PET AID: GLASGOW MAKES IT HAPPEN
By Samar Fay Courier Editor
Published: Wednesday, July 25th, 2012
Glasgow wasn’t on the list of towns this year for a visit from the Montana Spay-Neuter Task Force, but when Circle had to drop out, locals snatched at the chance to fill in. They had just 30 days to organize the whole thing: locate a suitable space, recruit volunteers, find donors and sponsors for supplies and publicize the event.
They managed to pull it off. More than 200 dogs and cats were spayed and neutered by four veterinarians during the event at the Valley Event Center on Sunday and Monday. The animals were all breeds and colors and sizes and ages. Tall boxers and tiny toy Chihuahuas were seen. Fuzzy kittens and feral felines all had the quick operation to live longer, healthier lives.
The MSNTF helps organize teams of volunteer veterinarians who travel to different towns, offering people free surgeries for their pets and for wild cats too. The first clinic held in Glasgow was in 2009. It was an educational effort, meant to demonstrate that spaying and neutering keeps down the number of nuisance strays, reduces the number of animals impounded and euthanized and the cuts down on fights and bites. Scores of feral cats were done on that trip and released back to their barns or colonies in town, to live more peaceful lives free of fighting and bearing litters.
Every effort is made to include children in the process, so they grow up understanding the importance of taking care of their pets this way. There were plenty of children at the Valley Event Center, either following their own pet through the process or helping in preparation and recovery of the animals. They caught on quickly how to tuck kittens and puppies into blankets with a warm bag of wheat. They rocked and petted them as they came out of the anesthesia.
Felicity Stish, a middle school student, hovered near the surgery tables, watching Dr. Jeffrey Young’s quick, practiced routine on dogs. Young has been coming to this area for a number of summers, camping at Fort Peck Lake and doing clinics at Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy’s. This is the first time he has come to Glasgow.
Young has a vet practice in Denver and is also a cross country coach at Denver’s North High School. He brought 21 of his students with him this year, both to help in the clinics and enjoy the camping. He said after a long day of surgery, it is wonderful to swim in the cold lake and relax.
“The biggest reason to do this is to control the overpopulation,” Young said. “For me it’s about compassion for animals and the societal outlook. As a society we can do better with our animals. I can’t believe anyone enjoys drowning kittens. It can’t be good for the human conscience to do that on a regular basis.”
He said intact animals are more likely to roam and male dogs cause the most traffic accidents and bites.
The biggest issue with offering free clinics is the politics of it all, he said. Some vets regard the clinics as competition with their practice and call the assembly line method “butcher surgery.” He strongly disagrees with these opinions, citing his experience with thousands of surgeries.
“I get just as good results as a big hospital and the death rate is actually better,” he said. “Most people can’t afford this service so they wouldn’t go to the local vet for it anyway. The vet business is 50 years behind the times. Doctors do non-profit work – it’s a badge of honor.”
As the crowd thinned out on Monday afternoon, the work wasn’t over for Nancy Lattin, the Lustre resident who volunteered to be the site coordinator for the event. The clinic had a budget of zero, Lattin said. She got donations of worn sheets, towels and blankets from every motel and also the hospital. Local merchants were “unbelievably wonderful” she said, giving food, ice and supplies that the workers needed. She also somehow managed to find 20 volunteers for each day – she said that was the hard part.
The only items she needed money for were the lights at the Event Center (the use of the center was donated) and, of all things, hand sanitizer. Lattin is hoping that the silent auction and cash donations cover these items.
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