined for their incisions to heal.” she said. “On bigger dogs, we have owners come back in 10 days for the staples to be removed.”
A standard neutering surgery takes about 10 to 15 minutes, while a spay procedure can last between 20 and 45 minutes, depending on the size of the animal, Morris said.
Dr. Kim Krivit, who runs the North Star Veterinary Clinic, said that the program benefits the county, which must round up and deal with stray animals, and also prevents unwanted pet pregnancies and large litters that will be a problem for pet owners.
As many as 5,000 animals have been euthanized in a single at the Robeson County Animal Shelter. However, stepped-up adoption efforts in recent years have reduced the number of animals that are being put down by almost half.
“Obviously from an Animal Control standpoint, until we decrease the number of animals that are unwanted, it’s going to be impossible to decrease the flow of animals into shelters,” said Bill Smith, director of the Robeson County Health Department, which oversees Animal Control and the shelter.
Dr. David Brooks of Pembroke Veterinary Hospital is a big advocate of SNIP, pushing efforts to publicize the program by speaking to local municipal boards..
“We’ve had tremendous responses from all the veterinarians,” Brooks said. “So far the numbers that we have done exceeds any from previous years.”
Brooks said that he hopes that there will be as many as 500 pets sterilized before the program ends on Saturday.
Brooks said that some vets might extend the program past Saturday if there is the demand.
To find out more about the program, call the participating veterinary clinics: North End Veterinary Clinic, 910-738-9368; North Star Veterinary Clinic, 910-858-2525; Southeastern Veterinary Clinic, 910-739-9411; Baird’s Animal Hospital, 910-739-4998; South Robeson Veterinary Hospital, 910-628-7178; and Pembroke Veterinary Hospital, 910-521-3431.
Smith welcomes the effort by the Robeson County Veterinarians Association.
“We work well with all the veterinarians in the county,” he said. “We appreciate Dr. Brooks, who’s kind of spearing all these enterprises, and the veterinarian community has been very involved with the health community for years.”