Spay and neuter your pets

OROVILLE – Dot Shank from Okanogan County Animal Foster Care and OK Snip spoke with members of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce about the value in having pets spayed and neutered.

Shank said that in the 2000 census, the last census where the data was currently available, Okanogan County residents reported there were 5038 cat-owning households and 5779 dog-owning households and some 7000 free roaming cats. Free roaming cats, often called barn cats or outdoor cats include feral cats that can’t be socialized, according to Shank.

Okanogan Regional Spay and Neuter Project (OK-SNIP) has a mission of significantly reducing the overpopulation of cats and dogs in Okanogan County through a targeted spay and neuter program. OK-SNIP performs low-cost (about half price) spay and neutering of cats and dogs for low-income people, according to Shank. In 2010 they performed the services on 26 dogs, 148 owned cats and 60 feral cats, Shank said. That occurred in the eight months the clinic was open, because they had to shut down for four months when they ran out of money.

She said that there are four main reasons why people don’t get their animals spayed or neutered – 1.) procrastination, 2.) affordability, 3.) large litters and 4.) sexual maturity.

According to Shank, the 2000 Census said 16 percent of families and 23 percent of individuals in Okanogan County were living at the poverty level. That’s why OK-SNIP offers the services at a lower rate for people who can’t afford to take their animals to traditional veterinary services.

“A cat or dog can become sexually mature at five or six months of age and become pregnant resulting in babies having babies. People should not wait to have their animals spayed or neutered,” she said. “Cats can have 2.1 litters a year with an average of 4.5 kittens per litter. If one female cat lives over seven years, that cat’s kittens and the kittens’ offspring can be as many as 420,000. A female dog and her offspring can have 67,000 puppies in six years.”

The spay and neuter clinic is located at 2358 Elmway in Okanogan, south of Caso’s Grocery Store. They are open two days a week and can be reached by calling (509) 422-9960. More information is available at

In the case of dogs only one in 12 puppies finds a good home, according to Shank.

“The rest scrounge around and have very short, horrible lives because there just aren’t enough homes.

Okanogan County Animal Foster Care’s mission is to provide a safe haven for abandoned and unwanted cats and kittens until a permanent home can be found. They operate a no-kill shelter at 4 Spring Coulee Road in Okanogan. The shelter can house 40 cats comfortably, but up to 70 if every nook and cranny is used, according to Shank. If the shelter is full and no foster care families are available, cats are turned away.

All the cats that are housed and adopted out are sterilized, vaccinated and treated for parasites.

When foster homes for kittens and nursing moms with litters are available they aren’t cared for at the shelter, but at the foster home. Shank said that Julie Alley, who was at the Feb. 10 chamber meeting, often takes care of cats and kittens with her family. Ally said being a foster family for such cats is fulfilling.

When people want AFC to take stray cats or adult or kitten pet cats, they are offered a free spay or neuter at OK-SNIP if they agree to keep the cats.

AFC also rescues cats and has been called in to rescue as many as 30 cats or kittens from a single location in the past. A small ferel cat sanctuary is maintained in the back of the shelter for the cats that were represented as tame when brought into the shelter but turned out to be unsocialized and not adoptable. The shelter is financed by donations and no government funds are used. For more information call (509) 422-3364.

AFC tries to find homes for the cats at the shelter, especially homes outside the county. Toward this end, according to Shank, the group has partnered with shelters with other shelters on the west side of the mountains. One shelter in Shoreline, Wash. Was able to find indoor homes for 317 cats, she said.

The next meeting of the Oroville Chamber of Commerce will be Thursday, March 10 at 1 p.m. at Yo Yo’s Restaurant.