Throughout the year, local animal rescues and shelters work to find families for the homeless dogs and cats in Monongalia County.
One of the best ways to reduce the number of animals in need is having pets spayed or neutered.
Several years ago, area residents Alyssa Shade and Carrie Curtis were working with local animal rescues and came to realize the closest high-volume spay and neuter clinics were over two hours from the Morgantown area.
“We were driving 40-50 cats a month down to Charleston and said, ‘this is a little crazy, why don’t we just have one here?’ Several years later, here we are,” Shade said.
Shade and Curtis worked together to open the area’s first low-cost, high-volume spay and neuter clinic, Spay Neuter Incentive Program of West Virginia (SNIP WV), on July 18, 2022.
The mission of SNIP WV is to reduce the number of feral and homeless cats and shelter animals as well as reduce euthanasia rates by offering low-cost and no-cost spay and neuter surgeries. Their services are offered to anyone in need, including the public, local rescues, voucher programs and county shelters.
Unlike private practice veterinary clinics that offer general checkups and annual health services like routine dental cleanings and diagnostic testing such as X-rays and blood tests, SNIP WV focuses only on spay/neuter surgeries and rabies vaccines, making it easier and faster to book an appointment.
Faster and cheaper services do not come at the expense of your pets’ comfort however, as the fully equipped clinic focuses on a calm environment for both dogs and cats and an area in the surgery room called “the beach” where those recovering from surgery are placed on comfortable heated blankets while coming out of anesthesia, Shade said.
Shade said the clinic also offers pediatric surgeries for younger, smaller animals. As long as they are healthy, surgeries can be done at 2 pounds or 2 months.
“They recover quicker when you get them fixed that small,” she said. Earlier surgery also reduces the chances of complications afterward, risk of reproductive cancers, problem behaviors and accidental pregnancies.
Moving into 2023, Shade said SNIP WV is hoping to focus more on trap-neuter-return (TNR) programs, which have been found to be the most effective way to address colonies of stray cats.
The clinic currently uses veterinarians who volunteer their time but is looking to hire a full-time vet. On average, the clinic performs around 30 surgeries a day, sometimes more.
“They say 85% of the kittens born each year are born to these colonies outside,” Shade said. “So that’s where the flood of cats coming into the shelters is coming from. TNR is so important and if we could encourage any more people to participate in that, I think we would really start seeing some differences in the pound numbers.”
Those who are participating in TNR and would like to use SNIP WV are asked to let them know you are trying to trap and make an effort to trap around days they have surgeries scheduled.
“We don’t officially do walk-in feral appointments, but we try to keep so much on the schedule open in case someone does trap a feral cat because that is a second problem – I caught a cat and now I have nowhere to take it, I don’t have an appointment,” Shade said.
Appointments can be made on the website snipwv.org or by calling the clinic. Due to the uncertainty of veterinarians’ schedules, appointments are made on a week-to-week basis. Shade encourages those interested in an appointment to follow the Facebook page for SNIP WV, for the weekly schedules.
Because several people have not shown up for scheduled appointments, if you do not have a voucher from a local program or rescue, a deposit will be required when booking an appointment.
Costs of surgery vary by weight for dogs, ranging from $87 to $137 for neuters and $110 to $144 for spays. Cat neuters cost $57 and cat spays are $75. These costs are at a discount to private practice services that can run upwards of $300.
SNIP WV works with several area rescues and programs like Mountaineer Spay Neuter Assistance Program (M-SNAP), Mon County Humane Society, Animal Friends of North Central West Virginia, Mountaineers 4 Mutts, Morgantown Stray & Feral Cat Rescue, Appalachian Peace Paws Rescue and Homeward Bound, that provide vouchers or assistance toward the cost of spay and neuter surgeries.
Many of these groups will be holding events throughout February in recognition of National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month and World Spay Day on Feb. 28. At these events, the public can find out more about the programs and how to obtain assistance with spay/neuter surgeries. More information on when events will be held should be available next week.
“We could not do any of this without the community support. We have been really overwhelmed with how much need for this clinic there was,” Shade said. “People have been sending supplies, we’ve had volunteers, it’s been really great to see everyone step up and help with the clinic.”
The SNIP WV clinic is at 1470 Earl L Core Road in the Sabraton area of Morgantown. To find out more on the clinic, the services it offers, or to donate or volunteer, visit snipwv.org or call 304-943-7460.