WOODLAND – It began with a desire to help the community meet the unmet needs of animals, a way for people and organizations to come together and work together to help those without a voice.
The Animal Welfare Council/Allegheny Spay and Neuter Clinic started in 2006 with a series of monthly meetings of volunteers talking with people, shelters, animal rescues, veterinarians, the dog law officer and more, to find out what kind of help they needed, what the most pressing problems for pets were and how could they be supported.
According to Nina Davis, who came into the group shortly after it was started, they wanted to coordinate groups so that they could help each other in the community to help animals.
One of the biggest problems facing the health of America’s pet population is overpopulation. For many people, however, this is easier said than done, as the cost gets in the way of the best intentions.
Unexpected and unwanted litters of puppies and kittens often lead to abandonment, feral cat populations and euthanasia. From the start, Davis says, affordable spay and neuter programs were the main focus of AWC.
Working with more than 20 shelters and rescue groups from Clarion to McAlisterville, the group has made low-cost spaying and neutering available. The region was considered a low socio-economic area, and while residents may want to do the right thing, they usually can’t, and the AWC’s first goal has been to change that.
“Overall, we’ve made an impact,” Davis said, noting that after their start in 2006 they were able to open their clinic in 2009 making high-quality and low-cost care available.
Of course, the all-volunteer board realized that the local pet population needs more than just spay and neuter services, and so the 501(c)(3) group has worked to add more, including vaccinations and dog licenses with a part-time veterinarian and office staff, now numbering 19.
The organization was originally located across from the former PennDOT building, but in 2012 was able to purchase the old state police barracks in Woodland, beside the post office, and with that has grown to include micro-chipping, flea treatment, nail trimming, grooming and, when needed, euthanasia, as well as basic veterinary service.
There is also a satellite office in Centre Hall and partnerships with Pets Come First and 100 Cat Foundation.
“We don’t have an x-ray or ultrasound,” Davis said, but added that if a pet is in need of more care than the clinic can provide, the AWC can refer the family to one of several veterinarians who work with the council.
The important thing is to keep all of this affordable so that anyone can ensure their pet can lead a long and happy, healthy life. Davis says it’s all about working together and establishing good relationships to help pet owners and their pets.
While spay/neuter is the main thing, AWC has several other missions to devote time to: pet education, a newsletter, pet food pantry and winter housing.
Davis said AWC knows that people have good intentions when it comes to adopting and or caring for animals, but they don’t always have all the information they need.
She says the council works hard to provide that information through speaking engagements, community events, printed information, one-on-one discussions, meeting with children’s groups, such as Scouts and 4-H and so on.
During the month of May, which is Be Kind to Animals month, the AWC sponsors a T-shirt design contest with area school districts. There are four age groups and the winners get to select the color of their T-shirt for their design, and each member of the family gets a shirt and extra shirts are printed for sale to the public.
Davis said this is a great opportunity because kids are more approachable and want to learn about how to care for their pets, and the theme sticks with them.
The pet food pantry, located at the AWC site, is a place where people who need a hand up can come and get food for their pets, as well as litter, treats and toys. Davis said they coordinate with local food banks to direct people to someplace they can get food for their pet.
She said these pets often end up in shelters because the family can’t feed them anymore. The pet food pantry also supplies food and assistance with feral cat colonies, helping those who care for them catch, neuter and release the animals to reduce the population.
“Taking on a pet can be an impulse,” Davis noted, and then they find out there was more to it than they planned. This is where education is important, she said, and one of the tools is the quarterly newsletter, which includes information on pet care, services, upcoming activities, information on the various shelters and rescues, and more. The most recent newsletter included information on ear mites in cats, winterization and skin allergies in animals.
The AWC also helps with winter housing for animals. Although it is best to bring animals inside during the winter, sometimes this isn’t possible. Students from Clearfield County Career & Technology Center build dog houses and the AWC helps people replace old ones or get a new one if needed as well as straw.
They also create outdoor cat houses made of a plastic tote with lid, lined with Styrofoam insulation, a hole cut in it so cats can come in and out, and straw. The council also supplies free straw to anyone who needs it. “We hope no animal is out there suffering,” Davis said.
Other projects include working to provide fire companies and ambulance crews with oxygen masks for animals, and they provide memorials for animals as well.
The AWC’s services, however, are not possible without support for the community. The council encourages people to get involved in its efforts.
According to Davis, one way is with memberships. For $10 a year, you get the newsletter, a discount card for local businesses and discounts on AWC services. Another way is to volunteer at events, such as the Doggone 5K walk/run at Curwensville Lake Recreation Area, the plant/yard sale each summer, the mystery dinner—where they also need donated door prizes—and other events.
“You can be as active as you want,” she said.
There is also a wish list available on the Web site, www.animal411.net. A few of the items include dog and cat food, litter, bleach, stamps, trash bags, paper towels, business-sized envelopes, dish detergent, dog shampoo and more.
Right now the AWC is in need of totes, gently-used dog houses, Styrofoam insulation and straw. And, as always, monetary donations are always welcome. Additionally, people are asked to spread the word through Facebook and let others know about the AWC.
Top 10 Reasons to spay or Neuter Your Pet:
- Females lead a longer, healthier life. Spaying prevents uterine and breast cancer and other diseases, including pyometra. Pyometra is a condition found mostly in female dogs where the uterus fills with pus. It can then affect other organs, especially the kidneys, and, if not treated, the pyometra can rupture, requiring intensive care and often death.
- In males, neutering can prevent prostate issues and testicular cancer.
- Females won’t go into heat. Felines can go into heat every three weeks during breeding season and yowl for males and urinate in the house.
- Your male dog won’t want to roam from home, looking for a female. Once away from home he risks fights with other animals, being hit by a car and other dangers.
- Males are better behaved when neutered. Both cats and dogs will focus more on their human families when neutered.
- Spaying and neutering your animal will not make them fat. You control the food and the exercise, and providing the right amount of both will keep your pet healthy and trim.
- It’s cost effective. Having your pet spayed or neutered saves the cost of a litter of puppies or kittens, as well as the veterinary care if they are injured while roaming.
- It’s good for the community. They won’t be roaming the streets, getting into fights, frightening children or causing destruction in the community.
- Your children do not need to see the miracle of birth from their pet. In fact, you are teaching them something negative by allowing your pet to have a litter if you can’t care for it and no one else wants the babies either. There are many other educational opportunities for your children to learn about birth.
- You’ll help fight pet overpopulation. According to PetMD: “Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays. These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.”