By Annette Hinkle
Conversation with Jonathan McCann, president of the board of the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation (SASF) who talks about the shelter’s new veterinary mobile clinic, a van that will travel throughout the state to communities where low income pet owners are in need of spay and neutering services.
When did the mobile clinic begin service?
Our first appointment was January 12 at the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. After that it’s been every weekend. We’ll do either two days, or, depending on the call just one day. There has been a plethora of calls.
How is the van set up and staffed?
There is a vet, a vet tech and the coordinator is often there as well. If one of them can not do the driving, then a volunteer drives. There are five cages in the van, an operating table in the back and a table in front where one animal can be prepped while another is operated on. We can do up to 40 animals a day.
Who calls for your services? Is it individual pet owners or shelters?
It’s individuals as well as shelters in other areas. Ideally, what we hope to do is partner with the shelters in all the different towns. There are other rescue groups that have a large population of animals that have never been spayed or neutered. That’s who it’s arranged for. This is by appointment only. We go to locations where there is a heated building where we can keep the animals warm until the anesthesia wears off.
Our first obligation is to the township of Southampton. Once that’s been fulfilled we’ll move on to other areas. At the end of February we’re going to be at the East Hampton YMCA. The main body of calls seem to be coming from further west — we’ll do Suffolk County, Nassau County and from there, New York State. There is already a mobile clinic in New York City that covers all five boroughs.
Why did SASF feel the need to build this van clinic?
We’ve gotten to the point in this country where six to eight million animals enter shelters each year — 50 percent are euthanized. The other half are adopted out or, if not, live in shelters like ours and we pay to feed, groom, exercise and provide vet care. It’s a very expensive proposition. In order to cut down on the number of animals entering shelters and the large percentage of them being euthanized, spay and neutering is the only option.
We have a clinic at the shelter and since we privatized four years ago, we’ve offered spay and neutering at low cost. But a lot of people can’t get to us. This van is going to satisfy those needs. Principally it’s for spaying and neutering, however we do things like microchipping, inoculations and nail clipping.
Part of it is educating the public about how important it is to do this so fewer and fewer animals end up unwanted and euthanized.
How did SASF fund the mobile clinic?
We received $130,000 in grant money from the ASPCA strictly to build the van. We are so grateful for them to have chosen us to do this. But in order to run it, it’s going to cost upwards of $100,000 a year. This is very expensive for us to be doing. With the help of volunteers it can be less expensive but at this time of year, there’s not a big volunteer department. If it can be worked out and a volunteer could drive the van that would cut down on our overhead. The lucky thing for us is we were named in a will to collect a certain amount of money. We met with the person running that estate last month to find out if they wanted that money principally to run the van. They felt the deceased would have appreciated the money going to run the van, so we have some money to run it for this year.
I’ve sent out letters to local business people with hopes they’ll make a donation to the cause.
It sounds like the SASF has come a long way since its founding.
We have done an extraordinary amount in the last four years. All of us on the board work very hard. I don’t know how many shelters there are where there are eight people continually working on ideas. We do a huge community outreach from the shelter. Someone said they never heard of another shelter doing what we do.
Hopefully word is getting out more and more and we can nudge the business community to help us run this initiative.