Government, News

State gives money to M-SNAP organization to help control pet population

By Tiffany Morgan, The Dominion Post

W. Va. — The overpopulation of cats is an issue in West Virginia, with an estimate of 123,000 stray and feral cats.

This year, a program to help control and reduce that number has been enacted in the state, and a  47 of the 55 counties have received the grant for their organizations to make a positive impact on the animal population. The grant is formally known as the WV Spay Neuter Assistance Program.

The Mountaineer Spay Neuter Assistance Program Inc. (M-SNAP) was just one of the seven  organizations in Monongalia County to receive grant money. The bill for the program passed in 2013, but funding for the program was not passed and enacted until last year.

In addition to Monongalia County, neighboring counties such as Preston and Marion  also received grant money for their organizations.

According to Nancy Young,  M-SNAP volunteer  and treasurer, M-SNAP’s mission is to serve as a  voucher program and provide education on the importance of taking care of animals and to “promote spay/neuter as the most viable solution to reducing pet overpopulation.”

“I think it’s wonderful that the state is recognizing this as a problem, and not just relying on these local individual pockets to try and fix the problem,” Young said. “I’m really excited that the state is getting involved and bringing attention.”

Young said the grant provides an opportunity to involve and assist smaller organizations struggling to obtain the proper resources for the spay/neuter procedure.

“I think the fact that there is help for the smaller groups who are struggling to get the resources, the community support and even access to clinics and vet services — that’s what’s important,” Young said.

M-SNAP started   10 years ago, handing out vouchers, and since then the numbers of euthanized animals in West Virginia have decreased by 80 percent —  from 1,379 animals to 577.

Theresa Bruner, board member of the Federation of Humane Organizations (FOHO) of West Virginia and on the animal advisory board for the West Virginia department of agriculture for the West Virginia Spay Neuter Fund, has played a huge role in making the grant possible by being a part of FOHO and sponsoring the bill.

According to Bruner, there are more 9,000 brands of pet foods that are registered to sell  in  West Virginia, and those brands pay a small fee to the state. The money is  “earmarked” by the Department of Agriculture for the grant. No taxpayer money is used.

FOHO has been around since 1994 with the  focus  on “improving animal welfare throughout West Virginia.”

Bruner said the number of animals taken to shelters has decreased, but the population still needs to be reduced, and that is  what the grant will help do by providing having funds to spay and neuter.

“Over the years, the number of animals going in shelters has decreased,” Bruner said. “Our hope is that we reduce that number greatly in the next eight to 10 years.”

An organization wanting to be part of the program are required to be a 501(c) 3 in West Virginia or a government shelter and must also use West Virginia vet clinics. In addition,  the money from the grant must be spent  in the state.

The funding for the program is not given upfront, according to Young, but she is hopeful that organizations are saving up to use the grant.

“The grant reimburses in arrears, which makes it a bit difficult for groups that don’t have a surplus of money in the bank,” Young said, “but hopefully they are saving money to take advantage of the 2019 cycle.”

Young said  M-SNAP has issued more than 600 vouchers over the course of a five months.

Bruner said another thing to fix is the lack of reports each organization provides. Although sending statistics is not required,  she hopes  the grant will change that as well,  making the organizations more accountable.

“My goal from FOHO is to help, with the grant program, provide statistics,” Bruner said. “Hopefully we will begin to collect more data over time about what’s going on in the state.”

Bruner, in 2013, the bill passed “overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.”

And, although the budget was cut from $900,000 to $400,000, she has been happy with how the program is working.

“It was very much of a bipartisan bill — I think that’s really something to be said,” Bruner said. “We ended up with half the money, but I’ve been very impressed with the way the Department of Agriculture has done this — they’ve really embraced it and they have some really excellent people working on it.”