By Janet McAfee
There was much fanfare on August 28, 2015, when a crowd gathered to greet a lovely brown Shepherd mix dog named Allie when she arrived for her appointment to be spayed. Allie’s celebrated arrival marked a milestone as she was the 2,000th animal sterilized by a local program called C.A.N which helps lower income East Valley pet owners. The beautiful dog gratefully accepted her gift basket of treats and toys while news anchor Bianca Rae and the KESQ crew chronicled the event.
Allie’s owner, Kent Miller, proudly showed off his 6-month old dog. Miller explained this rescue pup is his first family dog, “Allie is a wonderful companion for my teenagers. We were thrilled when our landlord finally approved us getting a dog. Getting her spayed is part of being a responsible owner, plus there are so many health benefits. We are grateful to this program for making it affordable.” Miller is pictured here with Allie and Kim Hardee, the director of this spay and neuter program.
It began when this local animal lover decided to take action to help them, and refused to take “No” for an answer. Kim Hardee was heartbroken every time she saw a homeless animal roaming in her community. Some of the stray cats and dogs were emaciated, some were injured, and others were dropped off by uncaring owners. Hardee put together resources that resulted in monthly “very low cost” spay and neuter clinics. She states, “We have all these unwanted animals, and everyone talks about the need for free or low cost spay and neutering to reduce their numbers. Our government alone can’t solve the problem. This is a community problem, and it’s up to us citizens to help these helpless animals and stop their suffering.”
In 2013, Hardee contacted the Animal Action League, a wonderful organization that operates a low cost spay and neuter mobile, and arranged for a free event at the Fantasy Springs Casino targeting Indio pet owners. Hardee called her fledgling effort C.A.N (Coachella Animal Network). The program made appointments to sterilize 50 cats and dogs. Everyone was amazed when over 500 people showed up with their animals, some traveling great distances and lining up before dawn. The program provided low cost vaccines for most of them, and spay/neuter rain checks were issued.
Hardee realized she tapped into an underserved community with so many animals in need. She began partnering with Loving All Animals, a Palm Desert based animal welfare organization which enabled her to raise additional funding to sponsor more clinics through their nonprofit 501 status. Hardee has organized over 20 spay/neuter clinics in the East Valley during the past 2 years. A generous bequest from Luke’s Legacy Foundation paid for the recent clinic housed at the ABC Recovery Center. The mayor of Indio presented Hardee with a plaque honoring her assistance to their community.
It costs approximately $2500 to operate an all-day Animal Action League clinic. It costs the taxpayers of California an average of $435 to capture, house, and euthanize one stray animal in a public shelter. Prevention is cost effective. C.A.N. also offers very low cost vaccinations, rabies shots, and microchipping. Some clinics include Zeuterin, a relatively new nonsurgical sterilization procedure for male dogs that leaves their testicles intact. Outreach is in Spanish and English.
Dog trainer, Valerie Masi with Best Paw Forward, volunteers her service at the clinics. Masi ensures that large numbers of unfamiliar dogs are well behaved as they arrive and are prepared for veterinary services. Masi points out, “The city of Indio alone pays over $1million a year for animal control and sheltering services that results in the euthanasia of many adoptable dogs and cats. Think how those funds could be better utilized towards spaying and neutering. Breeding needs to be controlled with stricter laws like they have in Germany. As a professional trainer, I’m seeing an increase in the number of aggressive and mentally defective dogs from the careless interbreeding done by back yard breeders.”
The Coachella Valley, like many other parts of our country, has a serious pet overpopulation problem. Stray unwanted animals battle hunger, heat, and disease, and some succumb to a slow, painful death in our desert. Our Riverside County shelter in Thousand Palms is overwhelmed, and many dogs and cats, whose only crime is being homeless, are euthanized. Only one in ten dogs born today is lucky enough to have a permanent home.
Most low income pet owners are willing to sterilize their companion animals, but find the cost prohibitive. Rates at private veterinary clinics vary. It can cost up to $700 to spay a large female dog and up to $500 to spay a female cat at a private veterinary hospital. For families struggling to buy groceries and pay rent, sterilizing their cats and dogs falls behind those priorities.
Kim Hardee is on a mission to help these families keep their animals. She explains, “Our low income folks are usually good pet owners, and often the pets they own they actually saved as strays. We want to help them by helping with vet costs, in particular spay and neutering. For $50, a dog leaves here spayed, microchipped and vaccinated, and we will work with them on the cost if needed.”
This “tail” is about one citizen making a difference, and the coming together of community organizations for the betterment of companion animals and their humans. You can donate to this endeavor at www.lovingallanimals.org and designate “C.A.N. Spay/Neuter” as the reason for your donation. Or mail a check payable to “Loving All Animals” at 73-550 Alessandro Drive, Palm Desert, CA 92260, and note C.A.N on your check. For more information, contact (760) 834-7000. The people operating this program clearly love animals, and the customer service is exemplary. “Yes we C.A.N.” end the suffering caused by pet overpopulation!