MORRIS – Having a pet spayed or neutered may be important for an animal's overall health, but it can be damaging to an owner's bank account.
No one knows that better than the low-income residents who can't afford the lofty fees – as much as $225 – required to have their pets spayed or neutered. But thanks to a new program offered through Grundy County Animal Control, those owners can find help.
The Low Income Pet Population Program will provide a voucher to struggling Grundy County residents to help pay for their pet's sterilization.
"They would only be required to pay a $15 co-pay," said June Krull, director of animal control.
The program is open to Grundy County residents who are currently receiving disability benefits or food stamps, Krull said. The pet also must have rabies shots and tags to qualify.
Animal control has set aside about $70,000 for the program. The money was collected through a public safety fee charged to owners whose pets were found running at large.
If the pet was not spayed or neutered, the fee was $25. Sterilized pets were given a pass the first time, but also were charged $25 if they were found a second time, Krull said.
Krull said they have collected and saved the fees for the low-income program since 2005.
"It worked out that we could either send that money to the state or we could have this account set up in our county," Krull said. "We chose to keep the money here."
Animal control has partnered with several animal clinics throughout the county that will accept the vouchers provide the procedures for low-income owners.
"We support animal control. We support everything they do," said Deb Dunlap, practice manager for Pine Bluff Animal Hospital, one of the participating clinics. "As a local veterinary clinic in Grundy County, we obviously want to help and participate in any way that we can."
Dunlap said having pets spayed and neutered is critical to their health and can greatly reduce the chances of a pet developing cancerous tumors and other serious complications later in the pet's life.
"The sooner we can spay them, the better the health in the long term," Dunlap said. "It's best to have it done around six months of age."
Female cats and dogs in heat are also highly likely to get pregnant as males can smell them from "miles and miles away."
She added that paying for a sterilization can actually save owners money in the long run because they are less likely to develop health issues and need visits to the vet.
"As long as you're not wanting to breed them, and have purebred puppies, then it's just the best practice for your pet's health."