By Janet McAfee

The crowd outside the special events center at the Fantasy Springs Casino steadily grew on Sunday morning, October 23.  This gathering was unlike the usual groups of concert goers and gamblers that frequent the casino. The humans in this group were accompanied by 4-legged companions of every breed and size, some of them happily prancing around, grateful for the morning car ride and seemingly unaware of the reason for their outing. 

The dogs in this group were about to be sterilized at CAN’s (Coachella Animal Network) clinic, utilizing Zeuterin, a non-surgical neutering procedure performed under only mild sedation.  In the summer of 2013, the Fantasy Springs Casino hosted and sponsored the organization’s first two day free spay and neuter clinic for the pet of low income Coachella Valley residents.  These events also include low cost vaccinations for pet owners who might not be able to afford this protection for their animals at a private vet.  Since that time, CAN has sponsored dozens of mobile clinics throughout our East Valley, and sterilized over 3500 dogs and cats. 

The wonderful partnership between CAN and the Fantasy Springs Casino is a model that hopefully other businesses will want to duplicate.  The Casino owners recognize that the Coachella Valley, like most of the country, has a serious pet overpopulation problem.  Stray animals battle hunger and disease.  Boxes of unwanted newborn animals are dumped in fields where they succumb to a slow and painful death. Our Riverside County public shelter is overwhelmed, and thousands of adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized yearly for lack of space.  The situation at most public open-admission shelters is heartbreaking for the animals and those who love them, to say nothing of the expense to taxpayers.  There are simply too many animals and not enough homes to adopt them.

If you haven’t already neutered or spayed your pet, here are some additional reasons why you should do so.  (1) Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life.  (2) Neutering your male animal brings him major health benefits.  (3) Your spayed female will no longer go into heat.  (4) Neutered males lose the urge to roam away from home.  (5)  Your neutered male has better behavior and is easier to train.  (6) Most dog bites are from unneutered males.  (7) Spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation, and reduces the number of animals killed in shelters. 

Thanks to CAN, the cost of spaying and neutering is no longer an excuse for pet owners to procrastinate.  The cost at a CAN clinic to spay and neuter a dog or cat of any size is only $25.  All the CAN clinics offer low cost vaccinations to protect your pet.  This is in contrast to the rates at private veterinary clinics where it can cost up to $700 to spay a very large female dog and up to $500 to spay a female cat.

Kim Hardee, Indio resident and animal advocate, is the driving force and director of CAN.  She is a “one woman” army, backed up by a team of volunteers, fighting to reduce the suffering and euthanasia of homeless animals.  She saw the tremendous need for a free or low cost spay and neuter clinic in our East Valley, and teamed up with the Animal Action League’s mobile clinic to make it happen.  Kim explains, “We have all these unwanted animals, and everyone was just talking about the need for more spaying and neutering.  Our government can’t solve the problem alone.  My heart breaks every time I see a stray animal, abandoned, and often emaciated.  I feel the community needs to take responsibility for these helpless animals.  We need more businesses and private citizens to join the fight and sponsor a clinic.” 

CAN’s next spay and neuter clinic is the weekend of November 11 and 12 at the ABC Recovery Center in Indio. You must call (760) 366-1100 for an appointment to spay or neuter your cat or dog.  Walk-ins are welcome at the low cost vaccination clinic operating from 10am to 3pm. 

It costs over $2,000 to do a one day clinic, and $2800 for a clinic including vaccines.  You can make a difference by donating to C.A.N on website Spaying one dog has the potential to prevent the birth of 67,000 puppies over a 6 year period!  Be a “dog angel” and donate to this very worthy cause.