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Spay Mobile Takes Pet Surgeries to Fertile Sources of ‘Loose’ Dogs and Cats

C.A.R.E.4Paws vehicle provides vital veterinary services in neighborhoods where pet owners often can’t afford them or have limited transportation options

Among the veterinary services provided by C.A.R.E.4Paws are spaying, neutering, vaccinations and microchipping.
Among the veterinary services provided by C.A.R.E.4Paws are spaying, neutering, vaccinations and microchipping. (C.A.R.E.4Paws photo)

After just a few hours parked outside a house on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside, an animal-care organization was able to offer free services to a pet owner that could keep hundreds of dogs out of local shelters.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit C.A.R.E.4Paws, which provides spay and neuter services for pets whose owners can not afford them, drove its “Spay Mobile” to an East Cacique Street residence that is home to 11 dogs, eight of them puppies.

The vehicle is sort of a surgical unit and veterinarian office on wheels. Over the course of several hours, a team of vets was able to alter nine of the dogs, including all of the puppies and Simba, their pit bull father.

The Boxer mother of the puppies was set up to spayed at a local veterinarian’s office, and the family’s Chihuahua/Corgi mix was too old to be altered.

All of the dogs were vaccinated and microchipped, as well, and the services were performed before the puppies were found new homes.

Because the average female dog can have around 100 puppies in her lifetime, Santa Barbara Animal Control Officer Stephanie Burgard estimates that — potentially — more than 300 unwanted pit bull mixes were prevented from entering the shelter system as a result of the day’s work.

Two weeks earlier, Burgard had gone out to the house, which has received multiple animal control visits over complaints about dog bites, barking and sanitation.

She discovered more dogs than she expected after talking with the owner, who told her that two of her dogs had just had eight puppies between them, in addition to the three dogs that were already living on the property.

“They were super cute and rambunctious, but there were eight of them,” Burgard recalled.

None of the dogs had been altered, licensed or vaccinated.

Burgard was able to explain to the owner that pets that aren’t fixed contribute to full animal shelters, and that there is a large number of pit bulls and pit bull mixes already in the shelter system.

Getting pets altered is technically up to the owner’s discretion, but state and local laws require that dogs be licensed, and licenses cost more for unaltered pets. A note from a veterinarian is also required.

A citation for an unlicensed dog can cost as much as $170, and the cost of the surgery usually runs about $200, Burgard said.

Post-surgery TLC goes a long way for patient recovery. Click to view larger
Post-surgery TLC goes a long way for patient recovery. (C.A.R.E.4Paws photo)

Because the owners were unable to perform the services, Burgard reached out to Isabelle Abitia, executive director of C.A.R.E.4Paws.

“We’re able to help alter about 1,000 cats and dogs each year,” Abitia told Noozhawk, adding that the organization is on target to reach out to even more pet owners this year.

C.A.R.E.4Paws has bilingual workers who help educate pet owners on how spaying and neutering pets can prevent shelter overcrowding, which has been a longstanding problem in Santa Barbara County.

In addition to the Cacique stop earlier this month, C.A.R.E.4Paws has been able to target high-need areas across the county, including major efforts in Guadalupe, Lompoc and New Cuyama.

The Spay Mobile got its start in 2013, and the vehicle allows the organization to bring services directly into neighborhoods — since many clients don’t have transportation. Abitia said New Cuyama, for example, doesn’t have a no- or low-cost veterinarian clinic closer than a 90-minute drive away.

When the C.A.R.E.4Paws team was last in New Cuyama, she said, they were able to alter 38 dogs and cats in one day.

“We can bring it straight into the neighborhoods,” she exclaimed.

In Lompoc, where the group sets up almost every Friday, she said C.A.R.E.4Paws volunteers have seen shelter intake neighbors decline.

They’ve also altered 1,500 dogs and cats there over the last five years, she added.

C.A.R.E.4Paws also works with a dozen veterinary clinics to provide free services.

Burgard said that while the surgeries were being performed at the Cacique Street location, many neighbors came out asking if the vaccinations and surgeries could be made available to their dogs, too.

C.A.R.E.4Paws will be back in the Eastside neighborhood on Sept. 11. Those who cannot afford the procedures can email [email protected], or call 805.968.2273 for an appointment to bring their pets by that day.

On Sept. 11 at Girsh Park, C.A.R.E.4Paws will be holding its Wags n’ Whiskers benefit, the largest animal adoption festival on the Central Coast.

Burgard said she feels the case highlights some of the positive work that animal control is able to accomplish in the community.

“We really aren’t bad guys,” she said. “We do care about animals, and we do try to make a difference.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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