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Stratford’s Nutmeg Clinic is Place for Low Cost Spay & Neuter

New non-profit clinic’s goal is to end euthanasia of unwanted cats and dogs.

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
Web: http://nutmegclinic.org/

KerriAnn Hofer September 17, 2012 at 01:01 PM
Three cheers for Nutmeg!!! Affordable Spay/Neuter is the first step towards lowering our rates of homeless pets and euthanasia. Hugs of Gratitude to Gilda, Dr. Parks, the rest of the staff and all who made this facility possible, :)k
Kathleen Gemmell September 17, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Oh how wonderful that Nutmeg is now providing such a NECESSARY service, It seems quite simple...NO kittens/puppies = LESS pound/shelter/euthanized animals. Isn't it something that most breeds go through a period where they are 'profitable?' (Getting off topic a bit...Jack Russell Terriers became popular, yet are NOT apartment type dogs. The poor Dalmatian is on the way to genetic ruin, etc.) Pit Bull types, like all canines, NEED the proper environment to flourish. Most dogs are not on a regular exercise program and are taught to obey by the use of force. Consequently, when the resulting 'issues' occur, dogs are abandoned, dumped, surrendered or abused. Quite an irresponsible and neglectful way to treat a species known to be so attuned to a proper owner.
Patricia Pell September 17, 2012 at 01:46 PM
This sounds like exactly what Stratford needs. I was just recently forced to get rid of my two cats because I was unable to afford getting them spayed. My landlord would not let me keep un-spayed animals. This upset me greatly since with all the programs in town there was no help to be found. Wish I heard about you sooner.
Tina Aronson September 17, 2012 at 02:21 PM
As a cat rescue person (Cat Assistance) I realize the importance of low cost spay neuter...We need more Nutmegs all over the country...Thanks folks, you are saints!
stick lee September 17, 2012 at 06:51 PM
A very good alternative to Snowflake in mlfd. and getting saddled with extra / nonrequested services and fees. Thank you Dr.Park and Nutmeg staff.
Larissa Watt September 17, 2012 at 07:53 PM
I brought 2 cats to Nutmeg last week. The staff were absolutely wonderful and even the veterinarian took the time to speak to me at length. Not only is this clinic low cots, it is the quality you would expect at a private practice.
Barbara September 17, 2012 at 10:52 PM
You are all doing a great job,,,
OPIN Outreach to Pets in Need September 19, 2012 at 07:40 PM
What great news for the adopters of Bridgeport Animal Control and other local municipal shelter now that Nutmeg will accept the APCP State Vouchers WITHOUT charging an extra fee to the adopter as many vets do. THANK YOU NUTMEG!
Val Maloney September 20, 2012 at 06:51 PM
You rock Nutmeg! Thank you for helping reduce the numbers of homeless cats and dogs.

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