The Calistoga-based DeLong-Sweet Family Foundation provided $15,000 for a nearly year-long spay and neuter effort to benefit 183 dogs and cats in Clearlake.
“Our work made it zero cost for people to bring in their animals to get spayed or neutered,” said Calistoga’s Pam Ingalls. “They also received free cones, microchipping and e-collars to ensure they could keep track of their pets. Lake County has a lot of unaltered animals, which leads to overpopulation.”
The DeLong-Sweet Family Foundation has a history of contributing to animal-related causes, Ingalls said. She is a past president of Wine Country Animal Lovers (WCAL), a Calistoga-based animal rescue nonprofit, and her husband Paul is a trustee of the foundation.
From February 2018 to April 2019, the Clearlake project provided reduced-cost spays or neuters for up to three animals per household. There was an exception for pit bulls and pit mixes. A household could spay or neuter an unlimited number of these dogs.
“There are a lot of nice pit bulls out there, but they are at the highest risk of euthanasia. We made the decision to fix as many as we could,” said Ingalls.
The DeLong-Sweet Family Foundation donated the $15,000 to the Dogwood Animal Rescue Project, a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit, which matched the funds, resulting in a $30,000 program. Spays and neuters were performed at Middletown Animal Hospital, which billed Dogwood at a reduced rate.
WCAL pitched in by contributing free cones and microchips for the animals. WCAL sponsors animal adoptions, fostering for stray dogs and cats, and is a first responder for animal rescues during natural disasters. It receives 80 percent of its animals from Lake County.
“WCAL saw some of the concerns that Lake County has with stray dog and cat overpopulation in 2015, when Valley Fire evacuees came to the Napa County Fairgrounds in Calistoga,” Ingalls said. “WCAL volunteers spent a week there with evacuees. We saw how many of the pets were unaltered. The only solution is a really robust spay and neuter strategy.”
Ingalls said Clearlake Animal Control, a city-specific animal control agency that is separate from Lake County Animal Care and Control, frequently contacts WCAL for support.
“Our goal is to bring the resources to Lake County and Clearlake residents to ward off overpopulation,” said Ingalls.
Alissa McNair, WCAL’s board president, said the project allowed the organization to help “many appreciative families get their animals altered.”
“We hope to do it again in the fall (of 2019),” McNair said. “There are such limited resources available to pet owners in Lake County. Regular, ongoing access to low-cost or free spay or neuter is often the biggest obstacle we hear about.”
Charlotte Pearce, spokesperson for Dogwood Animal Rescue Project, said her organization raised funds by requesting donations through social media and holding online auctions. Dogwood also organized in-person gaming events in Sonoma County.
“We asked Sonoma County artists to paint animals and then held the auctions for the portraits,” Pearce said. “We provided a portion of the money raised to our donation. We also held bingo and Bunco events (in Sonoma County), which raised thousands of dollars. In addition, we have a strong social media presence. Our supporters and donors helped a great deal.”
Pearce said the partnership between the organizations began with her and Ingalls’ friendship.
“Pam and I have known each other for years. We volunteered at an animal shelter together a long time ago. She’s always in the background making all the contacts for efforts like the Clearlake spay and neuter project,” said Pearce.
“That’s the cool thing about animal rescue. You get so much more done when you collaborate,” said Ingalls.
Clearlake and Lake County animal control offices appreciate the program.
Charmaine Weldon, kennel technician for Clearlake Animal Control, said the city’s residents care a great deal about animals.
“A lot of people feel sorry for stray animals,” Weldon said. “They pick up strays and absorb the cost. But if they don’t fix them, that leads to a higher animal population.”
Weldon said many Clearlake residents have four dogs, which is the legal limit for the city. The issue is the spay and neuter procedure is out of their budget.
“Spaying or neutering an animal typically costs between $400 and $500. We’re one of the poorest cities in the state. When you’ve got food and medical bills to pay, you’re not going to use your income to fix your animals,” said Weldon.
Weldon said the Clearlake Animal Control is not a no-kill shelter, but has not euthanized any animals in its last two operating quarters.
She said the DeLong-Sweet/Dogwood effort is one of a number of spay and neuter campaigns in Clearlake. The Napa Valley-based Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch held a vaccination, microchip and spay/neuter voucher clinic on May 5 in Clearlake in memory of Barry Wendel, the late husband of philanthropist Beverly Wendel.
“Last year, Orphan Dog, another animal rescue group, fixed 90 dogs over one weekend. They’re planning another spay and neuter event this May. Clearlake Animal Control also received donations from Rotary Club members for over 500 vouchers for residents who adopt a cat or dog to spay and neuter, microchip, and get shots for free. If we didn’t have campaigns like this, our stray animal population would be double,” said Weldon.
Holly Bray, deputy director of Lake County Department of Animal Care and Control, said Lake County utilizes a county ordinance to require any dog or cat which is over four months old and kept in unincorporated parts of the county to be spayed or neutered. The ordinance exempts certain animals, including service dogs, herding dogs, show animals, and animals belonging to a licensed kennel or business.
“Dogs and cats that are spayed or neutered don’t roam as much. It’s healthier for them and it keeps them home. They’re not looking for their next date,” said Bray.
Bray said Lake County also does not have a no-kill shelter. Bray endorsed the Clearlake spay and neuter project’s “unlimited” offer for pit bulls and pit mixes.
“German Shepherds and pit bulls are the top breeds that wind up in the Lake County shelter. Due to their stereotype of being aggressive and overbreeding, rescue (organizations) are not able fully to help with the high amount of those breeds,” said Bray.
Bray said Lake County’s shelter tries not to euthanize for space. It often transfers animals to out-of-county rescue organizations.
“To help combat the overpopulation problem in Lake County we transfer nearly double our adoption rates,” Bray said. “Thanks to groups like the Marin Humane Society and Copper’s Dream Rescue, there is usually a happy ending. Programs for spay and neuter vouchers and vaccination clinics provided by groups like WCAL and Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch help improve (the) overpopulation issue.”
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