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More than 200 animals fixed at low-cost spay/neuter clinic

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The Lake County Spay/Neuter Task Force fixed 212 furry friends this weekend at a low-cost spay/neuter clinic in Pablo.

The critters yelped and sniffed anxiously at the makeshift kennels while waiting for their turn to go under the knife. Some just waking up from anesthesia, softly mewed, while others attempted to play, wobbly and unsteady. 

Just for the weekend, the gym at Two Eagle River High School was transformed into a veterinarian clinic complete with five veterinarians from all over Montana, five operating tables, veterinarian technicians, and over 35 volunteers who helped the animals recuperate post-surgery.

The low-cost clinic requested $20 dollar donations for female cats and both female and male dogs and a $5 donation for each male cat. But even such a small fee was a burden for some Lake County residents. 

“A few people didn’t have the money and we let them get their animals fixed anyway,” Life Savers Animal Rescue Secretary and Treasurer Linda Crawford said. “We are not going to turn people away at the door.”
Crawford added that most of the time, people don’t get their pets fixed because they don’t have the funds necessary to pay for the expensive surgery. The clinic was designed to help such community members. 
“This was for low-income families,” Pam Gibson, board member of the Mission Valley Animal Shelter said. “We are trying to help those people — where it’s a choice between putting milk and bread on the table or spay or neuter the cat.”
“That’s not a choice,” Gibson added. 
This year’s clinic was funded by the Lake County Commissioners, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Polson Police Department, the cities of Ronan, Polson and St. Ignatius and Wal-Mart. 
After the clinic last weekend, the Lake County Spay/Neuter Task Force had enough money to cover this spring’s $7000 clinic and enough seed money to get the fall’s upcoming clinic started.
The Lake County Spay/Neuter Task Force is a joint effort between the Life Savers Animal Rescue and the Mission Valley Animal Shelter. Since the conception of the task force in 2008, the organization has tried to hold the clinic every six months, but in 2009, the organization only held it once. 
“If you don’t have a clinic at least once a year, then you just get behind the eight ball,” Crawford said. “And you end up with way more puppies and kittens than you need.”
The benefits of the low-cost spay and neuter clinic have definitely been felt around the community, making it easier to fundraise this time around than in 2008 and 2009. Crawford said that the clinic raises public awareness in the community and people realize the importance of such a service.
“I think we have seen less unwanted puppies and kittens, but it’s one of those things that you have to keep working at,” Crawford said. 
Gibson notes that the problem in Lake County is so enormous, the full benefits of the clinic won’t be seen for a few more years. 
In many cases homeless animals are rounded up and euthanized. This is a financial burden for the cities and the county, not to mention a time consuming task for local law enforcement.
But perhaps with 212 more neutered cats and dogs running around, a task force and volunteers that care, the situation will improve. 
On Saturday and Sunday, volunteers worked diligently, comforting the sleeping cats and dogs until the anesthesia wore off. The 90 cats and 122 dogs separated and sleeping on old blankets were soothed by volunteers and their owners until they regained consciousness.
For some people, volunteering at the clinic was a family affair, toting along the whole family to help with the animals. Some individuals came along with books to peruse while petting a sleeping pet. Even a few students from Kicking Horse Job Corps volunteered their weekend to help out with the critters.  
“It went very well and very smoothly,” Crawford said. “I think we have been doing it enough that volunteers know what they are doing.”

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