Every February is cause for special celebration here at Found Animals thanks to Spay & Neuter Awareness Month and World Spay Day. We were founded with a mission to minimize the number of animals euthanized at shelters across the United States and preventing the birth of unwanted litters is a fundamental tool in that fight.
Since our founding in 2005, we have supported an ever-growing portfolio of pet sterilization programs, and this year, many of them are celebrating important milestones.
Affordable & Accessible Spay Neuter in Los Angeles:
Found Animals Foundation provides funding, in-kind, and moral support to several fantastic spay/neuter clinics in the Los Angeles area – over $3 Million since 2008. Individually and collectively, these organizations have accomplished amazing things and we are very proud of the difference they are making. Intake numbers are down the past two years at our local City and County shelters and much of that success must be credited to these clinics – they have made spay/neuter services affordable and accessible to our community.
The Spay Neuter Project of Los Angeles (SNP LA) opened its three clinic locations in 2008 (Pico Rivera), 2009 (San Pedro) and 2010 (Van Nuys). In February of 2014, they are celebrating the incredible accomplishment of 100,000 animals SNP’d to date. Another 27,000 animals will be served this year alone!
Spay4LA is a mobile spay and neuter program dedicated to serving pets and people in the most under served areas of South Los Angeles. Spay4LA finished 2013 with over 6,500 surgeries – a record year – and has provided over 18,000 surgeries since launching in 2010. In 2013, Spay4LA added canvassing to their outreach program and succeeded in providing information to every single household in some target zip codes.
In addition to SNP LA and Spay4LA, Found Animals has also supported the FixNation and AngelDogs Foundation clinics. In total, these four organizations provide over 50,000 surgeries per year in our community – all of which is new affordable capacity that has come online since 2008. Just imagine how many unwanted litters have been prevented by these fantastic clinics – by whatever math you use, they are having a huge impact in Los Angeles.
Because experience has shown us that pet owners who most need help often don’t know where to find it, Found Animals has created an easy to use online tool to help connect people with affordable spay/neuter services in Southern California. Back in 2008, there were only a handful of these options and now our tool includes a whopping 35 clinics! Try it for yourself.
While we like to think of Los Angeles as a leader in this area, there is no denying that the trend towards more affordable and accessible spay/neuter is national. Humane Alliance operates the National Spay/Neuter Response Team (NSNRT) to help new clinics get off the ground. Back in 2005, there were a mere 6 clinics in the network nationally and now there are more than 125.
Spay/Neuter Clinic Education & Training:
Funding and supporting different clinic models over the years has given the team at Found Animals an incredible education in what it takes to succeed – and we want to share our hard won lessons with anyone who runs a clinic, or is thinking of opening one. For years we have regularly presented at conferences such as Best Friends No More Homeless Pets and HSUS Animal Care Expo and happily share our materials online, but we recently realized that there is room to do so much more to support spay neuter across the country.
In an effort to spread education and training on best practices in spay/neuter to as many shelters and clinics as possible, we are supporting two important educational forums in 2014. The first happens just after the close of Spay/Neuter Month on March 3rd, when we sponsor a spay/neuter track led by the legendary Dr. Philip Bushby at the California Animal Care Conference in Long Beach. Dr. Bushby has pioneered techniques that allow very efficient spay/neuter with minimal complications as well as pediatric spay/neuter. It is an honor to be able to bring his expertise to the California sheltering community.
Then, after getting our feet wet in our own backyard, we are teaming up with PetSmart Charities to go national and host the North American Spay Neuter Conference this summer. We were inspired by the amazing content and conversations at the 2011 SNIP Summit, so we wanted to bring the national clinic community together again. This conference will focus exclusively on spay/neuter and is designed to share the newest trends, learnings, and best practices with clinics nationwide (and Canada too!) so that folks are better equipped to prevent litters in their communities. The event will take place August 14-17, 2014, in Austin, Texas, and features multiple educational tracks and wetlabs along with an exhibit hall full of vendors.
This is our first foray into hosting a national conference and we are thrilled that the subject is spay/neuter and our partner is PetSmart Charities. PetSmart Charities is the biggest companion animal funder and the biggest funder of spay/neuter in the United States. (Their grant funding for spay/neuter programs doubled in the period from 2010 – 2013!)
We plan to have 600+ attendees join us in Austin to learn from experts and practitioners, and keep pushing forward with the best tool we’ve currently got to prevent unwanted litters. Conference registration will open in April, but check back on the website often as we update information on speakers, vendors, and agenda.
The Next Generation – Nonsurgical Sterilization:
While spay and neuter is the best tool currently available to prevent unwanted litters of puppies and kittens, it is not a perfect procedure. Spay and neuter is surgery and, as such, requires a clinic facility, sterile surgical tools, anesthesia machines, specially trained veterinary staff, and on and on. All of that is expensive and often the communities who most need spay/neuter resources cannot afford to build, staff, and maintain them. Plus, surgery has risks – some animals have anesthesia reactions, some get infections, and others have hard-to-detect underlying medical conditions that make surgery very risky.
Here at Found Animals, we think that there must be a better way. We think that a single dose, nonsurgical sterliant would allow shelters and animal welfare organizations to address populations of animals not currently served by surgical spay/neuter procedures due to barriers of cost, transportation, and limited capacity. Just imagine the difference it would make to be able to go door-to-door offering a sterilization shot? Or to be able to sterilize a feral cat without ever transporting it or even taking it out of the trap?
This vision is what prompted us to create the $75 Million Michelson Prize and Grants Program, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary this month. Based on principles of prize philanthropy and venture philanthropy, this program is designed to attract the best and brightest minds to take on the challenge of developing a nonsurgical sterilant for pets. While we haven’t (yet) had anyone claim the big $25 Million Prize for having a proven product, we have had nearly 300 inquiries about grant funding. Those inquiries have translated into nearly 100 formal research proposals, over 30 of which have been approved for funding by our Scientific Advisory Board.
Michelson Grant research is now underway worldwide from the U.S. to Europe, and Latin America to Australia and New Zealand. All told, we have committed about $15 Million of our $50 Million grant pool to date. While none of our researchers have a working product quite yet, they are making great progress and substantially advancing scientific knowledge along the way.
In honor of the 5th birthday of this program we’ve launched a brand new website where you can learn more about our researchers, our scientific advisors, and how to apply for funding or claim the prize. Head on over to www.michelsonprizeandgrants.
As you can tell – preventing unwanted litters is a topic near and dear to our hearts here at the Found Animals Foundation - and an area where we invest time and money, along with blood, sweat, and tears. We are making a point this month to pause and reflect on how far we have come, as an organization and a movement, and to celebrate our successes even as we recognize that there is so much more to do.
Our spay and neuter programs, along with all of our other programs, are supported by the generous contributions of Dr. Gary Michelson and Alya Michelson. On behalf of the pets and people of Los Angeles, today we give thanks for their incredible vision and contribution. We know that we are not alone in the battle to end shelter deaths, so on this World Spay Day we also give thanks and heartfelt appreciation to all of YOU who share this vision and work so hard to make it a reality.
Are you doing anything special to celebrate spay & neuter awareness month? Leave a comment below!