Help is on the way for some financially strapped pet owners in Knoxville who may lack the resources to have their dogs and cats spayed or neutered.
Young-Williams Animal Center will unveil a new and expanded two-pronged spay/neuter program on Wednesday aimed at curbing the prolific pet overpopulation in Knoxville.
“The key driver for everything is the fact that we’ve got more dogs and cats in the community than homes willing and able to take them in,” said Dr. Michael Blackwell, administrator of Young-Williams Animal Center, 6400 Kingston Pike.
“At the heart of our mission is to do all we can to address the excess numbers of homeless dogs and cats. It has been well established that spaying and neutering dogs and cats is the most effective cause for reducing those numbers.”
Blackwell said dogs and cats can produce staggering numbers of offspring. Every year, Young-Williams takes in about 16,000 animals for which there are simply not enough homes.
“For cats, they have an average litter size of six, and they could have three of those a year,” said Blackwell.
“Dogs (can reproduce) twice a year and the litter size depends on the breed.”
The most innovative part of the new program is the targeting of neighborhoods that, according to shelter data, have high numbers of stray pickups and owner surrenders.
Young-Williams, working with community leaders, will dispense its mobile spay/neuter surgical clinical unit to select areas and perform services free of charge on high-risk animals.
“This is a new way to go into these communities, park and do surgeries throughout the day,” said Blackwell.
High-risk animals include dogs and cats less than 6 months old, bully breeds of dogs and feral cats that often establish colonies.
Blackwell said bully breed dogs, such as pit bulls, are winding up at the shelter in increasing numbers.
“We have an overrepresentation of bully breeds in our intake population. Bully breeds are what I would characterize as dogs that are extremely intelligent and loving, but if they’re not handled properly then we start to see some bad behavior. And, with that bad behavior, you can see aggression. At the top of the list are pit bulls and pit-bull mixes.”
Given the size and strength of bully breed dogs, they can obviously present a danger in the community if left unchecked to roam free.
The spay shuttle, which Blackwell said could be operational later this month, is funded by a grant from the Aslan Foundation.
The second part of the program is the new low-cost spay neuter clinic at the Young-Williams Animal Village, funded in part by PetSmart Charities and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Blackwell said the standard co-pays will range from $35 to $65, depending on whether it’s a dog or cat, and gender.
Retired Knoxville veterinarian Dr. Nick Wright said the Young-Williams spay-neuter program is a winner for both pet owners and animals.
“It’s really a public security and health issue that it addresses — as well as the pet owner that doesn’t have the finances to get their pet spayed or neutered,” said Wright.
“Economic times are such that (some people) aren’t paying as much attention to their pets out of necessity, not because they don’t want to. I think the Young-Williams program is doing a great service for the community.”