PPAW ready to ‘Beat the Heat;’ Grant allows clinic to spay cats for $20 in February
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
People Promoting Animal Welfare in Greenback has received a grant from PetSmart Charities that will allow it to reduce the number of unwanted and homeless kittens in Blount County — a goal the spay and neuter clinic has had since it began in 1998.
That grant means PPAW can spay 200 female cats during the month of February at a cost to pet owners of only $20. Deborah Searfoss, a member of PPAW’s board of directors, said they are calling this “Beat the Heat.” If female cat owners will use this opportunity to spay them now in advance of their heat cycle that will prevent unwanted litters from being born this spring and potentially ending up in a shelter where they could be euthanized.
The Blount County Animal Center commonly refers to springtime as “kittens season” because that is when they receive the largest influx of unwanted litters that are difficult to adopt.
Getting their share
“PetSmart announced it was going to be opening up the grant process to clinics all across the country,” Searfoss explained. The Beat the Heat grant was included. We applied, and we got it. It’s a very important grant because there are still too many pets going into shelters and there are too few options for those kittens once they get there.”
Searfoss said dogs are adopted at a faster rate than cats and kittens. She said local shelters participate in rolling rescue programs that send puppies and adult dogs up north where spaying and neutering has greatly reduced the populations there. “Tennessee, luckily or unluckily, has lots of puppies to send up north so we are not seeing as many of them being euthanized. That’s not so for cats. That is not happening with them.”
Spaying and neutering is one of the most effective ways to reduce the homeless pet population, and it is safe for kittens as young as 10 weeks old, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Spaying a female cat before the first heat cycle is actually beneficial, rather than waiting until after one heat cycle has occurred.
“Female cats can have as many as three litters a year and kittens can breed as young as four months old,” Searfoss said. “Most people don’t want to see their cat get pregnant over and over again so hopefully our ‘Beat the Heat’ campaign will serve as a gentle reminder to cat owners to sterilize their cats before they go into heat and become pregnant this year.”
In the beginning
When PPAW began serving this community back in 1998, there was no one else doing anything about the animal overpopulation problem. PPAW has continued on, and there are others doing their part. Last year, PPAW reached a huge milestone — completing its 50,000th sterilization. That was almost a year ago.
The clinic is located in a building leased to them from the City of Greenback. It set up shop with an initial grant of $12,000 and additional funds raised through recycling bottles and other projects. Most of the animals coming in for surgery are from Blount County and also Loudon and Monroe. The normal fees charged are based on a sliding scale. Some pay almost nothing.
The $20 fee offered for female cats during February is even less than what PPAW normally charges. The special rate is available to all residents of Blount County. Those who want to take advantage of the February program must mention the “Beat the Heat” promotion when they schedule the appointment.
In addition to this grant, Searfoss said PPAW was awarded a second grant from PetSmart Charities that allows them to go out and trap feral cats, sterilize them and return them to the wild. Thanks to the grant, PPAW will be able to do that for 250 cats.
There is proof that PPAW’s goal of reducing the number of unwanted pets is being met. Searfoss said she did research that showed while the human population in Blount, Monroe and Loudon counties has increased, the shelter populations there have decreased.
“We are making progress,” Searfoss said. “We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.”