Monongalia County can eliminate animal euthanisia through education and an aggressive spay and neuter program.
That is the mission the Mountaineer Spay Neuter Assistance Program has pursued for more than a decade.
“We had to eliminate the indiscriminate breeding of animals that had no chance of finding a forever home,” said Nancy Young, founding M-SNAP member and treasurer.
In partnership with 12 area vets, M-SNAP provides vouchers to Monongalia County residents in need of financial assistance to spay or neuter their pets. The first voucher was mailed in October 2008, and 13,368 vouchers have been issued since.
The volunteer-run organization was the first nonprofit to manage a spay and neuter program in the area. Young anticipates close to 1,000 surgeries were completed in 2020, meaning the program has fixed more than 10,500 pets to date.
Vouchers are issued for owned dogs and cats, as well as stray and feral community cats. The program manages animal populations through vouchers, and does not rescue, transport, provide shelter or adopt animals.
Ben Mihalko, practicing manager at Point Marion Veterinary Clinic, said spaying and neutering is an elective procedure that often gets put off by pet owners. Through M-SNAP, Mihalko said the financial barriers of the surgeries are alleviated, allowing more people to take advantage of it.
This type of procedure does not only prevent overpopulation by restricting reproduction. Mihalko said it also reduces the risks of cancer and infections in pets, and can reduce aggression.
“We have a lot of low- and fixed-income individuals in the area who typically wouldn’t be able to afford elective [pet] surgeries,” Mihalko said.
AVS Vet Express also partners with the M-SNAP program. Amber Handlin, a vet tech at AVS, said programs like M-SNAP are vital in helping reduce overpopulation in the area.
“All of the organizations that help those who cannot afford the high cost of some spays or neuters around the area help lower euthanasias,” Handlin said.
Surrendered or stray pets in this county are typically taken to the Monongalia County Canine Adoption Center. This center is an open-access shelter, meaning it has to accept every animal relinquished by a county resident.
Due to overpopulation, the center is often forced to make the difficult decision to euthanize pets.
When M-SNAP first started in 2008, overpopulation led the center to euthanize over 1,300 animals. Those numbers have slowly decreased over the years, with 398 animals euthanized in 2020.
“Year after year, progress is being made, but we need to find a solution to the cat population,” Young said, adding, “319 of 398 deaths at [the center] were cats – unacceptable for M-SNAP.”
Voucher recipients and supporters can also join the Kroger Plus Card and Amazon Smile rewards program, which rewards M-SNAP every time a purchase is made.
Young said funding for M-SNAP comes from grants, public support in the form of donations, special events, auctions and the ReTails thrift shop in Morgantown Mall. COVID-19 has limited the organization’s fundraising and outreach abilities, but ReTails’ doors have remained open through following safety guidelines.
The voucher program has contributed more than $930,000 toward spaying and neutering pets in the area. The Peterman Foundation has also been one of the program’s largest contributors, and has donated more than $400,000 in grant funding since 2011.
“That represents thousands of fundraising hours for a small nonprofit like M-SNAP and we are so appreciative,” Young said.
Young said one of the most important things to keep the program up and running are volunteers, and M-SNAP is always looking for new people to get involved. Anyone interested in volunteering with the organization can call ReTails at 304-983-8899 or M-SNAP at 304-985-0123, or reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.