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How To Start A Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic or Program

///How To Start A Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic or Program
How To Start A Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Clinic or Program 2017-06-30T18:06:56+00:00

Are you interested in opening a spay and neuter clinic but don’t know where to start? Most of these essential items can be obtained at a reduced cost or free from hospitals or veterinarians buying new equipment. We suggest putting a person or group in charge of finding the needed materials. Another person or group can look for a place for the clinic, or check into the feasibility of a van.

Bringing these various elements together will vary, for each clinic has its own unique set of circumstances, location, clientele, and founding group. Contact SpayUSA for more information and details on other clinics already set up.

  • Surgery table and light
  • Cages/ carriers (for cats) and squeeze cage for anesthetizing feral cats
  • Water supply
  • Miscellaneous drugs including anesthesia*, analgesics, antibiotics, and vaccines
  • Refrigerator
  • Cleaning equipment
  • Clippers
  • Autoclave
  • Scale
  • Spay packs and pack storage area
  • Instrument trays and stand
  • Suture material
  • Drapes, gowns and gloves
  • Locking cabinet for drug storage
  • Animal emergency kit
  • *and/or gas anesthesia machine

You need a convenient location, a well-trained vet, and the following equipment: First, determine the need for a clinic, finding out through surveys how many cats/dogs you will plan to spay/neuter per day, how many days per week. Thirty to fifty surgeries per day is average for a clinic that does exclusively spay/neuter. From this information, you can begin to prepare a budget.

A program is often a nonprofit organization that enlists the help of local veterinarians to provide affordable/low-cost spay/neuter for the cats/dogs of people who cannot otherwise afford the service.

Some of these programs are local, and involve only one to five veterinarians. Other programs such as Pet Assistance Foundation of Southern California cover part of a state, and yet others cover an entire state – like the S.N.A.P. program in Maryland or the New Hampshire Spay and Altering Service. Some of these larger programs have 150 or more veterinarians on their lists.

A spay/neuter program is based on an agreement between a licensed veterinarian and an organization. The veterinarian charges an agreed-upon fee for clients in need who are referred to him or her.

A local not-for-profit group may form a program by finding a veterinarian, agreeing upon a set of fees (such as: male cat $__, female cat $__, cat in heat $__, etc.) and signing an agreement that includes the procedures for payment. We recommend direct payment to the vet at the time of service, be it the full agreed upon price or a co-pay predetermined by the group. Most local groups set up a phone line for their spay program, promote it locally, and raise subsidy money for helping the clients who cannot even afford the discount rate – for example, people who feed colonies of cats.

***One formula that has been successfully used in a number of places is to have the veterinarian reduce his/her fees for the one visit by a third, the client pays a third, and the local group contributes a third if the client is truly destitute or has many animals.***

Clinics are veterinary facilities where spay/neuter surgeries performed. Most of these are stationary. In recent years specialized high-volume clinics have evolved, in which highly efficient techniques are used, and a single vet and his/her assistants can perform 50 to 80 surgeries daily.

Model Programs targeting “low-income” – When funds are limited, organizations design programs that focus on persons of limited means and/or on some form of public assistance. Shelters are filled with litters of cats and dogs whose guardians cannot afford to spay/neuter them.

By making spay/neuter services affordable and accessible for these people, these programs make it possible for these people to have their pets altered, lowering shelter intakes and euthanasias.

Voucher Programs – Programs generally made up of a network of private veterinarians who have agreed to spay/neuter surgery rates for cats/dogs. Often the terms “voucher” and “certificate” are interchangeable provided that they bear monetary value. With these types of programs you pre-purchase a “voucher” or “certificate”, which is then presented to one of the participating veterinarians when you bring your cat/dog in for surgery. You have already pre-paid for the surgery.

“The general public does not understand the dire consequences of “just one litter.” They don’t understand how pets reproduce. If we neuter before adoption, their lack of understanding, procrastination, and financial priorities all become non-issues.

We know from studies that compliance with spay/neuter contracts and deposit systems is only 60%. We know that the contracts may not stand up in court. If only a small percentage of the pets we place for adoption go on to have”just one litter,” are we not, in fact, contributing to the very problems we’re working so desperately to solve?

Perhaps we should take the responsibility on ourselves, by seeing that no animal ever leaves our care before it is sterilized.”

