Volunteers, clients and pets filled the Veterinary Medicine Laboratory Facility to capacity on February 27, 2005 when veterinarians performed about 300 spay-neuter procedures as part of Spay Day.
Bennie I. Osburn, dean, describes the event as "the single largest spay-neutering undertaking in one location."
The school was one of 15 participants to accomplish 1,000 low-cost spays and neuters in a single day in the Sacramento area. The Sacramento Area Animal Coalition, a non-profit organization with ongoing programs to reduce companion animal overpopulation, coordinated the event. (Event organizers said that vouchers for surgeries to take place later will bring the total number of animals to 1,400 for the entire Spay Day effort.)
Why so many?
In Placer, Sacramento, Solano and Yolo counties alone, more than 30,000 animals are euthanized each year. There are not enough homes for them.
Spay-neuter programs provide a critical strategy to avoid this loss of life. Sacramento Area Animal Coalition officials expect that spaying and neutering 1,400 pets during Spay Day prevents the births of at least 14,000 unwanted animals--in just one year.
Associate Dean Janet Ilkiw explains, "Spay Day provides a major community service. We gladly volunteer for this extraordinary event to benefit animals immediately and help in the long-term fight against pet overpopulation."
What happens on Spay Day?
In the Veterinary Medicine Laboratory Facility, third-year students learn the essential veterinary skills of surgery and anesthesia under the supervision of faculty and experienced technicians. On Spay Day, the 28-table surgical suite and other specialized rooms turned into a clinic for the marathon spay-neuter event. Besides the surgery, each animal received a thorough veterinary examination, diagnostic testing, an identifying microchip, and vaccinations, if needed.
Students served in the essential role of guardian. They cared for pets throughout the process. Qualified students assisted with anesthesia, surgical preparation, diagnostic testing and other selected procedures. Faculty and resident clinicians conducted thorough health exams, diagnostic testing, anesthesia and surgery.
Coordinators spent weeks to organize the event, gather materials and equipment, and recruit appropriate volunteers for each task. This year, many new volunteers from other parts of the UC Davis campus joined the School of Veterinary Medicine ranks to handle non-clinical activities before and during Spay Day. This diverse group included a staff member in the Institute of Transportation Studies, a civil engineering student and many pre-vet undergraduates, among others. In all, approximately 500 people spent part or all of their Sunday helping with the event.
"Fixing" the problem of abandoned pets
Companion animal overpopulation, says Jennifer Fearing, Spay Day's coordinator, cannot be "fixed" in a single day, yet the Spay Day effort brings measurable progress in the ongoing problem of pet overpopulation.
Dean Osburn concludes, "Spay Day makes a significant difference in animal health and well-being in our communities. A huge thank you goes to our volunteers for their unselfish gesture to help low-income families and, above all, companion animals."
To sign up cats or dogs for future spay-neuter events, families should call (916) 808-SPAY or visit the Web site of the Sacramento Area Animal Coalition.
Other online resources from the School of Veterinary Medicine
Shelter Medicine Program
Early-age Neutering: A Practical Guide for Veterinarians, an instructional video