FARMINGTON — Franklin County Animal Shelter joined organizations around the world in celebrating World Spay Day by offering 25 free feline spays and neuters at their clinic Tuesday.
It's "not a big holiday for the rest of the world, but big in animal welfare," Heidi Jordan, executive director of the shelter, said. "It truly is a worldwide event aimed at raising awareness about animal overpopulation and the need for spay/neuter."
Sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, the day acknowledges that, nationally, an estimated 6 to 8 million homeless kittens, puppies, cats and dogs end up in animal shelters. Only about half of the animals end up being adopted. The majority are euthanized, according to their websites.
While world organizations stress the importance of spaying or neutering of all animals, in New England, it's the cat volume that's problematic.
Last year, the shelter handled 1,158 stray cats from just our county, she said.
Local veterinarian Dr. Cathy Morton of the Falls Road Veterinary Clinic in Farmington stepped forward, volunteering her day off to spay or neuter the 25 cats for area residents, free of charge.
The shelter put out an offer on Facebook. Within six days, the slots were filled, Jordan said.
The shelter continues its own program of spaying through a Maine Community Foundation grant. So far, 175 cats have been been spayed or neutered.
With the help of shelter staff members Jessie Geis and BJ Tyler, Morton was close to 20 cats by late morning. It takes about a half-hour for females and approximately five minutes for males, she said.
"It's a great community service," she said of the work she was undertaking.
During the morning, Morton did find one pregnant cat, so the operation took a little longer.
Owners are given the opportunity to decide whether to continue or to let the cat have the litter, Jordan said.
Morton and Geis were given special Spay Day smocks, and the staff wore special T-shirts announcing the World Spay Day event.
Continuing World Spay Day events here, local animal control officers were invited to gather at the shelter Tuesday evening to discuss the feral cat population. They will try to pinpoint on a county map where they are seeing large populations of these cats, she said.
Jordan said people have told her about seeing trees full of cats as they paddled canoes down the Sandy River. She would like to apply for grant funds to provide rabies shots and spaying/neutering for the feral population, she said.