The Spay Neuter Project helps pets get necessary veterinary services by taking a big bite out of financial barriers.
Since 2015, The Spay Neuter Project has performed more than 22,000 low-cost spay/neuter surgeries in mid-Missouri. This year, the total is more than 3,200 surgeries — a number that makes Executive Director Janeene Johnston especially proud.
“We are a low-cost, high-quality, high-volume, spay/neuter clinic, and our goal is to make spaying and neutering affordable for pet owners and rescues, so that finances are not a burden or not the reason that they do not spay or neuter their pets,” Janeene says.
Spaying or neutering pets helps curb the population of unwanted pets.
“Every time you spay or neuter, it truly means that you’re helping prevent pet overpopulation,” Janeene says. “It prevents animals from going into shelters and prevents pets from being euthanized. But the key is you have to make it affordable and accessible.”
The procedure also reduces risks of certain cancers and other life-threatening conditions. It can also help prevent a pet from wandering in search of a mate, reducing the risk of dangers such as getting hit by a car.
Low Cost, Accessible Veterinary Care
Sterilization surgeries are not the only function of The Spay Neuter Project, which also offers a variety of services including vaccines, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and heartworm tests, and microchipping pets for easier identification. Thanks to a Petco Love Grant, the clinic has vaccinated nearly 1,500 pets against distemper.
“I’ve been doing social work for 30 odd years. . . . if there’s something we can do to keep their pet in their home with them, then let’s figure out a way to do it,” Janeene adds.
The clinic recently started offering monthly preventatives for heartworms, fleas, and ticks.
“We haven’t really promoted or publicized it necessarily,” she says. “It’s like a bonus that we’ll talk about more and we’ll be promoting more soon. No flea medicine is cheap. It is affordable.” Doses are generally available for $12 or $10 each if buying six.
“In the long run it’s cheaper for your sanity and your pocketbook,” Janeene says.
To schedule services with The Spay Neuter Project, pet owners can book appointments online or call and leave a message. Prepayment is required when services are scheduled to avoid no-show appointments.
“We need people to understand that if they don’t show up, we could have gotten somebody else in who’s on the cancellation list,” she adds, noting that the clinic currently is scheduled out weeks in advance. “We really are probably busier than we’ve ever been. We have really rearranged our schedule so that we can fit more animals in for surgery on certain days.”
Case in Point: Feral Cats
Perhaps the most notable impact of The Spay Neuter Project is visible within the feral cat population. The clinic practices TNR, which stands for trap, neuter, return. For a $25 deposit, residents can pick up a live trap to capture a feral cat, bring it to be spayed or neutered, and return it to the wild.
As of the end of October, 741 feral cats have been spayed or neutered because of TNR.
Neutering one male feral cat can prevent hundreds of kittens, and also help with its aggression.
“Sometimes [neutering] will really reduce some of that aggression, because he’s just trying to fight for his territory,” Janeene says, referring to feral tomcats. “He’s got to be, you know, the Lion King of his neighborhood. He’s got to protect everything. And maybe he may never become really nice, but hopefully he won’t be fighting anymore.”
Working with Pet Rescue Agencies
The Spay Neuter Project works with 22 local rescues, helping more dogs and cats receive low-cost veterinary care.
“Shelters and rescues are drowning right now, all over the country. It’s not just mid-Missouri.” Janeene says. “People are either returning pets or people aren’t spaying or neutering. You have to make spay or neuter affordable in order for people to be able to continue to help the animals.”
By providing low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, The Spay Neuter Project is trying to break those cycles, while the rescues focus on helping animals already in need of the services. Through The Spay Neuter Project, as well as recent outreach from Unchained Melodies Dog Rescue, which works with CoMo Mobile Aid, members of the unhoused community are also able to access the high-quality, low-cost vet care.
“We had somebody who was getting into Welcome Home . . . but their pet wasn’t updated on vaccines. When they were calling around, they couldn’t get anywhere. And I said, ‘Well, we could do it tomorrow,’” Janeene recalls. “Don’t let [the cost and accessibility of vaccines] be a barrier.”
How to Get Involved
All of this work is made possible with the help of grants, volunteers, and the community at large. One of the clinic’s biggest fundraisers is CoMoGives.
“I know that some people feel like it’s a competition, but I really feel like it’s a way for all of the animal groups to really talk about what we do,” she said. “Even if somebody doesn’t donate to us, if they learn about our services, holy cow, that’s great awareness for us.”
The Spay Neuter Project also hopes to bring back its major annual fundraiser, Spayghetti, for the first time since February 2020. The event is set to take place on February 21, 2023.