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Island dogs, cats offered an altered reality Tuesday

Veterinarian Michelle Schmidtke spays a cat Friday morning at the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation pet shelter near Coupeville. Last year she altered 331 pets before they were adopted out. - Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times
Veterinarian Michelle Schmidtke spays a cat Friday morning at the Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation pet shelter near Coupeville. Last year she altered 331 pets before they were adopted out.
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / Whidbey News-Times

The simple, sad fact is that there’s too many unwanted dogs and cats on Whidbey Island.

While Whidbey Animals’ Improvement Foundation takes care of orphan pets in shelters where they’re safe from euthanasia — unless they’re dangerous or have a fatal injury or disease — it’s not a happy life for animals to be caged in an environment of stress, crowding and bad odors.

To decrease the number of pets that have to go through the shelter rigamorale, WAIF is participating in the national Spay Day campaign on Tuesday, Feb. 22 by sponsoring low-cost spay and neutering surgeries for dogs and cats.

Sheri Bibich, shelter manager for WAIF, said the greatest impediment to getting more pets spayed and neutered is the cost. But Spay Day offers a sizable discount. Pet owners can have their cats altered for just $40 and dogs altered for $80 at the following participating Whidbey Island clinics: Penn Cove Veterinary Clinic in Coupeville, South Whidbey Animal Clinic in Clinton, and Useless Bay Animal Clinic in Freeland.

Bibich urges owners of dogs and cats to consider the fate of offspring in a world with more than enough pets.

“They don’t see the consequences of pets that come into the shelter and what condition they are in,” she said.

To help out low-income families, WAIF offers $20 Prevent A Litter or “PALS” coupons that can be redeemed at local veterinarian clinics. Coupons may be used on Spay Day as well and can be obtained by contacting WAIF’s Coupeville shelter at 678-5816.

Spaying and neutering may seem pricey, but veterinarian Michelle Schmidtke said people should consider it a vital part of pet ownership, at least for most dogs and cats. She’s been spaying and neutering pets at the WAIF shelter for 15 years.

“Four bags of dog food is the cost of an average neuter,” she said.

Schmidtke points to the sheer scale of kitty reproduction. A cat can breed as early as five months and can have two litters a year.

“They’re just like rabbits,” she said.

In addition, spaying and neutering pets is a great way to help pets live longer, healthier lives.

A pioneer in promoting spay and neuter programs, WAIF has participated in national Spay Day since its inception 17 years ago. Several years ago, WAIF teamed with area shelter partners to include more clinics and make Spay Day an area-wide event. This year, more partners than ever have joined the alliance with the hope of altering even more animals. WAIF’s partners include Everett Animal Services, Homeward Pet Adoption Center, MEOW, NOAH, Pasado’s Safe Haven, PAWS, Humane Society for Skagit Valley, and local veterinary clinics.

WAIF has an in-house program of spaying and neutering all dogs and cats before they are adopted out. The nonprofit organization doesn’t do spaying and neutering for pet owners at large — vet clinics handle that — but WAIF has a program to alter feral cats before they are returned to farms or other safe areas.

Schmidtke, the veterinarian, performs the operations almost weekly at a surgical room at the WAIF shelter near Coupeville. The procedures are remarkably quick and Schmidtke said the animals recover in just a day or two.

Last year, 65 dogs, 201 regular cats and 65 feral cats were altered at WAIF.

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