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World Spay Day focuses on stray animal population

ACS: City, non-profits subsidize thousands of spay-neuter services

SAN ANTONIO – The veterinary clinic at Animal Care Services seemed especially busy on World Spay Day, an annual campaign by the Humane Society International.  

As each dog or cat was taken off an operating table, others took their places. Yet it's also now a daily reality.

Lisa Norwood, ACS spokeswoman, said San Antonio can consider itself lucky.

"We have several low-cost spay-neuter clinics around the city," Norwood said. "Many other communities only have one."

She said most are operated by the city's community partners in its quest to someday have a no-kill animal shelter.

Norwood said the services are subsidized by the city and non-profits, targeting ZIP codes with high stray animal populations. 

"In 21 ZIP codes of San Antonio, you can get your dogs and cats spayed or neutered for free. It's like a cash giveaway."  said Arati Moses, spokeswoman for the Hailey Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to "advancing ideas to saving animals."

Norwood said space is limited so residents should call now to schedule a free spay-neuter surgery on a first-come, first-served basis.

Moses said the city's animal code mandates all outdoor cats be spayed or neutered, as well as a $50 permit that limits pet owners to one litter of puppies or kittens a year.

To sell them requires a registration fee of $250, Moses said, in an effort to discourage backyard breeders.

However, Moses said despite those regulations, many owners are still hesitant to have their pets sterilized.

Moses said, "Many people think that to get their animals spayed or neutered is sacrilegious."

She said if anything, their pet will be healthier and safer.

"It cuts down on cancers, cuts down on them being aggressive. They fight less, they bite less, they roam less, they breed less," Moses said.

Moses said as a result, an estimated 25,000 homeless pets died on San Antonio streets last year.

She said the challenge remains larger dogs, over 25 pounds, that continue to breed.

"The bully breeds often end up on the streets because they're the unwanted animals," Moses said. "There are not enough kennels to house them."

Norwood said adoptions and rescue groups have been successful, but spay-neuter remains at the heart of the city's efforts to reach no-kill status of 90 percent, a goal set in 2006.

"Didn't get there in 2012 like we were hoping," Norwood said. "In fact in 2011, we were still at a 32 percent live release-rate."

She said the live release-rate on Spay Day hit a record 85 percent thanks in large part to its community partners.

Norwood said unlike the national standard of 90 percent, "It's not just the healthy, treatable animals that come into the shelter. It's 85 percent of all the animals brought into the shelter."

Finally have a no-kill shelter will take pet owners doing their part, Norwood said.

"They are what is going to get us to no-kill," she said. "They are what's going to keep us at no-kill."

The following is a list of ZIP codes that offer free spay/neutering:

78201, 78202, 78203, 78204,  78207, 78210,  78211,  78212,  78213, 78214, 78218, 78220, 78221, 78222, 78223, 78225, 78228, 78242, 78250, 78227, 78237.