By Janet

The crowd swelled on August 28 and August 29 inside the special events center at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio. The people in line were accompanied by their 4-legged companions who happily wagged their tails. These Coachella Valley pet owners were on a mission to help their beloved dogs and cats, seeking low cost services to spay, neuter, vaccinate, and microchip them. It was an amazing sight to see 3 mobile spay units inside one of the Casino’s ballrooms, each staffed with a professional veterinary crew.

Kim Hardee, Indio resident and animal advocate, is the organizer behind this event. Her nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, Coachella Animal Network (CAN) has provided low cost services to sterilize 4800 animals since their inception in 2013. Kim explained her motivation, “My heart breaks every time I see a stray homeless animal. I believe the community needs to take responsibility for these helpless creatures. We have too many unwanted animals, and everyone was talking about the need for low cost spay and neutering. Our government can’t solve the problem alone.”

The Coachella Valley, like many communities in America, has a serious pet overpopulation problem. Stray animals battle heat, hunger and disease. Pets are found left in abandoned homes. Boxes of newborn puppies and kittens are dumped in fields, and while some are rescued others succumb to a slow painful death in the heat. Public shelters are overwhelmed, and some animals, whose only crime is being homeless, end up euthanized at public expense.


Rates vary, but it can cost up to $700 to spay a large female dog at the private local veterinary clinics. It can cost up to $500 to spay a female cat. Our low income residents, struggling to pay rent and feed their families, find it a challenge to keep their pets healthy and vaccinated, let alone spayed and neutered. The C.A.N clinic charges $25 to spay or neuter a cat or dog, and relies on businesses and individuals to donate in order to cover costs.

Did you know that 75% of the dog bites are from unneutered male dogs? Did you know that spaying and neutering your cat and dog improves their health and prevents certain cancers? The cost of dealing with stray animals without homes is prohibitive to tax payers when it costs an average of $425 to capture and house an animal in California’s public shelters.

Pictured here in front of the Riverside County’s mobile unit is Brownie, a male pit bull who was neutered at the previous clinic. His humans, Alicia and Cerevino Sanchez, brought him back for his vaccinations, and expressed their gratitude for this wonderful affordable program.

This event is unique as it brought together many animal welfare organizations and animal advocates in our region. Local organizations provided funding, volunteers, and other resources to the Coachella Animal Network to ensure the success of their clinic. They include The Humane Society of the Desert, Animal Samaritans, The Palm Springs Animal Shelter, Riverside County Department of Animal Services, Loving All Animals, Simi Valley Nonprofit Spay & Neuter Clinic, Animal Action League, SNIP, the City of Indio, Animal Hospital of Desert Hot Springs Animal, and of course the Coachella Animal Network. Miracles happen for the animals when our community works together for their benefit.

Peter Garcia provided interpreter services for Spanish speaking residents. Dog trainer Valerie Masi of Best Paws Forward monitored behavior issues, and her booth “Ask the Trainer” provided complimentary training advice. Lynne Lockwood from Loving All Animals gave out collars and leashes, and operated a machine to make metal Identification tags. Dickie’s Restaurant and the Real Italian Deli provided lunches to the hungry human crew.

Over 200 cats and dogs were spayed and neutered at this event. Hundreds more received vaccinations, microchips, and ID tags. Residents were assisted with having their citations for licensing infractions excused. Dogs were issued licenses in partnership with Riverside County Department of Animal Services.

It costs almost $3,000 for a one day clinic that includes vaccinations. Businesses and individuals can make tax deductible donations on the C.A.N. website, or mail a check payable to “Coachella Animal Network” to 72135 Woburn Court, Thousand Palms, CA 92276. Contact (760) 848-4284 for more information and dates of future spay & neuter clinics. Be a “dog angel” and support this worthy effort!