A popular program designed to help control Maricopa County’s stray pet population is temporarily out of service as it determines how to deal with a substantial funding decrease.
The Spay Neuter Assistance Program (SNAP) operated by the county’s Animal Care and Control department will provide fewer than 6,000 procedures in the fiscal year that begins July 1 — down from 20,000 in 2009 and 12,000 last year — without a donation boost, said Rodrigo Silva, assistant county manager.
“SNAP has provided thousands of surgeries for families who would not afford them,” Silva said. “The community can help bring program back. It is the most direct, lifesaving preventative program for pets in the Valley, one of the best in the nation, because of its efficiency.”
Applications are not being taken for services, and Silva said that will likely continue for about two months as the program undergoes adjustments.
Administrative costs for SNAP, which was created in 2006, are incurred by the county; funds to pay veterinarians for surgeries are from donations.
The primary donation source for SNAP has been Phoenix-based nonprofit Friends of Animal Care & Control. A seven-figure anonymous donation to that group to help fund SNAP’s first five years has run out.
“We are still providing a substantial about of funding for surgeries, just not as much as the last five years,” said Tina Eacret, the nonprofit group’s executive director. “My hopes is that we can get it back up to its former level with individual and foundation support.”
Maricopa County is suffering from a stray pet overpopulation problem, local officials say. Last year, 94,889 animals were brought to Valley shelters, with 48,567 euthanized, according to statistics compiled by Maricopa County and the Arizona Humane Society.
“You can’t adopt your way out of this problem,” Eacret said. “The most effective way to fight the overpopulation of animals in Maricopa County is through spay-neuter.”
To help raise spay-neuter awareness, SNAP and Friends of Animal Care & Control are stressing the importance of controlling the animal population, as well as the health and behavior improvements that pets who receive such procedures typically experience.
“The best-case scenario would be to get back up to 20,000 surgeries a year,” Silva said. “The need is here in the community, and I believe the program is an efficient program, at the cost of about $61 a surgery. What we hope is that because of programs like this, the euthanasia of adoptible pets in the county will be a thing of a past.”
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