Curbing the growing pet population in Tupelo and Lee County

By Emily Le Coz/Lee County Neighbors

Seven out of every 10 animals brought to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society die before finding a suitable home.
The problem isn’t a lack of care at the shelter; it’s an overabundance of unwanted pets coupled with an underwhelming adoption rate. Of the nearly 8,500 cats and dogs left at the shelter last year, only 2,100 found new owners. The rest were euthanized.
To curb the exploding pet population in Northeast Mississippi, the humane society has always encouraged people to spay and neuter their pets. But they weren’t able to help offset the sometimes expensive costs of the procedure.
Now, they can.
On April 1, the humane society opened its own low-cost spay and neuter clinic on South Gloster Street. The facility is open to the public and lies about one mile north of the agency’s animal shelter. It was formerly the site of the No Littering Low-Cost Spay & Neuter Clinic owned by Dr. Isis Johnson.

Helps lower overpopulation
Johnson no longer occupies that space, but she does serve as one of three volunteer veterinarians who rotate hours and perform the spay and neuter operations. The other two vets are Dr. Kimberly Kelly and Dr. Reena Greer from Tupelo’s All Animal Hospital.
“It needs to be done,” said Kelly, explaining her reason for participating. “I feel like we’re helping to lower the overpopulation by giving people who normally can’t afford this operation the opportunity to have it done.”
The simple procedure takes just a few minutes and prevents animals from reproducing. Costs run from $40 for a cat to $70 for a large dog. That’s less than half of what they cost in most veterinary clinics, which charge anywhere from $80 to $250 depending on the type and size of the animal.
But the quality is the same, Kelly said.
“Even though it’s low cost, we have a very good protocol,” Kelly said. “We use the same drugs, the same anesthesia, the same tools and the same procedure as we do in our clinic.”
The humane society can offer such low rates because it’s only open twice a week and doesn’t offer full veterinarian services. Also, as a nonprofit, it gets better deals on drugs and equipment, said shelter Director Debbie Hood.
Hood said the clinic has sterilized more than 170 pets since it opened and has a goal of 5,000 cats and dogs a year.
“We’re not in competition with area vets,” Hood said. “We just want to lower our euthanasia rates by helping those people who can’t afford this or who don’t have regular vets.”

Operates on fees
The shelter doesn’t use any of its own funds to support the clinic, which operates solely on the fees charged for spay and neuter procedures.
On a Monday morning last week, Kelly and her two assistants performed the operation on roughly 30 animals. Many pets also got their rabies shots while they were there for an additional but nominal fee.
And one lucky pooch had a hernia fixed. Kelly said she discovered the hernia while performing a spay procedure and decided to take care of it while the dog was under anesthesia. The owner paid no extra cost.
Mooreville resident Helen Britt said she has been pleased with the clinic’s work. Britt feeds about a dozen stray cats and has sterilized eight so far. On Wednesday, she picked up Little Tommy, a solid black cat with a squeaky meow, after his operation.
“To be honest with you,” Britt said, “this is the cheapest place and they’re good people. That’s why I bring them here.”
Cost also was a factor for James Grisham of Pontotoc, who had his cat Sage spayed at the clinic last week.
“I didn’t want any more kittens,” he said. “And this was the cheapest place I could find. The other places I called all wanted $85.”

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Low-cost spays and neuters
The Tupelo-Lee Humane Society recently opened its low-cost, high-quality Spay/Neuter Clinic at 1504 S. Gloster St. in Tupelo. In some cases, these prices are less than half of what they cost at regular clinics:
• Cats: $40
• Dogs:
- Up to 25 lbs: $50
- 26-50 lbs: $60
- Over 50 lbs: $70
Please call the clinic at (662) 687-1976 or the shelter at (662)841-6500 for more information or to schedule an appointment.