The non-profit organization Helping Out Pets in Effingham isn’t sure what it needs to do to get people to take advantage of its free spay and neuter program with the Effingham County Animal Shelter.
Each month, certain dogs and cats at the shelter are designated with “HOPE hearts.” An 8x10 sign on the cage specifies that the animal’s spay or neuter will be at no cost.
“When people are walking through the shelter and they see a HOPE heart, that means they get a free basic spay or neuter if they adopt that particular animal,” said HOPE vice president Dena Stapleton.
At the time anyone adopts one of those animals, the adopter receives a document explaining the free spay/neuter program. Basically, the procedure is performed at Webb Animal Clinic and paid for by Helping Out Pets in Effingham.
However, Stapleton said, more than half the time people do not contact HOPE to follow up on the free offer.
“They don’t call us,” said HOPE founder and president Pat Manser. “I mean, it’s free. Who does not want free?”
HOPE has the money available to pay for several procedures each month, according to Manser. The organization also has been trying to increase awareness of the program around the community.
“It’s frustrating to us because we’ve been doing all kinds of fundraisers and we have our jars around town about the spay and neuter program at the shelter,” Manser said. “Come on, people — this is a good deal.”
The Effingham County Animal Shelter’s adoption fees are $50 for dogs and $40 for cats. The fees include rabies and five-way shots, and the free spay/neuter program provides another incentive.
“If more people understood there are animals out there, and all they have to do is pay a $40 or $50 adoption fee and we’ll pay for the spay or neuter, maybe that would give somebody the initiative to go and do it,” Stapleton said.
HOPE and the animal shelter both stress the importance of spaying and neutering as a means to reduce the unwanted animal population. The shelter at times reaches its capacity of animals and has to decline accepting any new animals for a couple days until others are adopted.
“The only way to get control over it is to spay and neuter the animals,” Manser said.
In order to offer adoption incentives for different animals, the HOPE hearts are rotated each month. For example, larger dogs might be given preference, since they are less likely to be adopted, often are outside dogs and have larger litters.
The shelter currently has eight animals — five dogs and three cats — with HOPE hearts.
“We get one or two a month that people actually cash in on,” Stapleton said. “So if we do a lot with the HOPE hearts (awareness), maybe we’ll get half. We’re trying.”
For more information about HOPE, visit the Web site helpingoutpetsineffingham.wordpress.com or call Stapleton at (912) 547-8437.