MNSNAP comes to Alexandria
The Minnesota Spay/Neuter Assistance Program held a day-long clinic at the Lakes Area Humane Society in Alexandria on Thursday, July 15, where dozens of animals were treated
Even though millions of cats and dogs enter animal shelters each year, those numbers are decreasing, in part due to continued spaying and neutering efforts.
One Minneapolis group was at the Lakes Area Humane Society in Alexandria on Thursday, July 15, doing its part to continue these efforts for income-qualifying individuals and families.
The Minnesota Spay/Neuter Assistance Program (MNSNAP) held a day-long clinic at the shelter where dozens of animals were treated. MNSNAP usually visits Alexandria six times a year.
"Each time they do 35 to 40 animals," said Christin Klimek, Lakes Area Humane Society Director. "It may not sound like a lot, but it really adds up when you think how one female cat can have two to three litters a year and can have five to seven kittens per litter. Then they grow up and have kittens.
"Each (operation) is preventing these multiple births," she said. "For a shelter like ours, that's huge."
Dr. Lisa Roberts, who has been with MNSNAP for almost 10 years, said these unplanned litters are the primary reason the program exists.
"Animals are euthanized every single day because there are not enough homes," Roberts said.
MNSNAP was started by Dr. Kim Culbertson in Minneapolis in 2010. Since that time, the group has performed more than 159,209 surgeries.
Each clinic is operated by teams of one veterinarian and three technicians, who operate out of a large state of the art truck that can hold 26 animals at a time.
"We try to get as many pets out there at once" to streamline things, Roberts said.
In addition to the truck, MNSNAP also has a stationery clinic in North Minneapolis.
Roberts added that although the clinic's surgeries are being offered at a discounted rate and are being completed on a truck, it is still an operating room with all the cleanliness and professionalism that entails.
Klimek agreed, saying, "It's very well-run. They know what they're doing and they get right on it. As soon as a pet is ready to go, they call the owners, they have them come in, they go over the instructions, they send them home.
"They're very professional and very conscientious about making sure the owners understand what they need to do for their pet's care," she said.
Klimek met Culbertson not long after the program's inception, and arrangements were soon made to hold a clinic in Alexandria.
"We are so, so very fortunate," Klimek said. "We count ourselves lucky that they're able to include us in their program."
MNSNAP is coming to Alexandria each month through the end of the year, an increase that is due in part because of COVID restrictions in 2020, which saw the cancellation of some clinics.
"It was kind of a blow to us," Klimek said. "Our impact this year, I suspect, will be higher because we didn't have the resources available last year."
The need for the clinics is great, Klimek said.
"We have a clinic (July 15), and that's full. We have a clinic for August, and that's virtually full," she said. "We've already started scheduling for September. We're fortunate they're coming every month to the end of the year, which is phenomenal, because they're trying to help us catch up."
Klimek added that the income-qualifying clinics are "perfect" for pet owners who are struggling with rising costs of veterinary care and prescriptions.
"It's getting to be a little more out of reach for folks," she said.
Roberts said that when asked why they have not had their pets spayed or neutered, most owners say they just can't afford it.
To qualify for the program, applicants must participate in a federal or Minnesota-based public assistance program, earn less than $47,600 as an individual or less than $68,000 as a family in the past year, or are the caretaker of feral or free-roaming cats.
The surgeries are then offered at a discounted rate for cats, dogs and rabbits, as well as vaccinations and other services.
While financial qualifications need to be met for owned pets, Klimek said no such restrictions apply to people who are taking care of feral animal populations, something that particularly pertains to rural areas.
"We have a lot of regulars, people that are managing who live in rural areas," Klimek said. "The cats keep coming, and some of these people are so diligent … (about getting) them spayed or neutered and helping manage these populations."
Additionally, although all of the animals at the Humane Society are spayed or neutered, none of these procedures are done during the MNSNAP clinics.
"We want that availability for the community," she said. "It doesn't directly affect us that day, but it absolutely directly affects us long-term."
The number of animals entering shelters across the country is decreasing, Klimek said, a trend she attributes to educational efforts, as well as programs like MNSNAP.
"It's so, so important," she said. "The less animals we have coming in, the more care we can give."
For information about MNSNAP and the Lakes Area Humane Society, visit https://mnsnap.org/ or http://lakesareahumanesociety.org/ .