According to the Humane Society of the United States, 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized each year. These numbers have gone down in recent years due to education and increased efforts to spay and neuter domestic animals. Cats, however, are significantly at greater risk than dogs. The Idaho Humane Society receives about 7,000 cats and 6,600 dogs per year in their facility, with cats averaging about a 65 percent adoption rate, while dogs average 95 percent. That leaves about 4,550 cats and 330 dogs to be euthanized by IHS in Boise per year.
Northwest Animal Companions (NAC) is a non-profit agency started in 1998, dedicated to pet rescue with an emphasis on practicing humane animal welfare. NAC does not destroy animals, except in cases of extreme injury or terminal and painful illness where no reasonable alternative exists.
NAC board member and volunteer Arin Arthur developed a low-cost spay and neuter program that has allowed NAC to provide a much-needed service to the Boise community. This year, NAC facilitated more than 700 spays and neuters. Costs are on a sliding scale, and average from free to $35 for a spay, and from free to $20 for a neuter.
BW: How do spay and neuter efforts become someone's passion?
I think if people knew how many animals are killed in our community annually, they would be shocked. Spay and neuter is really the only solution to the companion animal overpopulation issue.
How many cats usually show up at a clinic?
We usually have between 25-35 cats. It takes three to four vets and eight volunteers two and a half hours to spay and neuter that many animals. It's actually great to have that many people show up and work for something that we all care about.
What does NAC do that IHS doesn't?
We try to be the resource for people that are unwilling to accept euthanasia as an option for their companion animals and we have the ability to be more flexible in what we can do for people. Also, we do lots of newborn litters of kittens. The Humane Society is unable to keep kittens under five weeks of age unless they have a nursing mom.
What's the biggest misperception about what you do?
That I'm that "crazy cat lady" that has a hundred cats, and my house stinks like old kitty litter. Also, that I get paid for running the clinics, which I don't. I like running the clinics and giving my time and energy towards it but I don't like putting up with peoples' crap about it.
What's the strangest thing you've ever had to do, working with cats?
Strange cats? What do you mean? [laughs] Sometimes, I have bottle baby kittens and that means I get up every three hours to feed them, take them to work with me in a box, bathe them up to three times a day. Keeping [bottle baby kittens] alive is hard work but so much fun and rewarding. There are some other graphic details to it but I'll spare you.
OK, what's the strangest thing you've ever had to do that doesn't involve working with cats?
Does dating count?
The election is coming up. If you could write a ballot initiative, what would it be?
Well, of course, my ballot initiative would involve spay and neuter efforts. [There are] currently seven states that have state-funded spay and neuter programs that supplement private programs. As always, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. New Hampshire's estimate is for every dollar spent on their program, they save $3.15 in impoundment costs. I'd really like to start smaller than that, though. I'd love for the city of Boise to lead by example and start a comprehensive spay and neuter effort. There are so many examples of cities that have tackled the overpopulation issue and are now well on their way to zero euthanasia of adoptable animals. If San Francisco and New York can do it, surely we can too.
What do you think is the single most important thing the average person can do to protect companion animals?
The same thing we can do for people--become compassionate. Think what it would feel like to be in their situation. Be responsible.
For more information www.nacidaho.org or contact Arin about spay & neuter clinics at 407-1531