– Tracy Land, DVM

As the name implies, statewide programs cover entire states, revolving around economy of scale – one set of guidelines, one phone number to promote, one set of materials for public education instead of dozens. The main focus of these state programs should be to help those people (low-income) who would otherwise not be able to get their dogs/cats altered, and who would contribute to the expensive and wasteful problem of companion animal overpopulation without the help provided by the state program. A good state program is/has:

  • Easy to use, easy to administer
  • Carefully crafted guidelines and procedures, rules and regulations
  • Well-constructed legislation to set up the program
  • Support of the state veterinary association – easier to obtain if s/n is targeted
  • A fund devoted exclusively to spay/neuter, no exceptions
  • Funding that is sufficient to complete a year at a time, planned for at least 5 years
  • A committed and dedicated Director or Coordinator for the program
  • An oversight committee to ensure the program’s difficulties are addressed promptly

For a copy of the legislation that set up the New Hampshire program, go to Laws and Legislation, listed in the Directory on the Home Page.

Peter Marsh, architect of the New Hampshire program, makes the following suggestions:

  • For people in large states, the idea of setting up a statewide program may seem overwhelming. If so, it may be wise to start with a city-wide or county wide program to work out the details.
  • To have any impact, the program must result in sterilizations that would not have happened without the program (“effective surgeries”)
  • To work effectively, a low-income program must be affordable to clients. This means that the maximum co-payment must be $10- $20. It must also be accessible to them. Often a network of veterinarians provides the greatest accessibility for low-income clients.
  • Generally it will require some form (or forms) of public funding to secure the adequate and annualized source of revenue that is needed for a neutering assistance program to be effective.

Before people take on the task of setting up a state program, we suggest they contact SpayUSA for useful advice, documentation from other states, and committed groups and individuals who may wish to help make it happen within the state.

A key tool in the war on overpopulation, the fixed site clinic focuses on providing spaying and neutering services at affordable or low-cost rates. Generally, these clinics do not provide other medical services. Their rates are kept low because they are able to efficiently and effectively spay or neuter in large numbers by using the latest techniques such as the small incision. For a definition of quick-spay techniques see Spay/Neuter Dictionary. There are several high volume clinics that do 80 to 100 spay/neuters per day, making a real dent in the number of unwanted litters in their region. Most of these clinics are located in areas with a human population of 250,000 and up.

Some affordable (mobile) spay programs are set up by veterinarians who want to be part of the solution to the problem of animal overpopulation, others are set up by private shelters, or by animal control programs that seek to address the pet surplus at its roots.

Mobile spay clinics can include customized vehicles or trucks, RV’s, vans or mobile homes retrofitted with surgery table and light, recovery cages, anesthesia machines and autoclaves. For an in-depth look at mobile clinics around the country and how they operate, please click here to download a free copy of “A Guidebook To Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics”.

Mobile clinics are spay/neuter facilities on wheels, and they are a valuable tool in the fight against pet overpopulation. They can bring spay/ neuter services to areas and people who have no veterinarian – there are many rural U.S. counties in the South and Midwest with no vets -or vets whose fees may not be affordable for low-income clients. Mobile clinics also provide accessibility for those people without transportation or with many animals to be altered, such as barn cats or large colonies.

Some affordable (mobile) spay programs are set up by veterinarians who want to be part of the solution to the problem of animal overpopulation, others are set up by private shelters, or by animal control programs that seek to address the pet surplus at its roots.

Mobile spay clinics can include customized vehicles or trucks, RV’s, vans or mobile homes retrofitted with surgery table and light, recovery cages, anesthesia machines and autoclaves. For an in-depth look at mobile clinics around the country and how they operate, please click here to download a free copy of “A Guidebook To Mobile Spay/Neuter Clinics”.

Transport vans:Vehicles that shuttle cats/dogs to a clinic to be spayed/neutered. These types of vehicles are specially equipped to transport animals (cats or dogs) to a spay/neuter clinic or facility for surgery. They are not equipped to perform surgery onboard; however, they play a pivotal role in making spay/neuter services accessible, especially in rural areas, or for people who do not drive, are elderly or infirm. These vans need to be air conditioned/heated for the animals’ safety and well-being.