By Lauren Caggiano
Photo by Thomas Skernivitz
PetFix Northeast Ohio is a local nonprofit that is trying to fix (literally) a growing problem.
Responding to pet overpopulation, PetFix promotes the importance of spay/neuter while making spay/neuter surgeries affordable and accessible to low-income pet owners, feral cat caregivers and shelters, rescues, and animal-control agencies placing animals for adoption.
The organization was founded in 2004 by three individuals with a passion for ending pet overpopulation. Board member and former president Timy Sullivan, while working for a local animal rescue program, had become well aware of the overpopulation situation. In her work she saw too many animals without homes and wanted to work to put an end to it. While there were good adoption programs available, they did not target the root of the problem, she says.
“I wanted to focus the rest of my time on prevention so shelters could focus on issues that cause animals to lose homes,” she says. “Shelters are never going to catch up due to overpopulation.”
The natural solution is to increase the number of spays and neuters, and that’s exactly what the organization does. To that end, PetFix operates a mobile clinic in Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Portage and Summit counties in the Northeast Ohio region.
To date, the staff has performed more than 23,000 surgeries, an annual average of 5,100. Surgeries are performed from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., five days a week. PetFix performs spay/neuter surgeries on cats and dogs, including puppies and kittens more than eight weeks of age or weighing more than 2 pounds.
“We really go directly to them,” Sullivan says about their outreach model.
Relationships with partner organizations make this possible. PetFix partners are humane societies, rescues, dog wardens, and animal-control agencies that work with PetFix Northeast Ohio to provide affordable, accessible spay/neuter surgeries to qualified owners and caregivers in their communities.
PetFix Partners schedule the PetFix mobile clinic to come to secure, convenient locations within their service areas on a regular basis. They advertise surgery dates, schedule clients, and collect fees.
“We pretty much show, do the surgery, and leave,” Sullivan says about the ease in working with the partners.
The clinic also passes that ease on to the clients in financial terms. Most procedures cost between $30 and $70, a fraction of the cost of a veterinarian office bill. Sullivan says most clients are on limited incomes and cannot afford a costly procedure. PetFix makes responsible pet ownership more accessible.
PetFix holds itself accountable to its volunteers and donors. Ninety-four cents on the dollar are put directly toward service. All administrative work is done in Sullivan’s home office, which keeps the overhead low. Monetary support comes from such sources as PetSmart Ohio Pet Fund, Kenneth A. Scott Charitable Trust, family foundations, and individual donors, according to Sullivan.
Another source of income is an annual event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, organized solely by volunteers. Fix, Rattle, and Roll is a party with food, dance, an auction, and food. Although the cause is always important, Sullivan says the organization has a specific goal in mind. “This year we are a campaign to fund the building of a stationary clinic, hopefully by the end of the year,” she says.
Cleveland’s high poverty rate, and therefore high concentration of eligible clients, underlines the need for a brick-and-mortar clinic, Sullivan says. The mobile clinic is usually overbooked, which indicates an overabundance of need.
“We think that everyone deserves a pet,” Sullivan says. This clinic would make that dream a reality for thousands of low-income families.
Converting the dream to a reality requires a great deal of support from the organization’s volunteers and donors, for whom Sullivan has a special place.
“For people to donate money to prevention makes them special in my mind. I am a believer in solving problems, versus dealing with them.”
Tackling the problem head-on has brought about significant change in the past 15 years. The number of animals entering shelters each year has dropped from 17 million to between 6 and 8 million in that same time period. More than 3 million animals are killed annually, an improvement from the 9 million previously, Sullivan says.
For more information: petfixnortheastohio.org