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Spay-a-thon aims at reducing backlog

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Scooby-Doo, a 3-year-old, brindle pit bull with a lustrous brown coat, was one of 100 larger dogs neutered this weekend as part of a low-cost spay-a-thon held in west Santa Rosa.

"He's not aggressive, but people are scared of this breed," said Suzanne Bergot of Petaluma, who was happy to see him wag his tail when she picked him up. "We want to be responsible pet owners."

The "Love Me, Fix Me" spay-a-thon, taking place Saturday through today at the Sonoma Humane Society on Highway 12, is a collaborative effort aimed at fixing the backlog of dogs waiting to be fixed.

"The Sonoma County Community Foundation gives close to $200,000 a year for low-cost cat and dog neutering," said Kiska Icard, executive director of the Sonoma Humane Society. "But we can only do about 10 a week, so we have a long wait list."

The effort was planned by an umbrella group, the countywide Animal Services Partnership, in honor of World Spay Day on Tuesday and February's Spay/Neuter Awareness Month.

The Sonoma Humane Society, Sonoma County Animal Care and Control and Forgotten Felines teamed up to provide the affordable services at Sonoma Humane Society's facility, with veterinarians, staff and volunteers from all three participating.

About 30 to 35 dogs were sterilized each day. While under anesthesia, the dogs were also given updated vaccinations and a microchip, if needed. Pet owners paid $30 per dog.

On Sunday, dog owners from as far away as Bodega Bay and Cazadero dropped off their pets before 8 a.m., then returned in the afternoon to pick them up.

Among those were Tiffany Erickson of Windsor, who had rescued a Chihuahua mix and her 8-month-old puppy from the Cloverdale streets, only to find out that the mother was already pregnant.

"They both had an appointment to be spayed, and then we noticed that mom was growing," Erickson said. "We said, we'll make a commitment to this dog. So she had the puppies, and all eight survived and thrived."

On Sunday, the mom and five of the new puppies were fixed during the spay-a-thon. Four of the eight puppies already have homes, and Erickson is working on the other four.

"I wanted to give them a leg up to be adopted," she said. "They're very sweet, and we feel good that we helped the stray dog population here."

Debbie Christian, the "Love Me, Fix Me" program coordinator for the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control, said the problem of unwanted dogs and cats is most visible at the region's animal shelters.

"It's sad to go into the shelter and see all these pets sitting there, day after day, with no one to love them," she said.

Neutering and spaying pets can also extend their lives, by avoiding reproductive cancers and other health issues.

"Now, people understand that it is important, not only to control population, but also for the health and welfare of the pet," said Sandra Lupine, communications and outreach manager for Sonoma County Animal Care and Control. "And it helps mitigate behavior issues. It's a win-win for everyone."

Low-cost spay-neuter services are offered on a regular basis through the Sonoma Humane Society, the Sonoma County Animal Care and Control and other organizations.

For a complete list of services in Sonoma County, go to sonoma-county.org/shelter, and click on spay/neuter services.

You can reach Staff Writer Diane Peterson at 521-5287 or diane.peterson@pressdemocrat.com

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