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Pet owners rush to use Neuter Now program


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POSTED: Sunday, June 07, 2009

Veterinarians on Oahu have received numerous calls from pet owners eager to get their pets spayed or neutered since the Hawaiian Humane Society took back control of the city program last week. “;We received the notice by mail, and the next day the phones started ringing,”; said Dr. Eric Ako, a veterinarian at the Pet Doctor clinic in Kahala. “;People are calling, asking, and setting up appointments. We received a lot of calls. I think a lot of people were waiting.”;

The Neuter Now program, which was restarted Wednesday, allows pet owners to spay and neuter their pets for $50 for male and $75 for female animals. Owners can purchase certificates at the Hawaiian Humane Society or any satellite city hall and redeem them at participating veterinarian clinics, saving hundreds of dollars.

“;It is often the incentive that is stated for pet owners to get their animals sterilized and thereby reducing the number of homeless animals or unintended litters of animals that are then a burden as a result of animals not being sterilized,”; said Pamela Burns, chief executive officer of the Hawaiian Humane Society.

About $88,000 was allocated by the city for this program through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, the Hawaiian Humane Society said. In previous years, the Humane Society handled the program, but the private Animal Care Foundation took over the program earlier this year.

The city appropriated about $300,000 for the Animal Care Foundation program, which began on Feb. 2 and ended April 7. The city said the Animal Care Foundation's contract was canceled because it failed to render services to pet owners located in Windward and Central Oahu and urban core areas of the island.

The initial proposal called for a mobile unit that would be able to reach residents in those areas, but many pet owners had to go to the Hawaii Kai veterinary clinic of Sabina DeGiacomo, chief executive officer of the Animal Care Foundation.

Some City Council members expressed relief that the Hawaiian Humane Society took over the program.

“;I am far more comfortable with the Humane Society handling this program for animal care,”; said Councilman Charles Djou. “;I was troubled by what I felt were ulterior motives by the Animal Care Foundation's hyperactive agenda regarding animal rights.”;

Some veterinarians agreed.

“;The city made a mistake on how they let out the contract,”; Ako said. “;The sad story is that many, many pet owners were forced to wait for us to return to the show to help them out.”;

The Animal Care Foundation program was terminated as a result of “;a combination of petty politics and flexibility,”; foundation Vice President Frank DeGiacomo said.

“;The standard of care for the surgeries are dramatically lower, and the number of surgeries will inevitably and substantially be less than we would have done with the spay and neuter vehicle,”; DeGiacomo said. “;Additionally, the price is still out of range for many people in a bad economy, so that'll lead to more burden or animals that will be dumped at the Humane Society and killed.”; “;The veterinarians who do cooperate really do take a hit,”; Ako said. “;Some of my colleagues are charging $850 to spay a cat, and we get about $75. But, I feel good about it. I especially like it when people who really need the help walk in the door.”;