Haywood Animal Shelter adds capacity for spay/neuter services
By Larry Griffin, The Mountaineer
The Haywood County Animal Shelter will now be able to spay and neuter its own animals, thanks to a new surgery room.
Howard W. Martin, Haywood County Animal Services director, said he cobbled together leftover money from two grants from the past two budget cycles with money kicked in from Friends of the Haywood County Animal Services (FRIENDS) to fund the new surgery room, which was created from an existing space.
The intent, Martin said, was to reduce the shelter’s dependence on its contract services with area veterinarians and the ASPCA Spay/Neuter Alliance in Asheville to spay and neuter its shelter animals. The county requires its shelter animals to be sterilized before they can be adopted. Last year, the shelter had 696 adoptions.
“When COVID hit in March 2020, those contract services all but shut down for nearly four months due to the pandemic and have yet to regain normal status prior to March 2020,” Martin said. “We wanted to find a way to do some in-house spaying and neutering, and some minor surgeries for the health of the animal, to save us money from outsourcing it to the vet.”
The goal is for the shelter to perform a minimum of 5-10 surgeries per week, while continuing to use ASPCA as needed because of its low cost, he said.
And, there’s another benefit. “Those new opportunities are also a morale booster for our staff,” Martin said.
Establishing the new surgery room and recovery area meant purchasing a surgery table, anesthesia, monitoring equipment, autoclave (sterilization equipment) and other necessities. The cost, between $14,000-$15,000, was an expenditure, Martin said, that met the grants’ requirements, while improving the shelter’s functionality and saving it money by reducing its reliance on other providers for spay and neuter services.
FRIENDS, a nonprofit organization focused on helping the shelter and its animals, contributed about $4,000 to the project, Martin said.
So far, FRIENDS has given over $500,000 to Haywood County Animal Services, said Teresa Smith, chairwoman of Friends, which works to “champion the humane treatment and adoption of companion animals.”
Martin credits Hollie Burris, the shelter’s manager, and Dr. Morgan Plemmons, the shelter’s primary veterinarian, with coordinating the effort to get the surgery room approved by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which was a long and arduous process.
“We did it slowly and correctly,” Martin said.
Plemmons said having the capability to do major surgeries has been a long-time dream because the waiting lists at other facilities had made things complicated and time consuming.
“We could do a few ‘shelter surgeries,’ but not that many,” she said, meaning procedures that required only mild sedation, not anesthesia. “Now, we’ll be able to do everything on site and service more animals.”
Plemmons also stressed that the shelter’s spay and neuter services are strictly for the shelter’s animals — not those belonging to the general public.
“Now, they can get the treatment they need, and get the homes they need,” she said.