GNH Lumber-Outdoor Living-JUNE 2024

Soft Paws: Reducing feline overpopulation

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By Ronald Perez

For Capital Region Independent Media

This week we’re featuring David Hasselhop (all white), pictured with CGHS Adoption Counselor Legacy Rhodes, and Harrison Ford (black and white), pictured with Adoption Counselor Laura Isbell. Both of them are very sweet and love being petted and held! It’s not uncommon for us to house rabbits and pocket pets, come down anytime to see who’s available! Contributed photo

From the late 1990s into the beginning of the new millennium, cat overpopulation throughout the United States, including here in Columbia and Greene counties, had reached epidemic levels. Consequently, in some areas of the country, thousands of cats and kittens were being needlessly euthanized each year.

During this period, the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA (CGHS) had developed its policy of never euthanizing animals for space constraints; the rising number of unwanted cats thus increased pressure on our shelter.

It was vital that we develop an option to help combat the feline population explosion in our communities.

The Board of Directors of CGHS, led by Charlene Marchand, and our management team were determined to find a remedy for our area. The principle of Occam’s Razor — that the simplest answer or explanation is the often the best one — served as our solution springboard. We felt the most effective course would be for us to offer feline spaying/neutering to the community at a highly reduced rate.

We were aware that even though this would be substantive in its outcome, there was first the challenge of finding a surgeon who had the stamina, speed, skill and commitment to spay/neuter up to 40 cats in one session. Second would be the monumental task of creating and implementing a successful strategy that ensured the program would be affordable and sustainable going forward.

As luck would have it, Dr. Danielle Sand contacted us to offer her services as a mobile veterinarian. Although she had transportable equipment, we still needed operating and recovery rooms. The facility we were in at the time was built in the 1960s and had outlived its usefulness. The small, overcrowded building did not lend itself in any way as a surgical ward. We did have a mobile home on-site that we used for administrative offices and meetings. We discussed with Dr. Sand the possibility of reconfiguring it as a cat spay/neuter center.

After an inspection and some discussion, we concluded that we could convert the mobile home to meet our purposes. The kitchen was transformed into a surgery room and the living room into a recovery area. It wasn’t particularly attractive, but it was safe and it worked.

As soon as the trailer was ready for patients, we announced the new services. Our goal was to offer clients spay/neuter procedures, including vaccines, at the lowest price possible. Our focus was the single goal of stopping cat overpopulation.

The response from the public was overwhelming. At first, the clinic was open once per month, for about 30 cats per clinic. The number of requests grew so vigorously that we began holding clinics once per week.

Over the next 10 years, Dr. Sand spayed/neutered more than 13,000 cats in the mobile home surgery center. When our new shelter was built in 2014, a “real” operating room with better accommodations for both cats and staff were integral in its design.

All these years later, Dr. Sand, with her same good nature and steadfastness, is still spaying/neutering cats for our low-cost clinic.

According to the Pet Health Network, one female cat can produce about 100 kittens in her lifetime. If we apply that statistic to the cats altered at CGHS, it means that the potential for 1,300,000 kitten births were prevented due to the proficiency and dedication of Dr. Sand.

I don’t know of any other veterinarian in the United States who has had a bigger impact on cat overpopulation.

In 2022, Dr. Sand was presented with the Bilinski Award, the highest honor that CGHS bestows on a business, organization or person who demonstrates selflessness, passion and commitment to the well-being of all animals. Dr. Sand was a most worthy recipient!

Dr. Sand, on behalf of the entire Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA, our community and all animal lovers . . . THANK YOU!

Ronald Perez is president/CEO of the Columbia-Greene Humane Society/SPCA.

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