For the past 5 years in New Mexico (and for 9 years earlier in Michigan) we've been providing free-and-local spay/neuter for cats through a simple voucher program. The specifics have evolved over time but it currently works like this: If you live in our service area, have a household gross income under $40,000 and have an intact pet cat, you can complete a phone application and -- if we approve it -- we’ll mail you a voucher that pays the complete cost to spay or neuter the cat and get a rabies shot at any of the veterinary or spay/neuter clinics we work with.
This works remarkably well for the cats that qualify – but like most programs – it doesn't work well for all cats. It's intended to fix only low-income family pet cats with lifelong caregivers -- and so it excludes loosely owned outdoor cats, kittens being fostered for adoption, stray cats, cats whose caregivers make more than our $40K limit, and those living outside of our service area.
Recently we've been looking for ways to increase our Foundation’s spay-neuter radar to include some of these other types of cats on a limited basis and so we've begun developing a Community Cat Spay-Neuter program. Our goal is to reach these other groups of cats without sacrificing our well-honed voucher program by making exceptions and blurring its focus.
Last winter we worked with Santa Fe’s Felines & Friends to fix a few dozen cats from Ramah, New Mexico. This group was both outside our service area and included a mix of both feral and pet cats. Then a few months ago we started working with the Espanola Valley Humane Society to ensure that the cats in Rio Arriba County could be fixed at no charge to the caregiver at their spay/neuter clinic. They are in our service area but their clinic’s open door policy to fix all cats (companion and feral) extends our reach beyond low-income pet cats. And beginning this month cats from Espanola residents are also included. We particularly like this partnership because they are providing Rio Arriba County with free-and-local spay/neuter across the board. And -- in our vision -- this is necessary in all areas if we are to get on top of the cat overpopulation problem.
We'll keep our primary focus on our Low-Income Pet Cat Voucher Program – because these are the cats that when left intact most often end up at shelters – where they are often put down for lack of homes – or abandoned on the streets – where they form or join feral cat colonies and continue to reproduce. But we look to these new community cat situations as a way to provide a more complete cat spay/neuter service to New Mexico – a state with many people wanting to take care of the cats they live with –as pets and as wildlife -- but often lacking the money to pay for their sterilization. And we welcome inquiries from other cat nonprofits who may want to join with us in this community effort. We know realistically there will always be intact cats outside of our reach --- but by adding a community aspect to our spay/neuter package we’ll minimize their numbers.