Seeking to curb Howard County's burgeoning population of unwanted dogs and cats, a group of local veterinarians will spay and neuter the pets of low-income families and senior citizens free this weekend.
The round-the-clock "Spay-A-Thon" at the Bethany-Centennial Animal Hospital in Ellicott City will sterilize between 50 and 75 pets and publicize the Animal Advocates of Howard County's campaign to reduce pet overpopulation, not just in this county, but nationwide.
"The overpopulation of unwanted pets is terrible," County Executive Charles I. Ecker said at a news conference to kick off the event earlier this week. "It is a tremendous expense to waste the life of a dog or a cat, as well as a high cost for taxpayers."
Howard County's Animal Control agency destroys more than 2,500 unwanted pets a year, at an average cost of $190 per animal, according to statistics provided by the nonprofit county animal welfare group. Nationally, between 7 million and 12 million healthy dogs and cats are euthanized at shelters. The Howard County Council is considering a bill to reduce the required holding time for cats and dogs before they are allowed to be adopted or killed.
For this weekend's 24-hour Spay-A-Thon, 10 area veterinarians, their technicians and volunteers from the local animal group will spay and neuter as many pets as can be scheduled for appointments, likely between 50 and 75 dogs and cats. The group said that it believes this is Maryland's first Spay-A-Thon.
"Owners can help to curb uncontrolled breeding by having their pets sterilized," said Dr. Edward Heir, chief veterinarian for the event. "But many cannot afford to have their pets sterilized, and that's where we want to help."
Sterilization of cats can cost $50 or $120, depending on the gender of the animal.
Sterilization of dogs runs from $90 to $165, depending on gender and weight, Dr. Heir said.
Although the Spay-A-Thon schedule will be filled with pets of owners who have already called, Rebecca Tacchetti, community outreach coordinator for the animal welfare group, urged low-income pet owners to call 410-792-8439 to arrange for low-cost sterilizations.