Two thousand three hundred and seventy-three cats. One thousand three hundred and fifty-eight dogs. And 167 rabbits.
That’s the number of animals that are expected to live longer, healthier lives thanks to the low-cost spay/neuter services performed during the first nine months of 2019 by Napa Humane veterinarians and staff.
And the numbers continue to rise. The clinic has seen a 19% increase in spay/neuter surgeries this year compared to the same period last year.
Napa Humane Executive Director Wendi Piscia in part attributes the increase in demand to the closure of two other regional low-cost, high-volume spay neuter clinics.
Due to “unforeseen circumstances,” the Solano County spay/neuter clinic in Vacaville closed in June.
A note on the Contra Costa County spay/neuter clinic website said the agency is not currently accepting public surgery appointments.
“We are seeing an increase in clients coming from Lake and Solano counties,” said Piscia. Both of those counties have spay/neuter days scheduled throughout the year, but neither currently has consistent low cost spay/neuter option, said the director. “Napa Humane has surgery year-round, Monday-Friday, and is open to anyone.”
This doesn’t mean Napa County animals are being edged out of receiving services.
“Our first priority is always Napa animals,” said Piscia. The center keeps track of where animals are from and once the waiting list grows longer than a month (two weeks is the norm) services for animals outside the area are temporarily suspended.
In fact, out-of-county spay and neuter services were suspended for two months this past summer, “to ensure we are best serving Napa County” pets, said Piscia.
According to Napa Humane, there are an estimated 6 to 8 million homeless animals entering animal shelters in the U.S. every year.
“The single most important thing that we can do to save cats and dogs from all the suffering and death that their overpopulation causes is to spay and neuter them,” said the nonprofit’s website.
Other factors that seem to be contributing to the increase in spay/neuter surgeries at Napa Humane include rising costs.
“It can cost up to or more than $1,000 to spay a dog at a full service veterinary hospital,” Piscia said.
Napa Humane charges $105 or $150 to spay or neuter a dog, and between $35 and $58 for a cat. Rabbit spay/neuter is $80.
These prices are all less than its cost.
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“Napa Humane loses money on every surgery that we perform,” she said. But that’s how the nonprofit keeps fees low and affordable for most people, she said.
“For those who can’t afford our less-than-cost fees, we partner with the Napa County Animal Shelter and area rescue groups who provide vouchers to cover our fees,” she said. Additionally, “Our local vets refer people to us when they can’t afford the full service hospital fees.”
Piscia said she thinks more people seem to be taking action on bringing community cats in for spay/neuter. Community cats are either feral or stray with no owners to regularly care for them.
There’s also a shortage of veterinarians, said Piscia.
More than 80 percent of states experienced a shortage of veterinarians last year, according to the USDA. Industry sources note that the number of veterinarians hasn’t kept up with the increase in the number of people with pets. Younger vets may not want to put in the longer hours that other generations of vets had committed to.
Napa Humane has a small staff to perform those thousands of surgeries each year. There are two veterinarians, two registered vet techs and a vet tech assistant. In addition to paid staff, other vets and staff also volunteer at the nonprofit.
One Napa Humane staffer, veterinarian Amanda Vance, has performed more than 29,000 surgeries in the more than 10 years she’s been with the nonprofit, said Piscia.
Napa Humane does not receive any government funding and relies solely on individual donations and grant funding, said Piscia.
The increase in the number of surgeries “means that we need to fundraise more dollars to keep up with the demand.”
And while other animal groups raise funds for spay/neuter, Napa Humane’s clinic is the facility that actually performs the surgery, she noted.
Napa Humane needs to raise about $600,000 a year in donations, she said.
About $100,000 of that comes from its annual Walk For Animals. But the rest comes from individual donations and grants.
“We’re trying to get more corporate sponsors to donate, and then, of course, ideally, we love when people consider Napa Humane in their estate planning.”
The director said one thing that makes Napa Humane unique is that it focuses “100 percent” on prevention.
“Every program/service that we provide is about keeping pets out of shelters/rescue groups (and) in loving homes, and healthy,” said Piscia.
“We have the greatest role in ending pet homelessness and preventing needless suffering.”