Grants available to fix pets

Low-income owners eligible for funds garnered by Humane Society

— The staff of the Steamboat Springs/Routt County Animal Shelter always brace themselves for a mass abandonment of dogs and cats sometime in April, after winter seasonal jobs end. This year, that didn't happen. It seems something was holding back the dam until now.

In August, the shelter was at capacity, with more than 30 cats at one time and as many as 12 dogs.

"It's a constant battle," Routt County Humane Society president Maggie Smith said. "We're constantly fighting it from both ends."

Even as shelter staff and Humane Society volunteers try to find homes for a large number of animals, they also are focused on stopping the overpopulation where it starts. To do that, the organization helps low-income families pay for spay and neuter procedures for their pets.

The Humane Society recently received $9,500 in grants to fund its efforts. It received $8,000 from the PetsMart Charities Fund, $1,000 from the Animal Assistance Foundation in Denver and $500 from Wells Fargo Bank in Steamboat. The organization's budget at the beginning of the year was $4,000. The new funds have more than doubled its spay/neuter subsidy potential.

To set the income criteria for pet owners to qualify for assistance, Humane Society volunteers took charts that calculate the national poverty level and doubled those numbers in consideration of the area's high cost of living. A single person with an income less than $18,500 a year, or a family of four with an annual income of $38,000 or less will qualify for the program.

This is the third year the Routt County Humane Society provided low-income spay/neuter assistance. Volunteers work with local veterinarians who discount their fees for spay/neuter procedures. The Humane Society pays part of the discounted price and the pet owner pays the rest. In 2004, the Humane Society was able to contribute $20 each to 168 qualifying pet owners. This year, because of the grant money, the group can contribute $50 per pet.

The grants were made possible through the work of volunteer grant writer Mimi Hutton.

The grant money must be spent within a year of the award.

Anyone in need of assistance getting a pet spayed or neutered should call 879-RCHS. Pets must be up to date on all shots to qualify. Discounts for the needed shots are available.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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