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Animal Services touts success of low-cost spay/neuter program

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By Sean Arnold

Levy County’s new low cost spay and neuter program, sponsored by the For Our Friends the Animals group, is only a month old, and County veterinarian Darlene Essler has seen a consensus of early approval for it from the public and county veterinarians.

Essler reported the program had taken 19 applicants through its first three weeks, including eight dog spays, six dog neuters, a couple of cat spays and a cat neuter. A cat neuter and spay were pending at the time of the County Commission meeting last Tuesday.

The program offers lower cost spays and neuters for pet owners who are on government assistance such as Medicaid and food stamps. The eligibility requirements originally included all seniors age 62 and older, but Essler said the age qualifier was recently dropped due to it not reflecting the pet owner’s ability to pay the costs of normal operation rates. Seniors are still eligible for the program if they receive government assistance.

Essler said Animal Control is taking precautions to not to take business away from private veterinary practices.

The spay and neuter costs are the same as the County’s pet adoption fees: $55 for female dogs; $40 for male dogs and female cats; and $15 for male cats.

“We’ve had a very positive response from the public, and, for the most part, a very positive response from local veterinarians,” Essler said. “We’re not out to pick the pocket of our local vets. We want to maintain a good relationship with them.

“The main thing we’re trying to hit are the people who just can’t afford to do a regular spay or neuter at a veterinary office, and their pets are the ones who are making all these excess puppies or kittens that are ending up in our facility, that we’re sometimes having to euthanize. It’s going to be a while down the line before we see it in a big way, but we’re trying to make a difference.”

Commissioner Matt Brooks complimented Animal Control’s efforts for the program.

“I’m glad to see this up and running and appreciate you reaching out to the local vets, because that was a concern,” the commissioner said.

Commission chair John Meeks was concerned about the change in age policy.

“I was not informed about this change in our policy and I’m not happy about it, because one of the things we were reaching out to was the elderly folks who were on a fixed income,” Meeks said. “We’ll revisit that at another time.”

In other Animal Control business, the Board of County Commissioners approved up to $10,000 in funding for repairs to the County kennel. Animal Control director David Weatherford and other County employees will perform the repairs.

Weatherford said after soliciting estimates for repairs he deemed the County could save at least 20,000 to 30,000 dollars by doing the work through its own labor.

“‘We’ve had a couple incidents where animals pushed the gate open or attacked other dogs while walking by,” Weatherford said. “We really need to revamp it for the safety of the public and employees.”

“We thought we’d save quite a bit of money if we did these modifications in house.”

Weatherford said the kennel is over 25 years old and its gates are malfunctioning.

“Anytime we can save money by utilizing our own labor force, that’s a good thing,” Meeks said.

Joyner issued the motion, which caps the repairs at $10,000. Weatherford said he’s confident it will be more than needed for the repairs.

“I thank you because you all are doing it yourself,” Joyner said. “ You’re doing it for the safety of the community and the animals.”

Joyner also passed on a compliment for Animal Control from a citizen praising Weatherford’s prompt actions in recently rescuing a pony from a bulldog attack.

The County Commission next meets at 9 a.m. on June 13 at the Levy County Courthouse in Bronson.