In the 1970s, the Peninsula Humane Society’s annual intake for stray and unwanted dogs and cats was an overwhelming 45,000. Many healthy pets were euthanized simply because there was no possible way to “adopt” ourselves out of that tragedy. Not enough people visited the shelter or even thought about adoption back then.
Last year, we took in around 9,000 dogs and cats. No way, you say. We have far more residents in the County now than we did in the 1970s and pets are more popular than ever before. Yes way. The downward trend began in the mid-1970s precisely when Peninsula Humane Society opened its low-cost spay/neuter clinic, began advocacy campaigns for adults and school visits to reach kids with our important messages about companion animal overpopulation.
Since that time, our vets have not stopped; they’ve been averaging about 25 surgeries every day. And, we do this for anywhere from $40 to $150, considerably less than what someone might pay at a for-profit veterinary practice. Yet, don’t confuse the low bill for lesser quality. Our vets are experts at spay and neuter surgeries.
By 2000, we hit a point where incoming strays and unwanted dogs and cats stopped trending. But, we didn’t, for a second, think this is all we could do. We had to reach different audiences and had to make the surgery even more appealing. This is about the time we took part in what was certainly the first (and possibly still the only!) live neuter surgery on radio. We were part of the zany Alice Radio morning show. Sure, the station poked fun, but it generated awareness. A few years later, we announced that all San Mateo County residents could get their Pit Bulls fixed at no cost; in fact, we paid them $10! We picked Pits because they were the most common incoming breed.
2005 was a watershed year for our spay/neuter work. Vanessa Getty joined our Board of Directors and asked what she could do to help. And, she wasn’t thinking about bringing in shopping bags filled with used tennis balls! She funded the purchase of a mobile spay/neuter clinic; then; she and her friends took care of all operational expenses for three years. This, essentially, removed previous hurdles for local residents. Now, we had an answer for the people who didn’t have transportation and couldn’t afford our low cost; we brought the service to them and made it free.
Since 2006, we’ve average about 1,000 surgeries per year on our surgery suite on wheels. This is in addition to the 6,000 or so performed at our on-site clinic. Currently, we’re visiting East Palo Alto, East Redwood City, South San Francisco (as of this week) and San Francisco. We make it incredibly easy. No appointment necessary and no strings attached except the little ones our vet uses to sew-up our patients. Owners return the same day to pick-up their pets and leave with our recovery instructions and a slightly woozy companion.
Next up, Chihuahuas. They’ve overtaken Pit Bulls as the most common incoming breed. We’ve done our best to make adoption simple – we’ve waived fees – but that’s tackling a symptom of the issue. We also need to get to the root of the issue of so many unwanted litters.