Too bad there’s no “cat clock.” It could be modeled after the national “debt clock,” but flashing the number of homeless cats instead. Or a euthanasia clock tallying unwanted dogs and cats destroyed in the US.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that about 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters a year and more than half are destroyed.
These are the sobering statistics the Nutmeg Spay/Neuter Clinic will work against. The clinic opened in Stratford on August 27. Operating as a non-profit, Nutmeg’s staff is lean: one veterinarian, one vet technician, one vet assistant, and a two office staff. Located at 25 Charles St., near exit 30 off I-95, Nutmeg Clinic follows HOPE Clinic in Waterbury to become Connecticut's second low-cost spay neuter clinic.
“Anyone can make an appointment,” said office manager Gilda Caserta. “We have no limitations.”
The costs are indeed very low -- the fee to spay/neuter a companion cat is $65; fee for a small dog is $150 -- and Nutmeg accepts the CT APCP Dept. of Agriculture Animal Population Control Program vouchers as full payment for the procedure.
“These are coupons distributed through municipal animal control facilities and registered rescue groups," said Executive Director Clara Nolan. "We accept them as full payment, even if the fee exceeds the coupon value.”
Nutmeg’s feral cat package, available to rescue groups who deliver cats in humane traps, includes an exam, spay/neuter, rabies and distemper vaccines, and an “ear tip” for just $45.
Nutmeg works with many cat rescue groups who perform TNR, which stands for Trap-Neuter-Release, an essential tool in combatting the exponential reproduction that takes place, especially within feral cat colonies.
Reproduction: The Numbers Add Up Quickly
Gestation for cats is a mere 63 days, and a cat could conceivably have 4-5 litters a year, though 2-3 litters is average. Each litter can have anywhere from from 1-6 kittens; the average size is 4.
A cat can become pregnant the day after she has kittens, and contrary to popular belief, a cat can become pregnant at five or sixth-months of age. Siblings can mate with each other as can parents with their offspring.
Reverse Sticker Shock
All clinic fees at Nutmeg are a fraction of those typically charged by veterinarians in the area. In Fairfield County the cost of a spay or neuter procedure can run upwards of $600.
Jamie Sweet bypassed her regular Trumbull vet’s office to have her cat “Jack” spayed at Nutmeg on its opening day.
“Thank God for Nutmeg Clinic. Especially in these hard financial times,” said Sweet, who lives in Bridgeport. “My vet wanted $400-$500 to spay Jack. There was no way I could afford that, but at the same time I wanted to do the right thing.”
A Labor of Love
Nutmeg’s opening day was long in the making, considering the extensive renovation of the 1,900 sq. ft. former auto body was paid for with donations. The building is rented by Nutmeg. Numerous fundraisers were held over the past year. Both donors and volunteers were united in the goal of ending euthanasia.
“We’re not putting down veterinarians for charging more,” said veterinarian, Dr. Grace Park who came to Nutmeg from private practice herself. “Our idea is that by making spay/neuter affordable to people, they won’t skip it, and can use their limited dollars for other vet services. We know budgets are tight and people have to prioritize their spending. This takes the anguish out of that process.”
“We absolutely can provide both high quality and high volume,” said Dr. Park. “High quality doesn’t mean you only do one,” she added. “Also, we can spay when the animal is in heat or pregnant and there is no extra charge.”
Pit bull breeding -- The Urban Version of Puppy Mills
Talking about the problem of pit bull breeding in the North, Caserta likens the phenomenon to an urban version of puppy mills.
Nutmeg staff members often give “the talk” to starry-eyed pit bull owners. According to Caserta, “Eager to breed their dogs they anticipate a profit. “They tell me, ‘Oh, no, I’m not spaying this girl. I got a friend who wants one and I’ll sell the rest. I can get $1,000 each.’” Caserta says, quoting the words of a young man she has spoken to recently.
Sighing in frustration, Caserta recounted her response. “I asked him, ‘What if your friend changes his mind? Do you know how much vet expenses will be? What if people want the puppies for dog fighting? What if the dog has 10 puppies and you have to feed all of them for a long time before they're sold or adopted?' I explained to him that these dogs might wind up in dog fighting, which is cruel, or picked up by animal control, hoping for a home, and likely euthanized.”
Special extra-low fee to spay/neuter a Pit Bull: $75
Why the special price for pit bull altering? "Because there are so many of them," said Caserta. "And then we get calls, ‘Hi I’ve got a pit I’ve got to get rid of,’” mimicked Caserta. “And then, there are the landlords and insurance companies who follow breed specific rules. There’s just too many suffering and being put down.”
Hopefully the new Nutmeg Clinic’s modest fees will lower the number of homeless pets and those euthanized in shelters.
Nutmeg Clinic is open Monday to Friday by appointment.
25 Charles Street
Stratford, CT 06615
Tel. (203) 690-1550