Article and all photos taken by Jeania Ingle unless otherwise noted.
Feral cats, often the result of stray cats that have been lost or abandoned, are unable to be touched by humans and very rarely adapt to living with people or other animals. The Trap, Neuter, Release program is their best chance of survival. TNR stops the breeding cycle while letting them live out their lives in the wild.
Stop Pet Overpopulation Together (SPOT) offers low cost spaying and neutering services in an effort to stop the massive overpopulation of dogs and cats in Pinellas County. SPOT also offers discount vaccinations and gives out information on stray and feral animals as well as pet rescues. SPOT was founded in 2004 by Pamela Borres after adopting her shelter dog Leo. She later volunteered at the shelter and discovered the reason why there were so many unwanted animals. Pam and her husband, Jay Christianson, help to educate people about the importance of spaying and neutering, the lack of which is the number one cause of pet overpopulation. An estimated 80,000 cats and dogs are surrendered to local shelters every year, yet only 20,000 find homes. This leads to euthanizing tens of thousands of animals.
According to the SPOT website, pets who are spayed and neutered live 6 years longer, and the procedure can eliminate a condition in females called Pyometra. Pyometra is a fatal infection in the uterus as a result of a female being in heat. Pets can be spayed and neutered as soon as 4 months of age and can prevent cancers of the ovaries, mammary glands, testicles, and prostate. The feral cats that come in to be fixed are given general deworming and, for an extra $5, a rabies vaccination. They are also given mandatory ear tipping to identify that they’ve been fixed.
SPOT always needs volunteers for everything from helping out at the clinic to assisting their street team in getting the word out about their services and disseminating information. If you would like to be a volunteer, you can visit their website. If you need spay/neuter services or vaccinations, SPOT can be reached at 727-329-8657.
Another organization dedicated to helping reduce the population of homeless animals in Pinellas County is SPC’s own Veterinary Technology Center.
Glenda Hern, Lead Certified Veterinary Technician at SPC’s Veterinary Technology Center in Largo, gives a tour to a prospective student and her family. The center was established in August 2011 and works with the Pinellas County Animal Services shelter. Ignorance and under-education, Glenda says, contribute mostly to the pet overpopulation epidemic in Pinellas County. Resistance to and the cost of spaying and neutering and backyard breeding are the results.
All animals are up for adoption, receive spay or neuter surgery, vaccinations, heartworm prevention, flea control, and are micro-chipped. The shelter is overflowing with animals waiting for a forever home. An overwhelming majority are pit bulls, due to the bad reputation they’ve received in recent years. Home owners insurance companies won’t insure and some apartment complexes and deed restricted communities won’t allow the ownership of pit bulls or dogs who appear to be a mix, regardless of the disposition of the animal. Proving whether or not a dog is a true pit bull mix is next to impossible and some dogs are mislabeled due to lack of education. Those dogs may never get adopted and will stay in shelters or be euthanized. The center works very hard to educate the community by their outreach program and advocate for the animals to curb back yard breeding of pits. They will be entering more community events in the coming months. The two year vet tech program is ever growing.
Everybody helps out! The entire staff at the center, from the students to even the security officer has a hand is helping the animals where ever they can. From bringing them out of surgery, to walking, to hand-feeding, the staff at the Vet Tech center show their love, caring, and enthusiasm for all their animals. If you would like more information on the two-year Associate in Science degree program you can visit their website.