Every year, more than 1,000 cats and dogs are euthanized purely because the shelters have no place to put them.
According to the Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse (AAGS), an animal welfare agency that serves all of Central New York, the Syracuse area has a higher rate of euthanasia than any other area in Upstate New York. In the meantime, hundreds of homeless pets die on the streets.
“Our animal shelters are full. Our rescues are full. People who have to re-home their pets have no place to go,” said AAGS Vice President Donna Chambers. “Thousands of animals are ‘dumped’ on our streets each year, often to reproduce and add to the problem of homeless animals, while too many to count land in our animal shelters facing euthanasia.”
In an attempt to reduce those numbers, which Chambers called “unacceptable,” the AAGS is raising money to start a low-cost spay/neuter clinic to limit the number of animals on the streets.
“We want to reduce the numbers of homeless, uncared-for animals,” she said. “In addition, every animal altered at the clinic will also be vaccinated for rabies, increasing not only their health, but the quality of life for the community in general.”
The vet clinic is just one of the group’s efforts. The AAGS was formed in 2010 to “unite local organizations to create humane solutions leading toward the day when there are no more homeless pets,” according to Chambers. The organization also lobbies for stronger animal cruelty laws and provides humane education programs; the bully breed rescue group Cuse Pit Crew falls under the AAGS umbrella.
Chambers said providing care for animals — an incredibly vulnerable population — helps the entire community.
“Ghandi’s quote, ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,’ is appropriate here,” she said. “Do we really want our community known as having the highest euthanasia rate in upstate? While the high numbers may actually apply only to the city of Syracuse, the whole of Central New York suffers by association.”
The AAGS hopes to reduce the rate of euthanasia by reducing the animal population in Central New York through a spay/neuter program. Volunteer veterinarians will operate on 30 to 40 animals a day, doing high-volume surgeries that many vets don’t conduct on a regular basis. The Humane Alliance will provide training to those vets to prepare them for the task.
“What differentiates high-volume spay-neuter from what the veterinarians and techs typically learn in their training consists of both technique and procedure,” Chambers said. “The vets, for instance, learn particular knots, as well as the techniques that allow them to leave a very tiny incision in a spayed animal. The technicians learn lessons of efficiency that use almost a production line methodology to create a smooth flow while decreasing the chances for errors.”
Though the Humane Alliance training is free, the agency advised the AAGS that they should raise at least $35,000 to ensure that the clinic can provide care. Anyone who participates in the training must raise that money first. The AAGS has just begun its campaign, raising approximately $2,000 so far. They’re also seeking a space to house the clinic.
“We are looking for a building of about 2,000 to 3,000 square feet with water and electricity available and ample parking,” Chambers said. “We hope to get donations from the community to renovate it to our needs. Since we are just starting up, our budget for rent the first year is small.”
Chambers said the clinic would be open five to six days a week, depending on when the vets are available. Services will be provided to those who meet specific income qualifications. Transportation of pets will be provided if necessary. Once the clinic gets off the ground, it hopes to provide the surgeries at about $25 per operation, far less than the $150 to $400 a typical vet charges, and even less than the average low-cost spay/neuter program, which charges about $75 to $100. Chambers said providing that option should reduce the number of pets on the streets, and thus the euthanasia rate in Central New York.
“The lack of low-cost spay-neuter options is a major factor in the high euthanasia rate,” she said. “More than 44,000 dogs and cats live in Onondaga County households that exist below the poverty line. Local spay-neuter surgeries are simply unaffordable for them.”
If you’d like to help, you can send donations by mail at P.O. Box 94, Liverpool, NY 13088, through the AAGS website at animalallianceofgreatersyracuse.org, on its Facebook site at facebook.com/AnimalAlliance or at rally.org/AnimalAlliance. All donations are tax exempt.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.