Oklahomans spend more than 20 years spreading awareness of spaying and neutering pets
More than 20 years ago, three women with a passion for animal welfare put their minds together to try and ease the suffering of animals in Oklahoma.
“In 1999, two ladies walked into my office. We were all meeting each other at the vet, doing what we could with strays and injured animals, and we decided we were going to see what we could come up with,” says Robyn Batson, a co-founder of Animal Rescue and Kare of McCurtain County (ARK). “Twenty years later, here we are.”
The group realized that the most important way to get started was with a proactive, low-cost spay and neuter effort, so they worked with their local veterinarian to offer $20 off surgeries.
“Every month for 20 years, I’ve gone to each vet and picked up those coupons and paid the vet for them,” says Batson, a member of Choctaw Electric Cooperative. “If the vet had 20 coupons that month, I would go and write him a check for $400 dollars because the ARK was raising the money. That got the ball rolling.”
ARK members have been spreading awareness of the importance of spaying and neutering pets ever since. When it first began, most calls to ARK were from people wanting to get rid of unwanted litters. Now, Batson says most of the calls are for spay and neuter requests.
“Things are a lot easier on everybody, including the animals, if we spay or neuter them upfront,” Batson says. “Our goal is to help people. It is expensive when you have a small, rural budget, so we have worked tirelessly to subsidize and offer all the low-cost options we can.”
Dr. Ewell Center is a retired veterinarian that now helps groups like ARK host spay and neuter clinics. He spoke to Oklahoma Living magazine shortly after working a clinic where he operated on 33 animals. He says he’s seen a big shift in spay and neuter efforts across the state.
“In McAlester we used to have one group that supported and paid for spay and neuters for low income people,” he said. “Now it seems like every area has a group. There’s agencies all over the state that are helping people to get this done. The low-cost spay and neuter efforts are helping a large group of people.”
Batson says they have been having difficulty finding vets like Center who will dedicate a day to work a spay and neuter clinic. She encourages any veterinarians who might be interested in helping to reach out to ARK or other similar groups. Veterinarians get compensated for their time.
Dr. Center says he enjoys working with groups like ARK because they have a great team of volunteers who run things smoothly.
“I would encourage retired veterinarians to do it because it’s fulfilling,” he says. “To me, it feels like giving back to a community that supported you and helped raise your kids for 30 years.”
Though some communities in rural Oklahoma are hard to reach, Batson says things have greatly improved overall.
“It has certainly improved the quality of life for our communities, our families and our animals. Nobody wants to drive through a town and see a lot of dead, injured, starving animals,” Batson says. “We think the importance is eliminating the suffering of animals and helping our communities.”
February is National Spay & Neuter Awareness Month, a time when animal welfare organizations ramp up their advocacy efforts and highlight the benefits of spaying and neutering pets. According to various organizations like the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), spaying and neutering pets is one of the easiest ways to help prevent the suffering and death caused by overpopulation.
“It cuts down on the number of animals born. It cuts down on the number of stray dogs we see killed on the road,” Center says. “If the males are neutered, they don’t go out and roam and cause problems with livestock.”
Since its inception, ARK has helped roughly 33,0000 animals in McCurtain County. Like many animal welfare nonprofits, ARK depends on volunteers, donations, and grants for all the work they do.
“We have come to understand that if a small community is overrun with animals constantly, they lose hope, they lose any ability they can correct it. It’s distressing to them,” she says. “We urge all of the public to get really proactive and get their pets fixed. Also to reach out and help your neighbors and friends. We will continue to push for proactive measures because it impacts us all.”
Visit the ARK website for more information or to get in contact with ARK.
For a list of low-income spay and neuter organizations across the state, visit the Oklahoma Spay Network website.
Why You Should Spay/Neuter Your Pets
- No heat cycles
- Less desire to roam
- Risk of mammary gland tumors, ovarian and/or uterine cancer is reduced or eliminated
- Reduces or eliminates risk of marking
- Less desire to roam
- Risk of testicular cancer is eliminated
Helping reduce the number of unwanted cats/kittens and dogs/puppies is an overall benefit for animals and communities.