Stampede! In a word, thats what happened at Winnebago County Animal Services first Spay/Neuter Day in two years, held at the facility at 4517 N. Main St. last Saturday, March 19.
The event was publicized as an opportunity for people of limited income to get their pets vaccinated, microchipped and obtain vouchers for spay/neuter operations at the offices of local veterinarians. And by all accounts, people came out in droves.
County Board member Mary Ann Aiello (R-8) worked as a volunteer at the event, and was there from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The clinic started at 10 a.m., so she was there to help set up.
They had enough rabies and distemper shots and microchips for 600 animals. They ran out about 1:30, Aiello said. She estimated they gave out another 200 vouchers for free spaying and neutering for people to take to their veterinarians.
When she arrived at 9 a.m., the facility was packed with people, she observed. Some people were parking at the Moose Club. Some people told her that pet owners started lining up at 6 a.m. Aiello thought the spay/neuter event should be done at least twice a year because there were so many people lined up.
I think they are going to do two more this year, she said. She believed some people gave up and left because of the great numbers. A lot of people had to wait; the turnout was unbelievable, she said. I think one more would certainly help get everybody caught up. All they had to pay for was the registration fee. You get all the shots, microchips and the free spaying and neutering. Thats a good deal. Hopefully, everybody will use their spay/neuter vouchers to get their animals taken care of.
Aiello noted that she was one of about 12 to 15 volunteers who helped process the paperwork and proof of income. Police were outside directing traffic, she said. Dogs and cats were separated into two separate lines. There were people inside checking them and writing up their registration, microchipping them. Then the veterinarians had to check them and give them shots. Some had multiple animals. There were about 1,000 people, at least. She was there from start to finish.
Sylvia Pagel, another person who was present, shared her observations with The Rock River Times:
Theres really no excuse for the traffic jam that happened at Animal Control on Saturday. They had to call out extra deputies before noon, and cars were backed up on North Main all day.
They were obviously very poorly prepared and poorly organized, with inadequate staff and volunteers. The Department of Animal Services has an annual budget exceeding $1 million and a quarter million in a trust fund set aside specifically for spaying and neutering dogs and cats. They should have been offering those clinics monthly instead of only once in the last two years.
The chaotic situation that occurred Saturday placed unnecessary stress on the pets who had to endure it, not to mention the owners. Another negative consequence was that the shelter was not open for adoptions, and Saturday is always the most popular day for that.
Since there is no actual need for the spay clinics to be held at the animal control facility, other sites could be used which would not interfere with the adoptions or other services. There may have been just as many people who turned around and went home when they saw that mob, as actually stayed and waited in line. The shots, paperwork and spay vouchers can be given out at any other location.
The county should also reconsider the policy of giving out vouchers for free neutering of male dogs. Since it is only the females that are producing the thousands of unwanted puppies, all the available resources should be directed toward spaying, preferably before the first litter is born.
Sheila Vayenas of the Adopt Shelter Animals Please (ASAP) group that has been a thorn in WCAS Director Gary Longaneckers side, added these comments: Gary [Longanecker] has blamed the community for overpopulation, and clearly it is not negligence on most peoples part, but financial. Also, Gary was gone for three weeks, and it was during this time that the clinic was put together. Interesting? The County is not doing its job. If Gary is so concerned about overpopulation, why was there not one [spay/neuter day] last year? When is the next one? What are the taxpayers paying for? Spay/neuter clinics are mandated by state law.
WCAS Director Gary Longanecker was contacted but had no comment for The Rock River Times.