Modesto, Calif. — Stanislaus County started work on a new animal shelter that will house California's first government-run
sterilization clinic, but not all veterinarians are supportive of the new endeavor.
"With county providing enforcement, humane societies and private citizens facilitating education and fund-raising for ultra
low-income families and un-owned cats, and local veterinarians providing service, we can reduce the unwanted population of
dogs and cats in our county without government funding," wrote Susan Enz of Village Oak Veterinary Hospital in Modesto, Calif.,
in a letter to county leaders.
Enz is involved with Project X, a non-taxpayer funded low-cost spay/neuter program that completed 2,000 sterilizations in
four months through participating private veterinary practices. The group is on target to sterilize 9,000 pets in its first
year, Enz says.
But the county's program should combine Project X's efforts with its own, according to a study conducted by California State
University that was reviewed by the Stanislaus County Board of Directors prior to approval of the new clinic. The study estimates
that the county's Department of Animal Services could perform 2,600 sterilizations per year, in addition to 700 by rescue
groups, at least 2,000 by Project X, 5,000 through one-time grants, and 3,000 through its own low-cost clinic, bringing the
total possible sterilizations in Stanislaus County to 13,300 per year. About 3,200 sterilizations per year would stabilize
the county's pet population and prevent an increase in unwanted pets, while about 9,200 sterilizations each year for five
years would "drastically reduce" the number of pets that may wind up at the county's animal shelter.
The county began talking about operating its own sterilization clinic as a result of a recommendation to reduce the number
of unwanted pets in its 2007 Animal Services Needs Assessment and Master Plan.
There is some concern from county leaders that local veterinarians would view the clinic as competition, so it will be set
up to perform sterilizations and related care only — no other well-care or treatment.
The contracted spay/neuter group running the clinic will have to perform at least 3,000 sterilizations in the first year of
its contract, and 4,020 in the second and third years. Prices will range from $30 to $120 for ultra-low and low-income pet
owners, and most feels also will include microchipping and core vaccines.
Cheryl Kirkbrite, an office manager at Veterinary Medical Associates in Modesto, near the planned clinic, says her practice
doesn't see the endeavor as competition.
"We want to see all of these animals altered. If we can help our patients, fine, but bottom line, we want to see all of these
animals altered," she said. "We need that out there."
The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) supports low-cost spay and neuter clinics in other areas and has no official
position on government-run sterilization clinics, says CVMA spokesman Phil Boerner.