Program gives cheap fix for pet expenses

By Robin Pirche

Students may find it hard to say “no” to a furry companion, but many are unaware of the mounting costs and responsibilities that come with a pet.

Pet owners have the chance to get one important service — spaying or neutering — for a low cost through the Lexington Humane Society’s Spay’s the Way program.

“Many people aren’t aware the resources are out there, or of the importance of spaying or neutering their animals,” said Kristin Palmgreen, manager of special projects and innovations at the Lexington Humane Society.

A normal spaying or neutering for a cat or dog can cost several hundred dollars after shots and other examinations, Palmgreen said, and the purpose of Spay’s the Way is to help pet owners who cannot afford the full cost.

Luther James, veterinarian and owner of Scott County Animal Clinic, has seen many student pet owners and said he understands the financial drain it can be on a college student’s pocket.

“To spay or neuter can cost you anywhere between $50 to $300, but it depends on the location. If you are in a big city, it’s going to cost more than if you were here,” James said. “I’m just glad we have the amount of first-time owners that get their pet the surgery and understand how important it is.”

Spay’s the Way also includes rabies vaccinations and city pet licensing, Palmgreen said. The program is offered throughout the year, but includes more clinics and drawings for free gifts during February as part of the national Spay Day USA campaign.

More than 11,000 homeless, abandoned and unwanted animals are brought to the Lexington Humane Society each year, Palmgreen said. The organization has taken efforts to reduce these numbers by spaying or neutering every adopted pet and offering a low-cost option for current pet owners.

The overpopulation in Lexington reflects a nationwide trend, with five to six million dogs or cats entering into shelters each year, Palmgreen said.

Spaying or neutering provides many health benefits, Palmgreen said. Pets who do not have the procedure can express territorial behavior, aggression and personality changes. If female pets are not spayed, the animals can experience problems with infection during heat cycles and can develop problems with their reproductive organs as well as complications from pregnancy. Neutering a pet can also reduce the chance of cancer and prolong the animal’s life by two or three years, Palmgreen said.

“I’ve had many compliments and happy clients after the surgery. They were just happy to get it done and not have to worry,” said James, the veterinarian.

The surgery isn’t complicated and takes one to two hours on average, James said. After the procedure, the animal is held for a day to heal and then allowed to go home.

“I’ve seen the animal healing and acting normal in two to three days after the procedure,” James said. “(Pet owners) still have to watch the animal’s stitches, but they are happy and playing around again. It doesn’t hurt them much, and they will be a more loyal companion afterward.”

Assistance through this program is based on household income and financial assets, according to the Lexington Humane Society Web site

( Pet owners have to complete an application to determine if they qualify.

There have been about 1,920 free or low-cost surgeries performed through Spay’s the Way program in Fayette County in the last two years and the Humane Society hopes to perform 1,500 surgeries this year, according to the Web site.