We may be a small all-volunteer non-profit, but Covid proved that we are nimble, and dare we say. . . mighty. If we recognize a need, no matter how daunting, we strive to help. Moreover, we’re not saddled by a corporate ladder – a Zoom call is often all it takes for Soft Side to step to the plate.
Although the Baltimore area is blessed with two large-scale, no-cost TNR clinics at BARCS and Baltimore County Animal Services, we noticed that some caretakers were facing waiting lists at these hard-working and over-taxed clinics, even though kitten season had not begun in earnest. What if we dipped our toes and held a small TNR clinic to help bridge the gap?
It was an idea we could never execute on our own, so Dawn, our resident cat expert, and Sande, our creative founder, contacted Dr. Kristen Vance of Homeward Bound Veterinary Services, one of our stalwart partner vets. Would Dr. Vance consider hosting a free spay/neuter clinic if Soft Side paid for the veterinary supplies? In her typical gracious fashion, Dr. Vance agreed to donate her services and also recruited six employees who volunteered their time on a frigid Sunday in January.
We’ll be the first to admit that the learning curve is steep, “but nothing gives us greater satisfaction than knowing that 11 female cats will not be getting pregnant and 8 male cats will not be wreaking havoc with their trouble puffs,” noted Sande. (We’ve urged Sande to use more scientific language, but now we’re all using the same terminology.)
The cats also received rabies and distemper vaccines, microchips, and even mani/pedis, compliments of professional groomer, Dennis Moses. Thanks to our volunteers and some Board members, the cats were monitored closely during recovery, with one benefitting from a warming pad who was slower to wake up.
Why are there so many unaltered animals? It may very well be more collateral damage from Covid, as the pandemic forced veterinary clinics to shut their doors, except for emergencies. Thanks to bold spay/neuter initiatives over several decades, intake and euthanasia rates have plummeted nationwide, but the pandemic threatens to undermine some progress and shelters are bursting at the seams once again. A recent study from the University of Florida conservatively estimates that more than 2.7 million dogs and cats were not neutered during Covid and many of these animals have since reproduced, compounding the problem further.
It’s a problem that’s bigger than all of us, but rather than throw up our hands in defeat, we aspire to be part of the solution. In the scheme of things, our efforts may be a drop in the bucket, but we’ll always try to make a difference for animals — as well as the unsung heroes who care for them — and want to inspire others to do the same.
We’re happy to report that Dr. Vance has offered to host a second clinic for 25 cats in February and we hope her example encourages other hospitals to host one clinic this year as well. (We’re also hoping that some of our other partner vets might volunteer to join her one Sunday and help us double the number of cats who won’t be having or making babies on Baltimore’s streets.) Together, we will get through this setback.
We are immensely grateful to Dr. Kristen Vance and the dedicated staff of Homeward Bound Veterinary Services, 305 S. Atwood Road, Bel Air, MD 21014, for volunteering their time and services to help vulnerable animals in our community. Thanks also to our volunteers and Board members who helped the cats during recovery.