SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The success of Savannah's first low-cost spay and neuter clinic will be determined by the lives of the animals it serves, not by the number of animals it serves.
But, so far, the numbers are pretty impressive.
"So, it is 1,304 animals total," said Megan Collins, director of public programs for the Humane Society for Greater Savannah, which operates PetFix Savannah. "That's almost 400 female dogs. It's about 350 for male cats and male dogs each and then over 400 female cats."
And that's just since February, a clear demonstration of the public need the Humane Society has said for years was not being met.
"What's that, four months?" said Dr. Valerie Love, the veterinarian performing the spay and neuter procedures at PetFix. "Times four, that's 5,200 a year. That's pretty good."
Dr. Love spends all day in surgery, whereas she might have done two or three sterilizations a day in private practice. And she does that in the hope of eventually controlling the number of animals that come into the Humane Society.
"It's very important. One of the problems with this part of Georgia is its great weather all year round, so we have a lot of animals breeding all year round," said Dr. Love. "Spay and neuter is the only way we're going to get a handle on the pet overpopulation, animal overpopulation."
But another influence of PetFix has been the many personal pets being brought in, perhaps by people able to afford spay and neuter for the first time.
That is moving Humane Society starts to move toward another one of its goals.
"It's also culturally making spay and neuter the norm, which is not the norm in this community," said Michelle Thevenin, executive director of the Humane Society. "So, to make it culturally acceptable, people come here, have a great experience from a customer perspective, then they go home and tell their friends and family and neighbors. Many of them want to do this, they just haven't gotten over the hurdle to make it happen."
While it is too early to measure the impact PetFix is having on the local homeless animal community, the Humane Society is already adjusting practices to ensure that impact.
"We'll see that effect, probably it could be, it will be several years," said Thevenin. "And we're going to start tracking statistics at Animal Control and here and hopefully you see lower intakes and both facilities, that you see fewer feral cat colonies of cats, ideally generally you see fewer strays, packs of dogs. This is sort of the first line of defense, spay and neuter. It's the first line of defense on fewer intakes into shelters and fewer homeless animals."
A defense finally being offered in Savannah.