Prineville’s No Kill Solution

In 2003, Prineville’s shelter euthanized 724 animals, more animals per County population than any other shelter in Oregon.  In 2006, they euthanized only 80.  How could they make such an incredible turn-around in so short a time?

One person really can change the world, or at least their corner of it.  Leslie Lynch decided to do something about the animals in her community and she did it.
Aware of how the shelter was drowning in kittens every year during Kitten Season, she recognized immediately that spay/neuter was the first step.  She brought in the Oregon Neutermobile from November 2003-February 2004, getting 866 done in those 4 months.

Leslie is a retired OB/GYN and her husband is a practicing lawyer.  Both have long been leading citizens in Central Oregon.  They contacted about a dozen of their friends and business contacts, asking for donations of $1000 each, and got enough to allow them to do many very effective things.

1.    Simple low pricing $30 each, all surgeries
2.    Financial Aid – if $30 was too much, they’d take less, no questions or proof of financial need required
3.    TNR – they targeted several feral colonies, sometimes at businesses where they also got donations to cover the expense.  In an unusual method, they housed the fixed ferals while they continued to trap the ones remaining.
4.    Location – they rented a concessions building at the County Fairgrounds, unused during the winter, which proved to be an excellent, but inexpensive facility
5.    Professional signs – they had “Spay/Neuter Clinic” signs with arrows made to help direct people to the right place
6.    Advertising – they placed a large sign on the major highway into town simply “Spay/Neuter $30 (phone)” It brought in a lot of business

Having gotten a taste of what was possible, and also recruiting one of the Neutermobile’s vets, Dr. Rebecca Henry, she set about creating SNIP House, a fixed clinic in Prineville, which opened in June 2004.  Although operating just 2 days per week, and doing many surgeries for animals coming from neighboring counties, as well as locally, SNIP House did more sterilizations of Crook County animals per Crook County human population per year than any other spay/neuter project.  Using national statistics on pet ownership per population and percentages of animals already altered (which, apparently, are not accurate to apply to Crook County) SNIP House must have fixed the same animals over and over.

In addition to the same methods that were so successful with the Neutermobile, SNIP House added others.

1.    Ferals Fixed Free
2.    Kittens fixed free, when brought in with the mother cat
3.    Free Pit Bulls
4.    Extraordinary facilities and care.  As an MD, Leslie insisted on the same standards for animals as she would take with humans.  SNIP House is all stainless-steel and immaculate.  It has 3 sets of washers and dryers, one used exclusively for surgical laundry.  After surgery, all animals get sub-q fluids with B vitamins, are placed on a heated table with a heating pad over them.  Volunteers monitor closely, recording heart and respiration rates and capillary refill rate regularly.  Vet and vet tech are within shouting distance at all times in case of emergency.
5.    Extra care.  SNIP House routinely trims nails and grooms animals while they’re in post-op.  As needed and time allows, they also clean teeth.  If additional care is needed, they would, for example, remove a tumor and send it out for a biopsy.  All of this done at no extra charge to the pet caregiver.

Prineville’s shelter saw a drop in cat intake and euthanasia as early as 2004.  Leslie joined the shelter’s Board of Directors and brought in a new shelter manager who shared her drive to end the unnecessary shelter killing.  Leslie and SNIP House volunteers were providing foster care for treatable animals.  At one point, one foster home was Ringworm House, with about a dozen animals being treated for ringworm until they could be adopted, something shelters are reluctant to do to avoid further contamination.  Volunteers, at their own expense, were arranging adoptions out of state and transporting animals to their new homes.

In 2008, SNIP House opened their HART Center, so even more treatable animals can be made adoptable without the risk of shelter animals catching communicable diseases.  They also opened Norma’s House, where feral mothers can raise their kittens while the kittens are tamed and made ready for adoption.
This is not a case where a shelter goes no-kill, but has a waiting list for 2 months for an animal to get in and many animals end up abandoned.  This is not a case where a shelter goes no-kill and takes in only the most adoptable animals.  Nor where there’s another shelter down the road that euthanizes the unwanted animals.  Quite the contrary.  Crook County has had such a reduction in their problems that they often take in cases of treatable animals from shelters in the neighboring, more populous Deschutes county.

Can Lane County do the same?  Lane County has a human population over 16 times that of Crook County,  and probably about as many more animals.  On the other hand,  the Eugene City Spay/Neuter Clinic has been doing over 3000 surgeries a year for many years, Greenhill’s clinic has been busy for a few years now and is getting busier.  The Feral Cat Coalition came to Eugene from Oct 2002 to Dec 2006, doing 6 clinics/year, doing 1600 cats. The Neutermobile was here in 2004, doing over 600 surgieres in a few months.  The Neuterscooter is making regular visits to Lane County.  WAG opened this year, 2008, and began full-time in June, with over 100 surgeries per week when at full capacity.  With some serious work on promoting and funding spay/neuter, hopefully implementing as much of Prineville’s programs as possible, yes, the same thing can happen in Lane County.