When Jean Mahoney and her group of friends started working together to save the lives of stray animals in Redwood City, they weren’t setting out to create the first no-kill organization in northern California. They merely wanted to make a difference in their community by saving the lives of pets in whatever small way they could. For years, this group of dedicated animal lovers worked out of their homes and garages to save animals from public shelters and reunite them with owners or find them new homes. A few years later, they opened their first animal shelter, and the rest is history.
This past year, Pets In Need celebrated 50 years of rescuing animals from public facilities and finding them new homes. We are proud of the work we have done rescuing animals and finding permanent, loving homes for them. Over the years, our passionate staff, board members, and volunteers have worked to save more than 25,000 animals that needed—and deserved—a second chance.
And while we have worked tirelessly to increase our rescue and adoption efforts, we have continued to be mindful of the fact that almost 3 million animals continue to die in shelters every year, with 500,000 of those in California alone. Four years ago, our board decided that rescuing and adopting out animals wasn’t enough. Animals were continuing to die in shelters at alarming rates and we had an obligation to do something about it.
In 2012, Pets In Need made a commitment to address the issue of pet homelessness by starting a free spay/neuter program. While we had always provided vouchers and grants to low-income pet owners for spay/neuter surgeries, we felt the only way to take a significant step to reduce the supply of animals entering animal shelters was to provide the procedures for free.
We were successful in providing the free surgeries to pet owners in our area, but quickly found out that distance to our shelter was preventing people from getting their animals fixed. In order to address this obstacle, we bought a mobile van fully outfitted to allow our medical team to do spay/neuter surgeries in the van in communities where issues of animal homelessness and abandonment are rampant.
Almost four years later, our free spay and neuter program is going strong. Last year we completed more than 1,400 free spay/neuter surgeries both here at our Redwood City location and in our mobile surgery van. We’ve increased the number of communities we’ve reached: This year we expanded to provide surgery days in Modesto, Vallejo, and Contra Costa County. We’re on track to provide more than 1,500 surgeries by the end of this year. Pets In Need will continue to be a community resource for those that need our services. Ending pet homelessness and decreasing the killing of animals in shelters is a community effort, and we’re honored to do our part to ensure that fewer enter shelters every year.
Alexandra Baggs is the development and marketing manager at Pets In Need, a no-kill animal shelter in Redwood City.