Goal: 6,250 animals sterilized this year

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A pilot program to sterilize pets on the cheap will more than double its operations this year thanks to a boost from the Humane Society of the United States.
The HSUS gave $35,000 to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society to expand its North Mississippi Low-Cost Spay and Neuter Clinic. The clinic originally had opened in April last year and has since sterilized more than 1,500 pets.
But lack of space and staff limited its days of operations and the number of pets it could spay and neuter.
The grant allowed the clinic to move into a larger facility and extend its hours to five days a week. Officials celebrated the new space at 1508 S. Gloster St. in a ceremony Monday afternoon.
“Spaying and neutering is an important part of animal control,” said Ward 3 Tupelo City Councilman Jim Newell, who attended the celebration along with some three dozen other people.
TLHS Director Debbie Hood said the goal is to sterilize 6,250 cats and dogs in the next year – that’s roughly one for each of the pets the shelter euthanized in 2009 due to overpopulation.
The TLHS runs the county’s only animal shelter and last year took in nearly 8,500 animals. But only about 23 percent get adopted; most are euthanized because of the low demand for pets.
Dr. Kimberly Kelly, who performs most of the clinic’s surgeries, attributed the high euthanasia rate to the relatively low number of Northeast Mississippi families who spay and neuter their pets.
According to the HSUS, 51 percent of Mississippi and Louisiana families sterilize their dogs versus 70 percent nationwide; for cats the figure is 77 percent here versus 84 percent nationwide.
Each litter of puppies or kittens brought to the shelter takes up space and forces the staff to euthanize the animals that have been there the longest.
Kelly said the expanded clinic will help families who otherwise can’t afford the procedure to have it done inexpensively.
Surgeries range in price from $40 for cats to $70 for large dogs – less than half what it costs at regular veterinary clinics. Yet the staff, equipment and procedure are exactly the same.
“We just need to reach people and let them know this is available,” Kelly said.
As part of its effort to help Tupelo’s clinic, the HSUS also will provide $75,000 worth of publicity to spread the word about the services, said HSUS spokeswoman Amanda Arrington.
Arrington said Tupelo is one of five areas in the state receiving HSUS aid for low-cost, high-volume sterilization clinics. Hattiesburg, Gulfport, Jackson and Meridian are the others.
“We knew there was a big need and we identified areas doing good work who just needed a little help,” Arrington said. “Tupelo was definitely doing a good job.”
The clinic also will partner with area animal organizations to reach pets within a 60-mile radius. They’ll provide transportation and several drop-off and pick-up locations so people outside of Tupelo can benefit from the services, as well.

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